Monthly Archives: October 2015

Grief Recovery Handbook, 2 of 2

GRH Millions LackTools for GriefIn Part 1, I summarized the Grief Recovery Handbook (GRH) instructions for making a lifetime Loss History Graph; then figuring out which personal relationships dealt us the most of these losses; and then how to  write a separate “Grief Recovery Completion Letter” to each of those persons. (“Millions lack tools for Grief,” by the GRH website GriefRecoveryMethod.com)

Complicated? Overwhelming?  Sure.  But wait – there’s more!

We also need a Grief Partner to join us in doing all this homework. They must meet with us weekly so we can read our homework to each other; and then later read our Grief Letters to each other.  This goes on for as many weeks, or months, until we felt we’ve been “seen and heard” enough by another real live human being, to somehow deal with the pain.

“This is why I tell people that God put tear ducts in our eyes,” I read two years later in a book by Dr. John Townsend.  “Grief is a relational experience, and your pain has to be seen eye to eye with another person. Someone should be looking at us when we are crying, and we should be looking at him or her. Then we know that we are not alone, and that our tears are seen and heard.”

My pal Steve and I both saw instantly that a partner was key; so we hated to start all that homework without getting leads on partners. What if we got too far ahead, with no one working with us?  Now the real “fun” began.

We soon learned that finding a Grief Partner was only slightly less tough than finding a marriage partner — or a unicorn.  “Unicorn hunt” became our grim buzzword. We couldn’t work with each other; mourning some details with the opposite sex was too embarrassing. We needed a gal for me and a guy for him.

I went to the local hospice and community groups looking for others in mourning who also needed relief, while Steve asked around at the office and in choir. But it soon became clear that people didn’t like to admit to feelings like this, or if they did, were disposed (as society demands) to minimize losses and “put on a Happy Face.”  Last hidey hole: they were “just too busy.”

After two months’ search, at the end of June 2009 I spoke to my local hospice director Greg about my difficulties finding a partner.  I was too embarrassed to discuss my Mom’s death due to my horrid conflict with her.  The GRH calls this the “loss of a less-than-loved-one.”

“With all these people crying about how they miss their beloved parent, I’m afraid to upset them by discussing my nasty feelings about mine,” I said. “I don’t fit in anywhere, not even here.” “You are not a freak,” he replied. “Just because you have complex grief does not mean you’re an imposition on other grievers.”

Finally I asked Greg, as a professional, to sit and hear me read my Loss History Graph.

The Loss History Graph

GRH Unresolved Grief LuggageOn July 3, I took a room at the beach for the summer of 2009 and had at my first assignment, my Loss History Graph. This opener is not about any one person in our lives, but rather a list of all the major losses we’ve ever felt. I didn’t know it, but I fled to the ocean for a reason; this was going to be ‘way too much to take without some sort of natural beauty for comfort. (Another graphic from GriefRecoveryMethod.com)

The exercise blew me away; what I saw was that I’d had an entire life of loss.  My emotional pain and losses went back as far as conscious thought — and just kept coming. The graph was assigned to fit on one page, but I needed two and that would hold only my worst losses in my tiniest scrawls.

My first memory was swallowing a penny circa age 4; I’ve related that and other frightening experiences with Mom at age 4,5 and 6 in Chapter 3. At 5 my best friend Helen from next door fell off our swing, broke her arm, and was never allowed in our yard again; I was crushed. At 9, I cracked a lamp and was told I’d destroyed a priceless heirloom. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, cowering under the schools desks I felt somehow way more terrified than other kids and completely alone in the agony.

Then came the JFK assassination which terrified me to the point that for no reason anyone could grasp, I began crying uncontrollably and went on sobbing in my room for weeks.  Finally Dad came in and said, “That’s enough now, cut it out.”  Mom and he were displeased when I cried and that was the signal to be quiet.

Other than that Dad didn’t appear on the graph. I wrote in the margin “Never home; never told the truth that Mom was crazy, not me; never stood up for me.”

My high school boyfriend Alan left me at 17 saying I was too crazy (now we know he was right). At 18 my first college boyfriend Jim got so depressed when his brother committed a murder, that Jim broke up with me. Being dumped by Jim was my first major prolonged romantic crash; I was completely crushed. I cried and hid in my dorm for a year. No one, led by me, could figure out why my crash was so big; the rejection felt like the earth had fallen out from under my feet. I didn’t actually recover from it for many years; I just kept moving.

At 19 I met my college beau Larry; then I fled to Japan at 21, ended up in medical school in Manila, returned home at 25 and was excommunicated from my family when I quit medicine.  The loss of no longer being able to see my sister alone was a mind-boggling amount of agony.

Then I married Larry and had 27 years of loss, starting with an awful abortion in 1982 when he refused to have children. There was no room on the first graph for all the marriage losses; he’d get his own personal Larry Loss Graph and Larry Grief Letter later. Next we lost our international business due to Sept. 11, 2001.

When I finally left our home back east in 2006 and headed to California, I had to add the loss of my house and home, all my friends, my 25-year singing career, my beloved pianist (truly one of a kind), and all my finances in bankruptcy. Next came the losses I took in two nasty rebound affairs.

My jaw dropped as loss after loss spilled out and the large sheets of paper became entirely covered in ever more tiny black scrawls of more and more bad memories until there was almost no white space. Gosh, I thought I’d had such a happy life with all that glorious music and global business travel!

“My heart’s like a car which was totaled approximately at birth, and never got any gas or oil, but I just kept driving,” I wrote. “I’ve driven in the Grand Prix to the moon and back a few times — and now I open the hood, and my engine crumbles onto the asphalt in a pile of rust.”  In the Loss Graph margin I scrawled: “Unwanted pregnancy would accept all of this to gain any self-validation as in ‘Yes You’re OK to have been Born.’  Need to prove you had a right to exist, contrary to the message you got.”

I did warn you that using the GRH was a cataclysmic life-changing process for me.  Such things are a lot of work. Click here for the rest of the story: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/featured-topics/grief-recovery/

——————

Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “Moving On: Dump your relationship baggage and make room for the love of your life,” M. Evans (Rowman & Littlefield), Lanham, MD, 2006. This is also a terrific book, if you’ve grieved your already huge losses (I hadn’t) and are ready to move on (I wasn’t).

FN2  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” Harper Collins, New York, 2009 (orginal 1998)

FN3  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later,”  www.grief-recovery.com/Articles/Pay_Me_Now.htm, The Grief Recovery Institute, 2002

FN4  Townsend, John, PhD; Cloud, Henry PhD, “How People Grow,” Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2001

2,177 total views, no views today

Share Button

Grief Recovery Handbook, 1 of 2

Grief Recovery Handbook,+20th+Anniversary+Expanded+EditionThe “Grief Recovery Handbook” by John James and Russell Friedman is an invaluable tool for healing emotional pain and loss.  It saved me after the death of my parents and my divorce, which all happened at once.

It shows us how to write “Grief Letters” to our  “dearly beloved,” and read it to a listener. This simple eye contact with another human, who need only be silent and accept our grief, pain, and yes tears, creates astonishing healing.  “This is why…God put tear ducts in our eyes,” says Dr. John Townsend.  “Someone should be looking at us when we are crying…Then we know that we are not alone, our tears are seen and heard.”

If you’ve lost a dearly beloved, you could just buy 2 copies, find a “grief partner” who’s also had a loss, and follow the book.  The grief letters may be straightforward for you, and then you’ll be “complete” and heal.  You may not need this blog.

But I had childhood trauma, and neither my parents, nor my ex, were “clearly beloved.”  There was a lot of muddy pain and hurt; I was stuck with “the death of a less-than-loved one.”  I had to walk a convoluted path to discover how to grieve pain from before consciousness.  It got dangerous.

It was March 2009 and my choir car pool buddy Steve was in a sea of emotional pain since his wife’s death; I’d advised him in 2008 to get the “Grief Recovery Handbook” by John James and Russell Friedman.  I thought it was about death, which clearly was his issue, not mine.  I thought my issue was to replace my ex with a new romance, so I got their other book, “Moving On.”  [FN1]

But Steve, ever the engineer, was determined to deal with pain scientifically. He took one look at the book and bought a second copy for me. “This is a program to retrain the emotions,” he announced.  “You need it too.” [FN2]

Thus began our three-year saga with the Grief Recovery Handbook or GRH as Steve fondly dubbed it. We wanted off the pain train, and bad.

“A broken heart is like a flat tire. Waiting for time to heal your heart without taking action, is like waiting for air to jump back into a flat tire,” the GRH begins. “That’s what the grief process does. It’s an action we can take… Action first, feelings follow,” it repeats. “Don’t wait to act until you feel better; you’ll never feel better unless you act.”

Most of what you know about emotional pain is wrong, the book next announces — we’ve all been taught Six Myths in particular which are a fraud. These myths make grieving impossible, forcing us to keep carrying the pain around, often for life:

1. Don’t feel bad.  (Don’t feel. Feelings are bad. Stuff it.)
2. Replace the loss. (Get a new spouse, just like a new cat.)
3. Grieve alone (Go to your room. Sadness is impolite. You’re bad.)
4. Just give it time. (Just sit; air will spring into the tire.)
5. Be strong for others. (Your feelings aren’t important, nor are you.)
6. Keep busy. (Distractions help us to stuff it.)

Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later

In a brilliant article “Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later,” James and Friedman compare the heart to an auto engine. It’s an imperfect world, despite the fantasies of perfectionists, so loss and hurt often start at an early age.  “You might recognize the title from an advertising slogan for an automotive product several years ago,” they write. The idea was that if you spend a little money on maintenance now, you might save a tremendous amount replacing an entire engine later. [FN3]

“In the auto commercial it was failure to change the oil filter which led to a build up of crud, which clogged and eventually destroyed the motor. Thus, buy an inexpensive filter now or buy a whole new engine later.”

As we go through life, they say, stuffing when we’re hurt instead of grieving, this “crud” builds up around our hearts and thickens year on year. “Grief is negative, and cumulatively negative,” they say, in a key insight.

Then a serious tragedy hits, like a death or divorce, and we don’t realize it, but it triggers all those past hurts we never grieved. Our hearts are breaking inside – but our heart is so hard outside, due to the thick crud, that we can’t see out, so we go into a tailspin.

Now we’re in big trouble and with decades of crud around our hearts.

What to do? Grieve today’s loss thoroughly; that may also help grieve the past, they advise. “Right after a loss, we have a direct pathway to our experiences in the relationship,” they say. “Death and divorce both tend to trigger memories about the emotional aspects of relationships that may never have been communicated about or completed…

“But as time elapses those memories are more difficult to access,” so we’ve got to start now. Otherwise “the build up of emotional ‘crud’ around the heart almost automatically tends to cause us to limit or restrict the kind of interactions that require an open, loving heart.”  We become unable to really relate to “safe” people, so we only find more bad relationships.

Grief Letters, Grief Partners

Flatten Me Brousblog1bWhat about action? You asked for it.
[Something’s wrong with my software; click on image at right of my 2009 cartoon “Flatten Me” to see it.]

The GRH details actions which are concrete, detailed, extensive, and time-consuming — i.e., credible, and scary as hell. We’d need to make a Loss History Graph detailing the major losses of our entire lives; determine which two or three personal relationships entailed the most losses; and then write a separate “Grief Recovery Completion Letter” to each of those persons. ( p145)

We start with the individual about whom we feel the most pain, and make a Relationship Graph of the major losses related specifically to them.

Next we abstract the incidents on the individual’s Relationship Graph into Recovery Components for that person. Then we turn the Components into a Grief Recovery Completion Letter (Grief Letter hereafter) to that person — and read it aloud.

Then we repeat all those steps separately for each other individual in relation to whom we’d felt significant loss or pain! Doing all this was going to take a big bite out of our lives, and we whined about it up front: Good Grief, Charlie Brown.

Complicated? Overwhelming?  Sure.  But wait – there’s more!

Stay tuned for Part 2…

Can’t wait?  Here’s the whole thing: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/featured-topics/grief-recovery/

——————

Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “Moving On: Dump your relationship baggage and make room for the love of your life,” M. Evans (Rowman & Littlefield), Lanham, MD, 2006. This is also a terrific book, if you’ve grieved your already huge losses (I hadn’t) and are ready to move on (I wasn’t).

FN2  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” Harper Collins, New York, 2009 (orginal 1998)

FN3  James, John W.; Friedman, Russell, “Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later,”  www.grief-recovery.com/Articles/Pay_Me_Now.htm, The Grief Recovery Institute, 2002

4,893 total views, 1 views today

Share Button