It can be just one small object you come across that takes you by surprise and opens the floodgates of tears. Or it can be so many things that you don’t even want to begin. I’ve seen entire rooms left the way they were when the deceased person was alive because it’s too painful for the grieving partner or relative to even go in there. And I can’t count the number of attics, garages and junk rooms I’ve seen full of inherited things that need to be gone through, but the person can’t bring themselves to do it. Each time they try, the grief that surfaces is too overwhelming.
Death is a part of life, and grief is a normal and natural response to the loss of a loved one. But no-one teaches us how to grieve. We’re told that time heals, but frankly, it doesn’t. The best most people can do is learn to live with their grief by stuffing it down in one way or another. Years later, it’s still there, buried deep inside.
So is that it? Are we all doomed to live with grief for the rest of our lives, like the walking wounded? One man who decided differently was John W. James, founder of The Grief Recovery Institute® and co-author of The Grief Recovery Handbook, described as the gold standard when it comes to giving specific tools on how to heal your heart following a loss. With over half a million copies in print, the book has helped countless people all over the world to work through their unresolved feelings. It guides you through the essential steps to complete your relationship with the person who has died, so that you can recover and move on.
‘Completing does not mean that you will forget your loved one,’ the authors explain. ‘What we are completing is our relationship to the pain caused by the loss.’ The techniques are so simple that anyone can do them, and as is often the case with such archetypal simplicity, they are profoundly effective.
The best advice I can give, therefore, if you have lost someone dear to you, is to not even think about sorting through their belongings until you have gone through this grief recovery process first. There will still be sadness, but it greatly lessens the pain.
And how long do you have to wait until you can do this? In the book there is a two-part quiz to help you answer that question:
- If you fell down and gashed your leg and blood was pouring out, would you immediately seek medical attention? The obvious answer is yes.
- If circumstances and events conspired to break your heart, would you seek attention immediately, or would you allow yourself to bleed to death emotionally? Pick one!
The authors say most emphatically: It is never too soon to address your grief.
Of course, as we go through life, there are many other types of losses we experience, such as divorce, separation, losing a job, loss of health, loss of trust, loss of safety, moving home, and so on. The Grief Recovery Method can be applied to these too. Other books by John W. James and Russell Friedman include When Children Grieve (about helping children deal with loss), and Moving On (about completing and moving on from relationships).
If you would prefer to have the help and support of an experienced professional, then there are certified Grief Recovery Specialists who are available to do individual and group sessions in the US, Canada, UK, Mexico, Sweden, Africa, Hungary, Singapore, China, Columbia, New Zealand and other places. You can check to see if there is one in your part of the world by doing an internet search for ‘Grief Recovery Method’ and the name of your country.
After a bereavement
Copyright © Karen Kingston 2013