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.