The 6 T’s of Grief Recovery
By Cheryline Lawson
There are 6 fundamentals of grief recovery, which are very important to the grieving process. Most people try to avoid them not knowing that they're delaying
their healing & advancement to the future.
Let us discuss them & evaluate
your situation if you're grieving to see if you are or can implement any of these 6 criteria
to recovering from your grief.
all need time to grieve, but how long it takes depends on the individual. No one can accurately
predict how long it will take for grief healing. Your friends & family may anticipate
& expect a certain time frame.
You may be tempted to set the same expectation that they have for you, but if you
try to please others, then your grieving will become unresolved & you'll find yourself
confused & unable to move on.
You'll feel anger, guilt or depression if you aren't able to finish the grieving process. Take time to grieve for your loved one until you're comfortable.
Tears are part of the healing process so do allow yourself
to cry as much as you want. Let the tears flow & cleanse yourself of all the emotional burden that come with grief.
If you're unable to cry in public, find a safe place like your home or a support
outreach center or in your car. Call someone on the phone that'll listen to your pain & validate your tears.
It's so amazing the amount of tears that we utilize during grief.
We can cry for simple things, so be sure to drink more water because tears tend to dehydrate you.
I can't say this enough. Talk as much as you can about your memories
of your loved one; especially the good ones. Seek out the people who'll listen to you & understand your grief.
A grief support group is a good place to start.
Talking helps you to realize the impact & the reality of their death & to accept the fact of the finality of their
death. Most people are very uneasy to mention your loved one, but be sure to make it known that you want to talk about your
loved one because this is what will help you the most.
You'll miss the hugs, touches, kisses & affection of your loved one. You'll build a wall around you to keep
out other people who want to show you affection. You may find hugging to be repulsive & feel guilt for having someone show you kindness thru a hug or a kiss on the cheek.
Let that barrier down. Accept the kindness that others want to share with you. Allow
yourself to be pampered. Don’t be on the defensive. You deserve to be hugged & comforted after going thru such a
If you're all alone without any family, make arrangements with a friend to give you
a "healing hug" if you look or feel like you need it. Bereaved children need lots of hugs to reassure them that they're still
Trust yourself to know that you
will recover from your grief. You may begin to question your trust in God & your spirituality. You'll
feel anger at God. You're in a stage of rediscovering yourself & how you will handle the future. You don’t have
to be alone in the decisions that you have to make, but if you're alone, do trust your instincts & ask for help when you
don’t know what to do.
grieves in different ways. Grieving is hard work. It's
like toiling. It takes lots of energy from you. You'll feel fatigue, struggle, difficulty & not motivated to continue
with life. You'll need to eat healthy, exercise & take good care of your own well-being.
Recognize that grief recovery will take effort on your part, but embracing support can help you not to feel like you're toiling so hard.
Make sure you administer all or some of the 6 T’s of grief recovery to make your life easier & your healing faster to gain a life of peace & renewal.
Recovering from grief has no set order or method. It all depends on the individual person, what type
of grief (how their loved one died),
their social & cultural background & their emotional stability at the time of the death of their loved one.
Here are 20 practical ideas of recovery that'll help in some way to get you past some of the pain & on your way to recovery.
1. Talk with as many people as you feel comfortable talking to especially with someone who is a good listener & has empathy to your situation.
Take a walk each day & appreciate
the natural things around you & your surroundings. Somehow the outdoors provides a sense of peace
If you feel up to it, make a visit to your loved one’s graveside. Talk to
the grave, even though they won’t be able to hear you, but it's therapeutic. Cry if you want to & don’t feel guilty
Create a scrapbook that will keep the memories alive of your loved one. Share it
with those who care
about your loss. Cut out pictures & anything that reminds you of them. Let each picture tell a story.
Revisit your dreams & goals
before your loved one passed away. This will reveal your thoughts
& help you to see what changes need
to be made for your future.
Let others know how you want to be approached. I found that people are very
to be around someone who has lost a loved one & they don’t know what to say. If you need
them to leave you alone, say so in a loving way. If you need
more affection, let them know. There's no way that people will be able to read your mind unless you say so.
Think about the 'Serenity Prayer' -- "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things
I cannot change, courage
to change the things I can, and wisdom to know one from the other." This is actually an ancient German prayer that makes
a lot of sense.
Keep the persons memory alive by still setting their place at the table or other
rituals that you remember. Do this for a short time until you come to an acceptance
of your loss.
to do at least one thing each day. It doesn’t have to anything difficult. You'll experience low energy at this time
& it's important
to keep your energy up.
Keep a journal & write your feelings
down. This is also a therapeutic exercise that can bring some peace of mind. You can do this every day or for however long
that you want. Write whatever you feel. Just let your feelings pour out on paper & read it over to yourself.
Get as much rest as you can. Going thru the grieving
is hard on the body & the mind. Take naps & relax
as much as you like. It'll replenish your energy also.
12. Write a letter to your loved one. Let them know how you feel about their absence.
Tell them all the things you wished you'd said while they were alive. Let them know how much you miss them & what's been
going on since they've been gone.
Consider joining a local support group
if such is available in your area & if the grief
gets too much, seek professional help.
The support group will provide a place of familiarity with people who are going thru the same thing you are.
If you live alone
, consider getting a pet, but having someone in your home helps to take away the silence. Be sure you have time to take care
of the pet & also be sure you're ready for company.
Find something to do that passes the time; a hobby that you like or doing volunteer work
for a worthy cause.
yourself from the grief
by attending a movie or going to dinner or a comedy club. Laughing
is good medicine for the soul. Your loved one would have wanted you to be happy
17. Don’t try to be self-reliant. Reach out to others who are willing to assist
you in any way. Form neighborly relationships especially if you live by yourself.
Keep away from people who make it difficult for you to grieve
that it's time for you to stop grieving
. You don’t need
to be around people who aren't understanding
of your grief
to soothing music. It helps to soother the soul & relaxes the body & the mind.
Lastly, make sure you read all the good books you can about coping
. They will help you to understand
the journey of your grief
& the different emotions
that are quite normal for you to experience. It'll also get thru some of your bad days.Grieving
is never an easy experience, but having good support can lead you to a place of healing & realization that your pain is
real. Grief recovery
is attainable if you have the right people around you, the tools that you need
& the confirmation that your grieving
is normal & practical ways to deal with the
Loss & Grief - Myths & Realities
Myths & Realities about the Nature of Grief
In Western society we're socialized
to regard certain beliefs & attitudes about what makes up a normal grief response, many
of which are inaccurate & untrue.
These common misconceptions
& myths then become part of our cultural beliefs of the grieving process. We're raised
with incorrect information that ultimately leads to unrealistic expectations of those going thru the grief
We expect people to "Get over
it" "Let it go" & "Move on" especially if the grieving process last too long, which
is often regarded as only a few weeks.
I remember being struck by
how quickly we, as a nation, were expected to "move on" following the devastating events of September 11, 2001.
After 2 weeks of public mourning
(outward expression of grief), the flags were
returned to full mast, a signal by the White House that it was time to move on.
Often when dealing with someone who is grieving
we feel a need to change how that person is feeling about grief.
In an awkward attempt to make
the grieving person feel better people turn to clichés such as:
- "You must be strong."
- "You have to get on with your life."
- "It's good that he didn't have to suffer."
which may cause additional distress.
Western society also promotes
the misconception that it's inappropriate to show any kind of grief emotions anywhere else but the funeral.
There's also the implicit
expectation that after 2 weeks one should be "over it." People in the workforce are expected to return to work after their
2 weeks of bereavement leave with their grief still fresh & get back to normal.
Recovery from the loss or
the death should definitely be completed within 6 months, supporting the common myth about grief
that it actually ends.
These misconceptions about
the grieving process can make the process more difficult & more painful for those going
thru it. Being around people who believe & perpetuate the myths & misconceptions can make it more difficult for those
who are grieving; this misinformation may actually hinder the recovery process by not allowing
the grieving person to be supported by understanding family & friends as the person
goes thru the process in his or her own way & at his or her own pace.
Dispelling the Misconceptions
& Myths thru Education
Education is one
of the best ways of dispelling the misconceptions & myths about grief. Thru education
the public & professionals become more knowledgeable & aware that grief is a normal
response to loss.
People will also
have a better understanding of what's part of a normal grief response. Dispelling the myths
will help those grieving a loss by raising awareness & making it easier for them to
go thru the process.
Time to Assimilate the Loss
Since these myths & misconceptions are so pervasive
in our popular culture it's no wonder that a grieving person may feel abnormal or that they're
doing it wrong if his or her experience last more than a few weeks.
grieving person may feel that he or she is "going crazy" if they experience intense emotions
or physical symptoms along with their grief. We should be encouraging those who are grieving to find the resources needed to assimilate the loss into a life forever changed in their
own way & in their own time.
The remaining part of this
article includes many of the common myths about the nature, the timing, the emotions & symptoms of grief & ways of coping with grief & the realities about the grieving process.
Identifying Myths &
Revealing Realities about the Nature of Grief
Myth: All losses
are the same.
Reality: Each person's experience of loss is unique.
Myth: People grieve in the same manner.
Reality: There is no "perfect,"
"right," "correct" or "standard" way to grieve a loss.
Myth: Grief occurs in an orderly & predictable manner.
Reality: Grief is a chaotic process, better described as a roller coaster ride with periods of highs & periods of
Myth: Only family
members grieve a loss.
Reality: Anyone attached to
the loss may grieve.
Myth: People should
leave their grieving at home.
Reality: We can't control
where we grieve.
Myth: We only
Reality: We grieve
Molly Fumia's quote describes
just how universal the grief response is.
is the most patient & persistent of all of life's companions. It's an ancient, universal power that links all human beings
More on the Reality of
Loss is a common experience that can be encountered many times during a lifetime; it doesn't discriminate
for age, race, sex, education, economic status, religion, or nationality. Unrecognized, unprocessed & untreated the grief
response can result in:
- personal anguish
- multiple complaints
- functional impairment
- strained relationships
- clinical depression
- a risk of suicide
A person who is grieving should be encouraged to draw upon or discover their internal source of strength & find healthy
ways of coping with the loss. For many recognizing that others have lived thru loss & survived often helps in beginning
to realize that they too can survive their own loss.
It's important to recognize that:
Grief is a powerful, universal
feeling, but it is survivable.
The previous section explored
various myths & realities about the nature of grief. This section looks at the timing of loss & grief.
Myths & Revealing Realities on the Timing of Loss & Grief
Myth: A grieving
person should be over their grief after 2 weeks.
Reality: There is no definite timeline
for grief; it may take weeks, months, years or a lifetime to process a loss. How long depends on the person, the situation
& the type of loss.
Myth: The grieving
person should definitely be "over it" within 2 months.
Reality: There's no definite
timeline for grief.
Myth: Grief declines
over time in a steadily decreasing fashion.
Reality: Grief is more like a roller coaster
ride with up times & down times.
Myth: Once over
a loss, the grief is never experienced again.
Reality: A place, a smell, a song, or
a special date may trigger the old memories.
may be experienced again.
Myth: Grief ends
after the funeral.
Reality: Many people believe that life should return to normal after
the funeral service. However, this may be the start of the grieving process as the shock & numbness give way to the reality
of the loss.
Myth: Grief eventually
Reality: In time most people learn to live with the loss.
More on the Timing of Grief
Noted psychiatrist and
death and dying expert Elisabeth Kübler-Ross reminds us that mourning doesn't end in two months, six months or even a year,
can go on for years and years.
It doesn't end after a year, that's a false fantasy.
It usually ends when people realize
that they can live again,
that they can concentrate their energies on their lives as a whole, and not on their hurt, and
guilt and pain.
One of the common myths about
grief is that it eventually ends. In reality, as professor, author and thanatology expert Dr. Kenneth Doka notes:
do not get over grief.
But over time, we do learn to live with the loss.
We learn to live a different life
Grieving people must recognize
that they may never "get over" their grief or certain major losses such as the diagnosis of a terminal illness or the ultimate
loss of a child, spouse or loved one to death. With time the loss, the intense, initial, painful emotions lessen to a level
that allows the grieving person to function.
The grief is no longer a daily
all-consuming emotion. In time the grieving person learns how to cope with the loss and the grief, integrate the loss into
his/her life, adapt to a life forever changed by the loss and keep living.
The previous sections have
explored various myths and realities about the nature of grief and the timing of grief. In this section the emotions of grief
are considered followed by physical symptoms of grief.
Identifying Myths & Revealing
Realities about the Emotions of Grief
people just need to express their feelings and to resolve their grief.
is manifested physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially and intellectually.
Myth: Grief is
just an emotional reaction.
Reality: Grief is a normal response to an abnormal event.
Myth: The intensity
of the grief expressed indicates how much you loved a person.
Reality: There are different
ways of expressing a person's grief; some do it quietly, some loudly.
intense feelings of sorrow, anger, or hopelessness means one is losing control.
Expressing, talking or writing about intense feelings can be helpful.
More on the
Emotions of Grief
When a person is faced with a loss,
crisis or life-changing event he/she is suddenly thrust into a new world that is unfamiliar & at times frightening.
It's a world of intense, unsettling
at at times conflicting feelings of loss, anger, depression, loneliness, fear, frustration & desperation.
Dr. Melba Colgrove wrote about
the healing of emotional injuries in her book, How to Survive the Loss of a Love:
When an emotional injury
takes place, the body begins a process as natural as the healing of a physical wound.
Let the process happen.
Trust that nature will
do the healing.
Know that the pain will pass, & when it passes,
You will be stronger, happier, more sensitive
Identifying Myths &
Revealing Realities about the Physical Symptoms of Grief
Myth: Grief will only affect a person psychologically.
Reality: A grieving person may experience physical manifestations of the loss as part of an acute (or chronic) grief response.
symptoms e.g. stomach pain, anxiety, or headache, can't be because of grief.
Reality: A grieving person may experience physical manifestations of the loss
as part of an acute (or chronic) grief
More on the Physical
Symptoms of Grief
poem "Grief" effectively captures some of these intense emotions & physical symptoms
experienced as part of feeling a loss. I've found this poem to be a very effective way of explaining the deep emotional &
physical response often felt while grieving. Many people understand "Grief" better after reading or hearing the poem.
Deep sobs -
start beneath my heart
and hold my body in a grip that hurts.
The lump that swells inside my throat
that tries to choke.
Then tears course down my cheeks -
I drop my head in my so empty hands
to deep dark grief & know
that with the passing time
will come relief.
In addition to the intense
emotional responses, a grieving person may also experience a variety of physical
- gastrointestinal symptoms
- chest pressure
- stomach pains
- panic attacks
- inreased anxiety
Many of these complaints are
potentially serious & require a thorough evaluation to exclude a serious medical disorders before a diagnosis of grief or traumatic response can be made.
The previous sections have
explored various myths & realities about the nature of grief, the timing of grief, the emotions of grief & the physical symptoms of grief. In this
final section section the myths & realities about ways of coping with grief are discussed.
Identifying Myths &
Revealing Realities about Ways People Cope with Grief
Myth: A grieving person should be left alone.
Reality: A grieving person needs opportunities to share memories & receive support.
Myth: It's unimportant
for the grieving person to be supported in his or her journey of grief.
Reality: Grieving people need to be with those who
nourish or sustain them. Sometimes those people may be family members, sometime not.
a person to "Be brave" & "Keep a stiff upper lip" & "Deal with it" is helpful.
Sometimes it's better not to say anything to a grieving person & just listen.
Myth: A person
can cope with a loss by ignoring or repressing the pain.
Reality: Painful experiences
are a part of living & generally don't get better if ignored.
Myth: One must
talk about grief in order to express grief.
Reality: Each person must find what works best for him or her. For some that's talking, for others
writing in a journal, volunteering time or building something. Not everyone needs to talk about their grief.
memorials & funerals aren't necessary to help us deal with life & death.
Rituals can be healing - allowing people to express & share a belief system, culture & feelings when words alone may
not be enough.
More on the Ways People
Cope & Heal
Helen Keller writes
about the "great family" one joins after sustaining a loss, that can provide an opportunity for sharing, support & healing:
it seems that our sorrow is too great to be borne,
let us think of the great family of the heavy-hearted
our grief has given us entrance & inevitably,
we will feel about us, their arms & their understanding
Dr.'s Carl Hammerschlag
& Howard Silverman describe the importance of ceremonies & rituals in their book Healing Ceremonies: Creating Personal
Rituals for Spiritual, Emotional, Physical & Mental Health
Ceremonies & rituals
can be powerful tools
in helping us to harness the power
to deal with the important transitional events in our lives.
Funerals, memorial services
or other rituals aren't designed for the dead, they're for the living. These ceremonies & rituals bring people together
to help in the acceptance of the loss & the begining of the healing process & become tools for coping with transitions.
© 2006. Kirsti A. Dyer MD, MS, FT. Licensed for use to About.com
Dyer KA. 2005. Identifying, understanding, and working with grieving parents in the NICU, Part I: Identifying and
understanding loss and the grief response. Neonatal Netw. 2005 May-Jun;24(3):35-46.
Dyer KA. 2002. Welcome to a Healing
Place. Journey of Hearts Website. At: http://www.journeyofhearts.org/jofh/index_html
Hospice Foundation of America. Shattering Eight Myths About Grief. Date At: click here
Doka KJ. Getting Over It. Hospice Foundation of America. Journeys Newsletter. February 2002.
Sids Mid-Atlantic. 2006.
Myths of Grief. At: click here
Dyer, KA. 1998. Common Myths about Grief. At: http://www.journeyofhearts.org/jofh/kirstimd/myths.htm
UCD - CAPS. No Date. What is Grief? University of California Davis, Counseling and Psychological Services. At: http://caps.ucdavis.edu/resources/katrina/grief/index.htm
Parachin V. No Date. Grief: Nine Common Myths and Realities About Grief. HealthyPlace.com At: click here
Hammerschlag CA. Silverman HD. 1997. Healing Ceremonies: Creating Personal Rituals for Spiritual, Emotional, Physical
and Mental Health. New York, N.Y.: A Perigee Book.
Leney N. 1999. "Grief" in Harris JW, ed. Remembrances and Celebrations:
A Book of Eulogies, Elegies, Letters, and Epitaphs. New York, N.Y.: Pantheon.
Colgrove M. 1982. How to Survive
the Loss of a Love. New York, N.Y.: Bantum Book.
Rando TA. 1991. How to Go on Living when Someone You Love Dies.
New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books
|Understanding Grief & Loss in Times of War & Disaster
Jan Stepehen Maizler, LCSW
There are many different kinds of losses we can experience in our lives. Indeed,
loss in human beings has its beginnings in the birth process that separates the infant from the comfort & security of the mother’s womb into a world where survival is conditional & predicated on individual responsibility.
The presumable final loss is the end of the human life cycle caused by death. There
are many losses in between those polarities that relate to the developmental & aging process in each life.
All of these losses are expectable losses & our bereavement & mourning of these
losses are colored by their expectability.
Losses can be understood & processed more effectively when they're placed in a meaningful theoretical framework. Here are some examples:
1. Normal (expected) losses vs. abnormal (unexpected) losses.
2. Universal losses vs. special
3. Chronic losses vs. acute losses.
4. Mild losses vs. severe losses.
5. Replaceable losses vs. irreplaceable
Unexpected losses, by definition can't be anticipated or prepared for & therefore impact people with a “rapid” challenge.
Adjustment to an unexpected loss is difficult because of the suddenness
of the demand to the person’s psychic & emotional economy.
Unexpected losses can be acute or chronic. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s
Disease is unexpected, but it's a chronic loss that may feature many years of gradual decline for the patient & their
loved ones for adjustment.
Sudden death of a loved one thru war & natural disasters like the
recent Tsunami are quintessential examples of acute unexpected losses & place upon survivors the most severe adaptational
Losses are considered to have more impact on people when they're irreplaceable,
which means that they can't be somewhat “undone.”
Loss of your car thru theft may indeed be potentially replaceable -
obviously, the loss of a loved one isn't.
understanding grief & loss in war & disaster means realizing that these are some of the most
terrible losses experienced because they're unexpected, “special”, acute, severe & irreplaceable.
Traumatic loss can call forth:
3. Severe preoccupation
5. Acute suicidal feelings
6. Inability to function
9. Severe phobic reactions
10. Startle reactions
11. Motor restlessness
12. Anxiety & Panic
These are certainly in contrast to the crying, sadness, preoccupation, anhedonia & sleep disorders found with milder, more expectable losses.
Stages Of Grief In Mild & Traumatic Loss
Denial. One can expect that traumatic losses will trigger some level of denial. Nature has provided people with the neuropsychological equipment to provide themselves with soothing body-based opiates
that accompany denial & shock. This creates a stop-action, freezeframe period to buy the time involved to readjust.
Preoccupation with the Loss. Opening up to that which has been lost will involve various degrees of preoccupation with the loss itself. Many clinicians believe it isn't the passage of time that heals but the rearrangement of ideas that are involved in the passage of time.
Further they feel that the affect of sadness favor the slowing of mental processes which bring about more reorganization of ideas.
or losswork is painful. It requires energy & expends energy. The bearing of emotional pain, physical symptoms & the
shifting of previous habits or thinking which now demand reorganization, frequently cause personal exhaustion & the normal
challenges of life may be too great at this time.
Another aspect of the preoccupation stage
of loss represents what Kubler-Ross referred to as “bargaining”. In part, This term describes moments & sequences
of the mental reorganization process, where the wish to return to the pre-loss stage is felt or expressed.
The broad sweep of optimal adjustment will hopefully dictate that this interlude will become a simple double-check which points out that, in fact, what's lost is lost & will
stay that way & the mourning process proceeds.
Tree of Loss. People undergoing loss may experience the return of previous losses, both resolved & unresolved.
Clinicians are familiar with this phenomenon & remain aware that this presents an opportunity for additional resolutions. Each person has their own special tree of loss, which is based
on the losses they experienced in their life from birth up until the present moment.
of the Mourning Process. How well the person proceeds from the preoccupation stage to the
withdrawal of energy from the loss stage depends on how completely the griefwork has been
done. Essential to this completeness are the confronting of painful feelings, dealing with unfinished business & guilt resolutions.
People may require some help to tie up their loose ends (unfinished business) from another human being or a trained professional when it seems they're
unable to “move on”. This may involve revisitations of old emotional scenarios & events, which keep the person
stuck in the past.
The presence of guilt (the personal belief that one has done something bad as regards to their value system)
is sure to retard the resolution of loss. Again, it may be necessary to seek professional help when the trauma of the loss or guilt is severe.
Withdrawal of Energy & Acceptance. When all of the above has occurred, the grieving person will slowly withdraw the
old emotional investment in that which was lost (decathexis). This may
initiate a reworking of the previous stages in miniature, with an ultimate arrival some time in the future of acceptance of
the loss, a sure sign that resolution & “moving on” has occurred.
of Energy. The “final” stage of this process, reinvestment of emotional energy may take a very long time
to reach after the previous stages.
Many people that have experienced a traumatic loss may never reinvest
their emotional energy out of a fear of further loss or because they remain somewhat emotionally disorganized. If the previous stages have been poorly resolved,
the chances of optimal reinvestment may be slim to none.
Many people remain stuck
in a pre-reinvestment state, haunting the interpersonal world, but never getting truly involved: they're like ghosts too frightened
to move on.
Other people remain “stuck” when they idealize the traumatic loss of their loved one & subsist on the bittersweet fruit of martyrdom.
who are more fortunate realize that loss is inevitable & decide that they're too unwilling to settle for a life crippled by fear of further loss. These people reinvest their emotional energy & take their chances in lives hopefully enriched by a deeper understanding of the many dimensions of loss.
Jan Stephen Maizler,
MSW, ACSW, LCSW, is in private practice in Miami, Florida. He can be reached through his websites www.transformationhandbook.com
Shermin Davis helped edit this article. She is private practice in Miami, Florida
and can be reached at Srdavis@prodigy.net