People say you have to let go and move on in your life, but they don’t tell you what you need to do to accomplish that. The Grief Recovery Method® Support Groups and One-On-One Programs (GRM) not only make that possible, but provide partnerships and guidance to ensure that it happens. In our culture, we often forget to make room and time for a full grieving process. We can relearn the ways of listening to and supporting each other during times of loss, in order to achieve the feeling of having let go of the past (rather than just mentally trying to forget the past).
Top 10 Misconceptions I Hear About Grief
10. "I haven't had any close people die, so I don't think I'm experiencing grief."
There are over 40 kinds of loss: death, divorce, life transitions like graduations and moving, becoming empty-nesters, loss of faith, loss of trust in someone or something, loss of health or physical ability, loss of a feeling of safety, and more.
9. Other people have certainly experienced worse than what I'm going through right now, so I shouldn't feel sad, angry or resentful (or any other very real emotion).
This is, quite simply, a way that we deny our own reality. In GRM, we do not compare ourselves or our experiences to others, or to some idealized norm. We catch our "shoulds" and correct them into statements of what we are actually experiencing, and acknowledge the full reality of our own feelings.
8. Time heals all wounds.
While it's true that time helps the healing process occur organically, there are effective actions we can take to make sure there are no lingering infections or structural problems. In our physical bodies, this is obvious, and clean up and repairs must be made in order for the body to heal properly. In our mental, emotional and spiritual bodies, these "infections, misalignments, breaks, holes and irritants" are what make us feel incomplete and unable to let go of the past. Just waiting for time to pass, alone, will not heal us at these deeper levels.
7. I will feel this way forever.
It's certainly your right to feel any way you feel, and it's not my place to disavow you of that right. However, I know that what is holding a person in that belief has a purpose, and we can find a way to honor that purpose while easing your unhappiness. When we find things that are incomplete for you from a past relationship, I can show you how to get complete and let go of the pain.
6. Grief never goes away - it means you really loved that person.
I have found this to be incorrect on many occasions. Many people experience a mix of complicated feelings after a loss. For those who have lost a "less than loved one," there can be feelings of betrayal, frustration and anger if some kind of resolution was not attained while the person was still alive. They might believe there's now no way to attain resolution. Another point I'd like to make is that it is possible to move on and find great happiness and success after a profound loss. You are not a "bad" person if you stop displaying angst, sadness, regret, heartbreak or any visible evidence of your grief - you are human. Healing means being able to, once again, experience joy, intimacy, excitement, fulfillment and happiness - all while remembering and honoring (or forgiving and saying goodbye to) those who have left our lives. Sacred rituals are an excellent way to honor the past. And in my office, we'll find the ways in which you have unfinished business that still needs to be heard.
5. It's not "manly" to cry, so I'll push all my emotions down where no one can see them or judge me.
Men in our culture are struggling and suffering under the restrictive burden of "manliness" our society has foisted upon them, generation after generation. The consequences of this include mass shootings, inappropriate sexual behaviors, manipulation, cheating, abuse, an intense need to control others, not to mention physical health degradation. It is part of my deepest commitment to show men how to embrace the fullness of their humanity, give them a place to own all of their feelings without being judged as bad, immoral, weak or deviant, and to show them how to use emotions to enrich their lives, rather than to project their feelings onto others.
4. There are five stages of grief (DABDA).
When I ask people if their grief followed the five stages, their answer is ALWAYS "no." But then they think they are the exception to the rule, that there must be something abnormal or dysfunctional about them, something to explain why they couldn't grieve the "right" way. I'm here to tell you, the "five stages" are certainly feelings a lot of grievers will feel, but they might not be in that order, they might get "stuck" in one stage for a long time, or they might not experience all the stages. There's nothing wrong with you if you don't progress through "stages" of grief in some predictable way. What IS common among all grievers is that they have feelings, and they either feel complete or incomplete with what's lost. This is where the Grief Recovery Method steps in to show the way. For more information about where the "Five Stages..." originated, see this Psychology Today article, and listen to this great Radiolab Podcast with guest, Rachael Cusick.
3.If I let myself feel the sadness fully, I will fall apart (or go to pieces, or have a breakdown) and not be able to function. There's no telling how big my feelings are, and I'm afraid I won't be able to recover.
You know how M. Night Shyamalan and other horror directors kept us on the edge of our seats by NOT showing us the monster? This works because our imagination can create things way scarier than reality. We do the same kind of catastrophizing with emotions and feelings, because they are hidden deep under the surface of our everyday personas. It is possible to build tolerance and resilience to stronger and deeper emotions over time, eventually being able to allow and feel all emotions without judgment, fear or projection. This is a process that can be developed in depth psychotherapy and GRM, where you have the support of a nonjudgmental witness to guide you through the overwhelm.
2. Grief only lasts six months. Longer than that, and it's depression and you'll need medication.
This is typically heard in the medical community, who have been trained to repeat this false belief to their patients even after we already know it's just not that simple. Every person's grief reaction is different, depending on the quality and complexity of the relationship, the amount of time elapsed, the circumstances of the ending, how much unresolved grief already exists from previous losses, and much more. Grief lasts until we feel complete, when we have made amends or forgiven fully, and are ready to embrace the next part of life. The amount of time that takes differs for every single person, and medication is not a fix-all for emotional incompleteness. (Medication can be a helpful lever on brain chemistry when needed in order to stabilize, ground, calm and be ready to face emotional incompleteness. I am not a doctor, and do not prescribe nor denigrate the use of psychopharmaceuticals. You and your Psychiatrist can assess the level of dysregulation of your brain, and whether medication could help you make use of psychotherapy.)
1. Don't feel... (fill in the blank).
Most people have said this at some point, and most people have heard this from someone who cares about them. It's a lovely sentiment to not want someone you care about to suffer. But telling them not to feel their feelings is one of the worst piece of advice or guidance you can give them. Try an experiment: the next time you hear yourself saying "Don't feel bad (or sad, or angry, or lonely)," ask to retract that statement. Then say something like "You know what, feel exactly what you are feeling, and I'm going to stay right here and support you through it by listening." Then (here's the key part), don't leave! Don't check out mentally, don't give advice, don't pity, don't tell yourself you're failing as a friend or parent, don't get swept up in your own emotions. Stay fully present and curious about the other person's feelings, let them describe it, let them pull out memories, let them get messy and confused and overwhelmed and whatever else they feel. Just don't leave. (Note on boundaries: it's OK to ask that person not to blame you or your actions for their feelings; and it's OK to refuse to be bullied, harassed, blamed, denigrated, insulted, injured or abused in any way.)
Why Misinformation About Grief Keeps Getting Passed Down
Your feelings are normal and natural. The problem is that we have been socialized to believe that negative feelings are abnormal and unnatural. But the truth is that most people have a mix of feelings about any particular loss, and to be able to express those feelings, and feel heard and understood is part of recovering from loss.
Why do people say unhelpful things? Why do we keep teaching kids to be afraid of feelings (their own and others)? Because it makes the listener more comfortable? Because it's less awkward? Because there's no easy fix or answer? Yes, all of this is the uncomfortable reality of life and loss. Let's take a deep breath, lower the defenses against scary feelings, and have faith that really listening and validating the griever's actual feelings is enough. It's really enough!
How the Grief Recovery Method works
My groups and 1-1 work offer you a place to be able to do exactly what I spoke about in that last paragraph. We will also uncover any unresolved communications of an emotional nature, and have a chance to be heard. Then we move into making our apologies, offering forgiveness and saying goodbye to any memories that are causing us pain. Once you learn the method, you can apply the process to any loss in your life and find resolution in order to recover a sense of joy and happiness in life.
This is an 8-week, action-based educational recovery program. We use the Grief Recovery Handbook, by John James & Russell Friedman, as our guide. Each week, I introduce a component of the process, whether it's about unlearning the misinformation we've learned from society, or looking for the losses in our past, or finding what is unresolved and making emotionally accurate statements to a nonjudgmental, caring listener. In the groups, we often pair up with a buddy to share more personally revealing information about our past, and we adhere each week to a set of commitments to each other, in order to provide confidentiality and emotional safety for all members. Because each session builds on the previous material, this is not a drop-in group, and your weekly attendance is an integral and required part of your healing process.
Format Options for the Grief Recovery Method
ONLINE Support Group (GROUPS FORMING NOW! - REGISTER TODAY!) - meets weekly for 2 hours on a weekday night for eight weeks. EAST COAST group will meet on Tuesday evenings (6-8pm EDT)
WEST COAST group will meet on Monday evenings (6-8pm PDT)
Up to 8 people, co-ed, all losses welcome. See the "Make a Payment" page for the next start date.
ONLINE One-on-One program (AVAILABLE DURING THE PANDEMIC!) - meet via videoconference for 50-70 min at a regularly scheduled weekly appointment. You can purchase a Grief Recovery Handbook on your own, or I can drop-ship one to you before we start sessions. Our first meeting will be an intake conversation, a review of the participation agreement, and the time to make payment and scheduling arrangements.
The cost of the course by meeting type is:
ONLINE Support Group: $825, which can be split into two payments of $412.50, to be paid in full by the 4th session. Includes one copy of the book: "The Grief Recovery Handbook, 20th Anniversary Edition" by John James & Russell Friedman.
ONLINE One-on-One: $1440 for eight sessions. (10% discount offered if paid in full by first session.)
If paying in two installments of $720, must paid in full by the 4th session. Includes one copy of the book: "The Grief Recovery Handbook, 20th Anniversary Edition" by John James & Russell Friedman.
In-Person Support Group: $1295, which can be split into two payments of $647.50, to be paid in full by the 4th session.
This format is on hold during the pandemic.
Interested in participating in a 1-on-1 process with me?
Contact me today by phone or e-mail, or go to the "Make a Payment" page of this website to register for the next seminar. It's never too early to start healing.