Tag Archives: Russell Friedman

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

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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

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When Family Doesn’t Get It, Recovery Partners Will

#4 in the news blog series; original post on ACEsConnection, September 26, 2013

When we’re hurting, we all want and need those closest to us to “get it,” but please take comfort from the statistic that it usually does not happen that way.  Why?  Therapist and scholar Jack Kornfield says, “Even Buddha and Jesus had a lot of trouble with their families when they went home!  So did Mother Theresa.  Holding up the ring nuns wear as brides of Christ, she told a journalist: ‘ I’m married, too, and He can be very difficult… ‘  ”

That’s because when we humans get close, to those closest to us, that proximity turns on the fight-flight paranoia in all concerned (in everyone, not just in me).  Why? That’s where humans get the most vulnerable, so that’s where (our bodies and paranoid brain stems feel) we could potentially get really hurt.  There is a lot of literature on this problem – please don’t feel alone on this!  You are exactly normal.

Henry Cloud & John Townsend

Henry Cloud & John Townsend

This is why we have support groups and that is why therapists exist.  In my experience it’s instead my recovery partners, my trauma-informed therapist, and trauma-informed folk such on ACEsConnection who get it.  And that’s a life-saver.

Dr. John Townsend says: “There will be people who are marked, at the same time as you.  Find them.”

Find people who are in the same boat, who are not in denial, who do get it– and spent a lot of flight time sitting with them, face to face.  That’s where the real healing is.

When I did that work, I didn’t know about ACEsConnection, the  private Facebook  of the ACE Study.  ACE is the top research on childhood emotional pain and health;  it shows Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) actually create most medical, mental health and emotional issues in adults.

What I did in 2009 was to get relief by piling on many extra hours of “flight time” sitting with my Recovery partners, one whose parents were dying, and another whose spouse committed suicide.  The emotional pain was excruciating, but the process worked — because we were in the same boat.

We used the “Grief Recovery Handbook” by John James & Russell Friedman and wrote “Grief Letters” as the book assigns. It’s an arduous method and they do caution:  Don’t do this alone!

So arduous, we were advised by the pros to “schedule in the flight hours” with a Grief Partner — and we met in pairs every single Wednesday night for 3 hours and Saturday afternoons for even longer — for three years.  We just read our Grief Letters to each other.

Grief Recovery Handbook,+20th+Anniversary+Expanded+EditionWe shared everything, and I do mean everything, the deepest of grief.  One hour sharing by each of us of our letter of the week, sharing in turn, while the other sat with mouth shut (that’s why “Hello Kitty” has no mouth) and practiced compassionate listening.  After sharing 1 hour each (no one can take more than that in a day!), we’d have a snack and chat, or go walk on the beach on Saturdays.

I can not possibly say in mere writing how deeply healing that was – it saved my life!

This can not be done by email or telephone.  It’s the eye contact that heals the brain; ask Dr. Bruce Perry:  the eyes literally carry the image of the soul from one human into another. That’s how mothers co-create their babies’ brains, and that is the only thing that can heal us for the rest of life.  “It’s all about the face time.”

But our family members were just not in the same boat (or in denial; they might be in the same boat but couldn’t face it; denial harmful to all concerned).  So trying to get from them, something they simply do not have, was just not the best use of our truly valuable time.  Sooner or later, they will get it — but probably later.  I had one family member in denial who lives 3,000 miles away, and that was all the family I had;  I had to wing it from scratch.  That was a big ouch by itself.  It still stings.

Then I “accidentally” met my recovery partners in choir.

If no recovery partners appear magically in your ‘hood,  join ACEsConnection.com — nation-wide and world-wide– and go to or form an ACE meeting.   Or find or form a support group at your local house of worship or county health organization.  I’ve tried all the groups from DivorceCare to GriefShare, Codependents Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery (aka CR, Pastor Rick Warren’s national group), and even Al Anon.

It was incredibly painful because so many just do NOT get it — but I became a gold mine of ideas on how to find recovery partners.  Message me, I’ll help you — I found them, I did recover — and now I feel great most of the time.

If all else fails there are weekly Al Anon meetings in every city in America and they are not just for families of addicts. They will be there for anyone who is hurting and needs loving acceptance; just walk in and admit to that tiny streak of co-dependency that lurks in all of us.

Plus: Here is an incredibly fruitful link I just found on http://acestudy.org/faqs
Q:  I’m a survivor and/or perpetrator of child abuse in search of help; what should I do?
A:  Talk with your physician, and ask for a referral.  No matter what your age, if you do not currently have healthcare coverage, contact the nearest children’s hospital or children’s advocacy center and ask for help. This jumps to the National Children’s Advocacy Center at http://www.nationalcac.org/locator.html and to illustrate, I put in my zip and got 5 matches within 50 miles such as:
1. Child Abuse Services Team (CAST), 401 The City Dr., Orange, 92868  (714) 935-7599
2. Miller Children’s Abuse and Violence Intervention Center, 2865 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, 90806  (562) 933-0590
3. Children’s Advocacy Center for Child Abuse, 363 S. Park Ave. Ste. 202, Pomona, 91766  (909) 629-6300
4. Riverside Child Assessment Team, 26520 Cactus Ave., Lower Level Moreno Valley 92555  (951) 486-4345
5. Palomar Pomerado Forensic Health Child Abuse, 121 N. Fig St., Escondido 92025  (760) 739-2156

Building a Life Team

I’m no stranger to emotional pain so bad it can lead to suicide. My new book “Don’t Try This at Home: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder” notes the pain was so intense, it nearly did.

Rick & Kay Warren, Matthew 9-28-13In fact this blog resulted from a Sept. 17 interview with Pastor Rick Warren on his son Matthew’s suicide this year. Pastor Warren told CNN, “Matthew was not afraid to die.  He was afraid of pain.”

Pastor Warren and his wife Kay have been passionately calling for a change in our mental health system to recognize and deal with the fact that this happens too often, starting with a July 26 statement calling for complete mental health system reform.

Among the comments I received after posting this warning about how bad the pain can get, were these:

“Thank you for sharing.  I have Major Clinical Depression myself and I can totally relate to what his son went through. Many times, even the people who say they love you the most, don’t really get what it’s like to go through such intense emotional pain that you want it to just stop no matter what the cost.  Then, those you have no choice but to turn to for support–actually work against your recovery by saying and doing things that are counter productive.  It’s the worst ‘Catch 22’ I can imagine being in.”

The next comment was:

“So very well stated! And when folks don’t get that they are acting in a counter-productive way, the person in need is getting re-traumatized again; it’s a mini-re-traumatization. Not unlike a micro-aggression or micro-inequity.

“Micro-aggressions/micro-inquities are usually attributed to minority experiences.  There is a ‘dose-response effect’… a cumulative effect of these and other traumas that create a heavier burden for the person in need as time goes by.  The fundamental essence is that the person is alienated from ‘the group.’  Being a part of one’s social group is a biological need of all mammals ! ”

I replied, “No, most people can’t get what it’s like ‘to go through such intense emotional pain that you want it to just stop no matter what.’  It’s so hard, that Catch 22 you talk about.  Many times in 2008-2011 I was in Matthew Warren’s shoes.  But I had to see a friend every day whose spouse had committed suicide, so I had to look the results in the eye. That is the only reason frankly I survived.

“I’ve been thru micro re-traumatizations like that for decades. This is why I so appreciate ACEsConnection.  Because there, I can be 100% my real self, trauma and all, and everyone ‘does get it;’  you get the real me.   So no re-traumatizations.  Priceless!”

Feel like you’re at the End of the Line?  Here’s the proverbial bottom line:

It is SO important for us to simply be heard saying the truth of what we feel, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – and then to , receive a totally accepting response.

As in “you belong, no matter what you are feeling. ” And it’s just very difficult to get family to do that;  it’s too intense for them.  It’s just human nature; let’s accept it.

That’s why Dr. John Townsend also advises that we all create a “Life Team” of seven people who are not family – Seven “Recovery” team partners – so we can call someone every day and share how we really feel, no bull, and be accepted and validated.

He says it’s only by bringing our “bad parts” into relationship with other humans, that we can heal them. Amazing. You should see what his list of “bad parts” includes, it’s astonishing.  He’s for sharing every not-good thing we feel under the sun.  Even horrid sexual impulses.  Talk about the emotions, so that we can feel it and heal it – then we dissipate the impulse and don’t act out.

Make the Call !  Get Your 5 Supplements…

Dr. Townsend says everybody, every day, requires — as a physiological need — what he calls the Five Supplements:

Grace, Empathy, Validation, Acceptance, and Encouragement.

Can you imagine that?  As an ACE survivor, the first time I heard him say this, I thought:  “This shrink is out of his mind.”  I’d never had such a wonderful experience in my life – let alone every day of my life — and as a doctor-certified requirement of the human soul.

OK, so we need a list of seven people who will do this for us – because obviously, we are also going to be there for them and do it for them!  That’s what “General Theory of Love” calls “100%-100%” agape. I’ve been doing this and it really works.

But then: we have to make the call. That’s usually the worst part, we are so mortified.

harlow-monkey-getty sm, better ResolutionI once told my therapist: “Last night I felt like the Harlow’s monkey shown in ‘General Theory of Love’. ”  It’s a baby monkey huddled up in a ball of agony like a spider about to die — after it was removed from even the terry cloth mother monkey and left in a cold bare wire cage.

But I had called a recovery friend the night before, and simply told them that.  And got accepted telling it.  My doctor replied:  “That’s the point.  The monkey couldn’t make the call.  YOU made the call!”  And I felt better.

To which our team of commentators responded:

“Saying one’s truth and being ACCEPTED as in “belonging” is just spot on! Again, it’s a biological need.  Mammals NEED to belong.  Dr. Gabor Mate states this often.

“Sadly, an excellent example is bullying.  It’s why so many young kids take their lives when bullied.  Being ostracized from the group is to inject disease (or as some would point out “dis-ease”) into the victim; denying one from BELONGING. Then one looks at Dr. Daniel Siegel’s work and understands that individual biology is modulated by interpersonal experiences (click the link).”

And:

“I REALLY appreciate what you’ve both shared with us.  It has a ring of truth to it (resonating loudly within me) and I wish there was a way to TEACH that to every single person on the planet.  It’s as basic a need as food, water, clothing, shelter.  Our society suffers when WE suffer — rejection and isolation are such HUGE barriers to self-esteem, feeling loved, being accepted.”

So that’s it:  Everybody, every day, requires, as a physiological need, Dr. Townsend’s Five Supplements:

Grace, Empathy, Validation, Acceptance, and Encouragement.

Then, let us build our Life Teams, and let us keep working together here in dialogue.

And remember: the monkey couldn’t make the call – but we can make the call.  So make the call!

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