How many times have you heard a song that reminded you of the past? Have you used music to motivate yourself to exercise or to inspire yourself to work toward a goal? Have you ever played a song on repeat during a break up or played your favorite songs to get ready for a night out? Maybe you play music to help you relax after a hard days work.
Music definitely creates emotion.
It also triggers memories.
That’s why we’ve seen so many status updates, tweets, and posts about Whitney Houston over the past few days.
When a celebrity musician dies it makes sense that there’s an outpouring of social media activity. Some people express their sadness, while others judge how you can be sad about the death of someone you never knew.
Is it possible to have an emotional attachment to a musician without having a physical relationship?
When I was ten, I used to dance around my apartment to Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know”. Not only did I need to know if my crush “really loved me” but also I knew if I dressed like Whitney my life would be perfect! I idolized her. I haven’t thought about that in 20 years, but it was the first thing I thought of when I heard that she had died.
Then I remembered how I listened to Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” on repeat during a break up around the time The Bodyguard was in theaters.
The death of Whitney Houston triggered memories of other losses.
Most of us never had the opportunity to personally thank Whitney Houston for inspiring us or for the fun memories her music created.
Until we heard of her death most of us didn’t realize there might be other relationships in our lives that we need to get complete with.
That’s what the death of a musician does. It reminds us of different times in our lives. Happier times, sad ones, and relationships we might need to deal with.
© 2012 The Grief Recovery Institute.
by: Allen Frances
A front page story by Ben Carey in January 24th's New York Times carries the poetic title: 'When does a broken heart become a diagnosis?' It describes a puzzling proposal by D.S.M. 5 to transform what is now considered normal grief into Major Depressive Disorder.
D.S.M. IV already recognizes that some people respond to loss with severe problems that warrant immediate attention. It therefore encourages the diagnosis of major depression whenever bereavement is persistent or is associated with severe, impairing, delusional, or suicidal symptoms. D.S.M. IV thus makes a crucial distinction between the transient pain of expectable grief and the severe and/or persistent symptoms of major depression. D.S.M. 5 proposes to eliminate this distinction. It would allow the diagnosis of major depressive disorder after only two weeks of fairly mild symptoms.
The point of departure of the Times article is a landmark review co-authored by Jerome Wakefield and just published in World Psychiatry, the official journal of the World Psychiatric Association. An accompanying editorial written by Professor Mario Maj (president of the Association) also strongly opposes the D.S.M. 5 proposal.
I asked Dr. Wakefield to summarize the findings of his review. His reply:
1)There is no scientific evidence to support diagnosing as major depression two weeks of grief-related depressive feelings of the kind currently excluded from diagnosis. The D.S.M. 5 literature reviews cite dozens of studies, but NOT ONE has samples of people who would get the diagnosis under the new D.S.M. 5 rules.
2) The two most rigorous studies both show that people experiencing short periods of mild grief (of the kind excluded by D.S.M. IV from the diagnosis of major depression) are no more likely to go on to further diagnosable depression than are people in the general population -- whereas real depression has a high rate of recurrence. This directly contradicts the D.S.M.-5 assertion that there is 'no difference... between grief-related depression and any other depression.'
3)There is no evidence that normal grief-related depressive feelings (of the kind now excluded from diagnosis) are associated with a greater risk for suicide.
4) Contrary to D.S.M.-5 claims that potential treatment benefits justify its proposed change, there are no controlled studies demonstrating any drug benefit for expectable grief symptoms of the kind now excluded. The D.S.M. 5 proposal could result in the over-medication of millions of the bereaved -- even though antidepressants are already under challenge as no more effective than placebo for milder depressions. Dr. Wakefield goes on to point out that: An estimated 8 to 10 million people lose a loved one every year, and something like a third to a half of them suffer depressive symptoms for up to month afterward. The proposed change would pathologize them for behavior previously thought to be normal. Until now, bereavement is one area that has been immune to the excessive encroachment of psychiatric diagnosis. This is because studies show that many depressive symptoms are common during normal grief, and it is obvious from common experience that grief after loss of a loved one can be very intense and involve depressive symptoms even when it is entirely normal.
I also asked Russell Friedman, Executive Director of the Grief Recovery Institute, to put a human face on the issue: "Imagine that your spouse of 52 years has just died. In the weeks that follow, you experience some or all of the typical reactions to this overwhelming loss. You are sad and lose interest in things. You find it hard to focus or concentrate. Your sleeping patterns are off. Your eating habits are out of whack. If you do manage to sleep, you wake up exhausted, not rested at all, and lacking energy. Your well-meaning daughter brings you to the doctor. You tell him what's going on and he quickly slaps on a diagnoses of Major Depression and prescribes pills. Drug companies will have a feeding frenzy exploiting this huge new market. They will spend hundreds of millions of dollars 'educating' doctors and the public on the D.S.M. 5 revelation that grief is a psychiatric illness. This is madness."
This is a classic case of 'if it aint broke, don't fix it' -- especially if the fix will cause many new problems. D.S.M. IV usefully distinguishes the mild, transient, and self-correcting symptoms of normal grief in contrast to the severe and persistent symptoms of clinical depression. Grief is the normal and absolutely unavoidable price we must pay for having the capacity to love -- it is most certainly not a disease. There is no reason and much risk in turning expectable grief into diagnosable mental disorder. D.S.M. 5 would cheapen the dignity of grief; substitute an impersonal medical procedure for traditional, deeply embedded cultural rituals; and result in much careless and unnecessary use of medication.
The D.S.M. 5 proposal to medicalize grief has always seemed strangely incongruous just on the face of it. Most people not hermetically sealed within the D.S.M. 5 inner sanctum immediately recognize how ridiculous it is to apply the label 'major depression' to someone after just two weeks of perfectly normal symptoms of bereavement. Hopefully, Dr. Wakefield's careful review bringing data and common sense to the issue will penetrate the D.S.M. 5 denial of the obvious. We must preserve the dignity of bereavement and protect it from the inappropriate encroachment of D.S.M. 5 diagnostic ambitions.
The question of when to begin a process of completing relationships that have ended or changed, due to death or divorce, is confused by conflicting opinions from a wide variety of sources. Medical, psychological, societal and family experts all approach the issue from differing perspectives.
It is not at all uncommon for us to hear of people being told, by their professional, “it’s too soon to begin your grief work, you’re not ready yet.” We grit our teeth every time we hear that comment.
Imagine that you have fallen down and gashed your leg. Imagine that blood is gushing from the wound. Imagine someone walking by and saying: “it’s too Soon, you are not ready for medical attention yet.”
Now, imagine that circumstances and events have broken your heart. Imagine that you are experiencing the massive and conflicting feelings caused by significant emotional loss. Imagine a friend, or worse, a professional, saying to you: “it’s too soon, you are not ready for emotional attention yet.”
This is an area that is so filled with misinformation that it is often difficult to fight through to the truth. We have been falsely educated to believe that grievers want and need to be alone. We have been incorrectly socialized to avoid the topic of the loss, in an attempt to protect the griever.
Here is the simple truth: most grievers want and need to talk about “What Happened” and their relationship with that person or event. They want and need to talk about it almost immediately following the loss. It pre-occupies them, just as the person with the gashed leg is pre-occupied with their accident and their treatment and their recovery. Those who do not want to talk about it will let you know.
When a person learns of the death of a loved one, an almost automatic review process begins. This process may be conscious or unconscious; usually both. In reviewing the relationship, the griever remembers many events that occurred over the length of the relationship. Some of the events are happy and produce fond memories, some are unhappy and produce sad memories. During this automatic review the griever will usually discover some things that they wish they’d had an opportunity to say, things they wish had ended “different, better, or more.” It is those unsaid things which need to be discovered and completed.
The review is most intense and most accurate in the time immediately following the death. It is the time when we are most focused on the person who died and our relationship with them. We will rarely have another opportunity to remember with such detail and intensity. This is the circumstance where “time” not only doesn’t heal, but also diminishes our memory as we move further away from the death itself.
We will refrain from offering any concrete definition as to the “time” involved. Every griever is unique. Every griever responds at their own pace. It is essential never to compare one griever to another. Each and every griever has their own individual beliefs about dealing with their feelings of loss. Each griever is remembering their own individual relationship with the person who died.
We have been talking about the review that follows the death of a loved one. Everything above also applies to the death of a “less than loved one.” Everything above also applies to divorce and to any and all significant emotional losses.
As soon as a griever becomes aware of the review process going on inside their head and their heart, it is time to begin The Grief Recovery Method. The Grief Recovery Handbook is an excellent guide and addition to the natural process that the griever is already doing. The Handbook will keep you on track and help you to complete the pain caused by the loss.
If your loss occurred some time ago, even many years ago, do not despair. The Grief Recovery Method can help you recapture the review that took place and may have been repeating over and over.
© 1993 Russell P. Friedman, John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute.
[At the Grief Recovery Institute] we make constant reference to the fact that understanding does not equal completion, and that knowledge or intellectual awareness does not create resolution of the emotional incompleteness caused by loss. An incredible amount of our time is consumed in undoing the damage done by mixing intellect and emotions.
Emotions are emotional and intellect is intellectual. When we learn to let that truth be true, we increase the probability of completing the pain caused by loss. We all know people who understand exactly what happened to them and how it happened and why it happened and who did it to them. Many of those people are in constant pain, still incomplete with the losses represented by those events and those people.
It is, by far, the most stubborn belief to shake, that if I can just understand I will be free, that I will be able to make new choices. Yet understanding is only awareness, it is not completion. Most of us were socialized to look for answers in our intellect and for most problems the intellect does contain the solutions. Emotional incompleteness is not resolved in the intellect.
When the physical aspect of a relationship ends through death, we are usually left with some unfinished business of an emotional nature. In order to effectively complete and say goodbye to the physical, we must first identify and complete whatever is emotionally incomplete. The net result is an acknowledgment of the reality that the physical relationship we had is over and that we now have a changed emotional relationship. Our emotional relationship does not end with death, but it must be brought current as we move into the new reality of life without the person who died.
Divorce, almost automatically, produces tremendous emotional incompleteness. Divorce differs from death to the degree that the physical relationship usually changes, rather than ending entirely. It is important to recognize that divorce is the death of a relationship, as well as the death of the hopes, dreams, and expectations implicit in marriage.
While death and divorce are different, completing the pain caused by either of those losses requires the same emotional skills. The process is identical. You must discover what is emotionally unfinished and finish it, so you can say goodbye to the physical relationship that has ended or changed. Knowing that you are incomplete, and even knowing what is incomplete, is not enough. You must follow a clearly defined set of actions to help you grieve and complete the pain caused by all significant emotional losses.
Grief is the normal and natural and PAINFUL emotional reaction to loss. Grief is supposed to be painful and it is supposed to be emotional. One of the natural functions of grief is to alert you to any emotional incompleteness left when a relationship changes or ends. The Grief Recovery Handbook contains the clearly defined actions that will help you discover and complete the undelivered emotional communications that may be limiting or restricting your life. How often have you or someone you know been caught in that intellectual trap where you know but you don’t change? The most difficult aspect of this process is undoing the obsolete idea that knowledge and analysis equal recovery. Knowledge and analysis equal knowledge and analysis, nothing more. The Grief Recovery Method is a series of actions that leads to completion.
© 1994 Russell P. Friedman, John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute.
Where were you when you heard about the attacks on Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina or the death of Princess Diana? Most people have a clear memory of what they were doing at the time of a major world event.
Where were you when you first heard about the death of Apple CEO & Innovator Steve Jobs?
I was on Facebook…
What was once simply a tool for staying connected with friends has become so much more:
If you have logged onto Facebook in the past few days your news feed probably has been flooded with photos, videos, and status updates honoring Steve Jobs. It makes sense. He was an American Icon.
- A news source.
- A place to share common interests.
- And a way for people to communicate about grief.
Since most people never got the chance to thank Jobs personally they did so on Facebook. Some of your friends might have changed their profile pictures or wrote a status update in his honor.
By its very nature Facebook encourages you to share your thoughts and feelings. When you do, it opens the door for helpful communication in talking about grief. On Facebook your friends are able to acknowledge your feelings by leaving comments or “liking” what they read.
And with the death of someone like Steve Jobs the numerous status updates remind us that it’s normal to have feelings about the death of a public figure.
What an amazing way to know we aren’t alone in our grief!
What happened on Facebook makes sense, but just like in the real world, it’s easy to spread negative information online about recovering from loss.
For example there were many comments such as:
“Did you even know Steve Jobs?”
Implying that one needs to have an intimate personal relationship to grieve a death. Which of course is not true.
Or “He is in a better place.”
It may or may not be true that he is in a better place, but that does not change the feeling of sadness or shock over his death.
Even on Facebook and even with the death of a celebrity it’s important to remember that intellect plays a very small part in recovering from loss.
Steve Jobs affected many people for many reasons. For most, it appeared his death inspired gratitude, appreciation, and admiration. For others, it triggered a memory.
Comment after comment people talked about their first experiences with Apple products and their memories attached.
When a relationship ends or changes there are usually things we wish could have been different, better, or more. Those undelivered communications are unresolved grief. In regard to Steve Jobs, people expressed that they wished they had the opportunity to thank him. With a public figure you might never get a chance to personally do so…
But let’s use the death of this American icon to remind us to do so with our friends and family. Let’s be clear…
What we saw on Facebook is an undelivered emotional communication.
Steve Jobs reminded me how I avoided using Apple products for years until, through much prodding, my brother talked me into getting a Mac computer. I realized I had never thanked my brother for that.
Who in your life do you owe a simple thank you to? Could it be the neighbor who waters your plants or a co-worker who tells funny jokes by the water cooler? Maybe there are some things to talk over with your mother or brother.
If you appreciate someone tell him or her. It’s simple to do and will keep you complete.
© 2011 The Grief Recovery Institute
Even though grievers seem to be walking though quicksand, they usually have a heightened awareness of what is going on around them. In particular, they are very aware of being judged, evaluated, or criticized. In earlier columns we talked about the killer clichés that are not helpful to grievers. Unhelpful comments almost always encourage the griever to feel some way other than the way they feel. For example; don't feel sad, you should feel grateful that you had him/her for so long! In addition to the constant fight against the killer clichés, the griever starts to experience being avoided by people they know. Grievers notice that friends who know about the loss will not approach them or will talk to them and never mention the loss.
The truth is that people often do avoid grievers. Since our society has so mis-educated us about loss, we are often led to believe that the griever wants and needs to be alone. Although grievers sometimes want to be alone, more often they want to be treated normally. Because we were never properly taught how to talk about the conflicting feelings caused by loss, we are often afraid to talk to our friends when they have experienced a loss. Therefore our own fear will cause us to avoid grievers or to avoid the subject of their loss.
Fear is one of the most common responses to loss. For example, when a spouse dies: How can I go on without them? Or, after a divorce: Where will I find another mate as wonderful, as beautiful? While fear is often the emotional response to loss, in our society, ISOLATION is frequently the behavioral reaction to the fear.
Look at the combination outlined above. People avoid grievers because they are mis-informed and afraid. Grievers avoid others because they are afraid and then isolate. Is anybody talking to anyone else, and if so are they talking about anything important to the griever?
As the result of tens of thousands of direct interactions with grieving people, we can tell you that what grievers most want and need to do is to talk about "what happened" and talk about their relationship with the person who died or to whom they were married. That does not mean that every griever will want to have a detailed conversation with every one they meet. Nor does it mean that you always have to make yourself available to someone who may need more time than you have.
What we are suggesting is that instead of avoiding the subject of the loss that you at least acknowledge it. A simple comment like, "I was sorry to hear about your loss," can be very helpful to a griever who may be questioning their own sanity because no one is even mentioning their loss.
QUESTION: There are many kinds of losses that produce grief, is there a single definition that encompasses all of the emotions caused by loss?
ANSWER: While a universal definition is impossible, we can come very close. Grief is the conflicting group of human emotions caused by a change or an end to a familiar pattern of behavior.
© 2002 Russell P. Friedman, John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute.
At some point parents will be forced to discuss difficult topics like death or divorce with their children. Russell Friedman, Executive Director of The Grief Recovery Institute, and co-author of the highly acclaimed book "When Children Grieve: For Adults to Help Children Deal With Death, Divorce, Pet Loss, Moving and Other Losses," sits down with Matt Lauer of The Today Show to explain the best way to approach these types of conversations and the importance of honesty. Below is a link to the interview...