“Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls your life.” — Akshay Dubey
Grief is a stigmatized and misunderstood emotional process that few people have learned effective skills to maneuver. In our ‘civilized’ society, the knowledge of grief that we are intrinsically handed down encourages and expects us to handle the inevitable experience of any loss in ways that are disorderly and pathological.
For starters, grief — a FEELING, that we feel in our BODIES — is most often automatically met with intellectualization. This takes us away from our emotions, the process that needs to be felt and honored and experienced, and into our circumstantial stories which attempt to rationalize them.
What we commonly learn about navigating grief are myths that encourage us to quietly poison ourselves by holding on to what is meant to move through us. If we do this long enough, we begin to become familiar and normalized to these behaviors and ways of thinking that we adopt to keep us disconnected from our emotions and our bodies.
For some people, grief is so prevalent and cumulated in their lives, it’s virtually all they know. Though we often internalize this phenomenon as being a fault, an inescapable lack within ourselves, our difficulty and confusion in resolving, or often even recognizing, grief, as a cause of our suffering, is not a personal failure or a personality disorder; though unresolved grief is often diagnosed as such.
What is Grief?
Many people have been mislead by the definition of grief as something like “deep sorrow or distress, especially caused by someone’s death.”
Deep sorrow, though often an element of grief, is not in and of itself grief. Nor is distress. Or denial, or anger. Grief is, well.. kind of everywhere, actually, not to put too fine a point on it:
“Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” – The Grief Recovery Institute®
Grief is universal, in that it is our normal, natural reaction to loss, which is an experience no person avoids enduring in their lifetime. However, the emotions that a person feels as they grieve loss are completely their own. There is no roadmap, no 7 “steps” to take, no “stages” to bounce around, no prescription to fill, for grief.
Conflicting feelings are the hallmark of a grief experience. Feeling sad, angry, numb, devastated, afraid, relieved, hopeless, enraged, grateful, lonely, frustrated, gutted, conflicted, self conscious, loving, hateful, uncertain — all emotions one might feel, simultaneously, or in jumbles, while in grief.
Conflicting emotions are also your normal, natural response to loss. Even if you know something is wrong but you can’t figure out how to address it: Consider that there is nothing wrong with you.
Because chances are, there isn’t.
Myths about Grief
Though we are taught an avalanche about how to acquire things and stuff and people, most of us have been presented with virtually no relevant, useful guidance in regards to how to handle the inevitable loss of them. Instead, we get stuff like this:
Time heals all wounds
Replace the loss
Don’t feel bad
At worst, these platitudes cause us to want to punch people and die in a hole. At best, the notions encapsulated in these myths we propagate offer a temporary, superficial distraction. Their healing power is, well… mythical. They’re rooted in expressing intellectual truths, rather than addressing the emotional process of grief that’s underway.
I won’t tell you I know how you’re feeling, because I cannot (and neither can anyone else). I will share that for me, the myths about grief are like putting a hello-kitty band-aid at the end of the massive weeping stub where a leg used to be. Moderately distracting, potentially somewhat cute, woefully ineffective, sometimes just flat out annoying, and eventually contributing to a systemic infection.
“Almost universally, the foundation of our inherent skills in recovering from grief is based on a bunch of poodinky wiggawanga horseshit. Even the most dedicated, courageous, well-meaning person on the face of the planet is only as effective as their toolkit, and their ability/desire to use it. For most of us, our default toolkit for tackling grief looks a lot like some dude trying to paint the walls of a room with a hammer and a roll of fucking dental floss. For most of us, there has been no one else in the room to smirk at us good-naturedly, and show us that there is a better way.” – Courtnee Fallon Rex
The corrosion and damage of the collective ignorance regarding grief in society is often palpable, and the culprit of untold amounts of human suffering. On a cosmic level, many of us understand this. Grievers are not lacking in courage, or even the desire to feel better, nor are their loved ones who wish to help.
Yet, embodying the myths of grief and grieving is what most of us have been taught. So that is what we do, because our human mind only has immediate access to what it has already learned.
Beginning to dismantle the misinformation
You’ve probably heard and experienced these pervasive and insidious myths in action for most of your life. For example: “Don’t feel bad” often takes the form of statements like “She’s at peace with God now”, “Remember the good times you had together”, “At least it wasn’t worse.”, “Don’t cry”, “He’s out of pain now.”, “She wouldn’t want you to be sad”, and “Look on the bright side”.
Another example: “Time Heals”. It’s one of the most common of the six major myths about grief, and potentially the most devastating of them as well, because it paralyzes us into non-action.
Waiting for time to heal your emotional wounds is like waiting for time to fill a flat tire.
Try looking at it this way; Whether the wound be present in the physical tissues of your body (which respond automatically with inflammation, fluids, and fibroblasts to begin the repair process) or in the emotions of your perceptive being, correct and appropriate actions are what heal, not time.
So imagine then for a moment, “being strong”, and “staying busy”, potentially attempting to “replace your loss”, “grieving alone”, trying “not to feel bad”, all while plowing down the road of your life on a flat fucking tire.
If you’re still reading this, I’m willing to bet it didn’t take much to be able to relate to that image. And many of us relate to this on multiple levels, depending on the level of connection we feel with what’s happening to/in the world, and how we respond to the enormous amount of unnecessary suffering inherent in it.
The Grief Recovery Institute’s free ebook: Guide for loss is available immediately and freely to help you better understand grief right now.
To search for a Grief Recovery Specialist in your area, go to The Grief Recovery Method website.
Facilitator statement: Why I do this
I’m hoping my passion for self care education has already shown through. As a veteran of many healing and psychological therapies, it was not until I began my work to understand and heal from my extensive personal grief that I recognized how vital, universal, and misunderstood grief is, and how deeply our ability to connect with one another is determined by our grief recovery skills.
I now understand that grief is pervasive and consistently interwoven into our lives, as individuals and as a collective species. It’s staggering how far and wide its tendrils spider into the questions and pains of humanity, and how profoundly urgent the need for different ways of honoring grief is.
My interest and aptitude for helping grieving people was not an active career choice, but rather a byproduct of the struggles I experienced in trying to move forward from my own losses, which include death, divorce, rape, identity, the loss of both natural parents, homelessness, and emotional, verbal, as well as physical abuse. I came to suspect grief as a culprit in my suffering after over 10 years of psychotherapy and more conventional mental healing avenues that just weren’t getting me the results I wanted.
Knowing from my previous experiences that intellectualizing alone could not heal emotional wounds, any more than intellectualizing alone can set a broken arm, I was shocked to realize that my response to grief, an emotional experience, was still almost entirely intellectual.
I wondered: WTF is up with that? I needed to find something that helped me leverage my mentality to take myself through my grief experience, rather than continuing to think and tell my stories around it.
I discovered The Grief Recovery Method® in 2012 through Sherry Lynn Anderson of Tacoma, and have used the method to facilitate the recovery from my own losses ever since.
Having grief recovery tools has transformed my human experience, and helped me earn a lease on life I’d not thought was possible for me. My accumulated unresolved grief, as it turned out, was often mispronounced as other more trendy mental struggles, and I intensely wonder how often that is happening for other people as well.
I hope that reading a bit about the misinformation we’ve all been handed down has helped you. Regardless of whether I ever see you in one of my recovery programs, it is my goal to have offered information that can help ease the confusion you may be feeling about, what you now may be coming to know as, grief. If you have any questions at all, you can email me any time.
Take care of you,
The Grief Recovery Method® is comprised of proven session programs that have helped thousands of people let go of the pain, the confusion, and the suffering surrounding the loss they have experienced in their lives.
The program is non-secular, and will work for anyone, regardless of their faith, spiritual belief system, or other forms of orientation.
The Grief Recovery Method® is not a support group, counseling, or extended open-term therapy. It is a method of completing grief through simple and small actions taught step by step in 8 sessions, in either a one on one setting or in a small group.
In those 8 sessions, we start by examining and dismantling the unhelpful coping strategies that were passed down to us — we’ve started with the myths already (Yeah! Fuck you, “Time heals!”), and there’s a lot more where that came from.
I then guide you through experiential learning of a better way, that actually works, of completing your emotional losses, by working one of yours with you.
Programs are offered either weekly for 8 weeks or twice weekly for 4 weeks. Group sessions are up to two hours, one on one sessions are usually an hour to 90 minutes.
All Grief Recovery programs I offer include your own copy of The Grief Recovery HandBook, and the specified number of Grief recovery Method® sessions presented by me.
You can learn further about The Grief Recovery Method® program I facilitate and the Institute which certified me on the Grief Recvoery Method website as well.