We All Were Taught Wrong

I am really beginning to understand that all of us have been incorrectly taught how to deal with death. Since the advent of modern medicine, we have been taught that doctors will save the lives of our loved ones and ourselves. We see our loved ones go through excruciating pain and treatments in the hopes that they will live. And some people do live for many years. However, that is not always the case. But what we have learned in the modern world, is that death is painful, expensive and horrifying. It is something to be feared.

What we have forgotten in our modern world, is that death is a normal and natural part of life. So in turn, grieving is a normal and natural part of our lives. Through the Grief Recovery Method, we learn that grieving is a natural process and that there are some simple steps that we need to do to get back to living our lives.

Working through issues of grief is simple, but not always easy. We learn how to not regret our past actions, we learn how to forgive yourselves for unspoken words we so wanted to express to our loved ones. We learn how to say goodbye to the painful, and sometimes traumatic and hurtful memories.

Through learning this process and following the guidelines, our broken hearts start to heal. We will remember the good times and the bad times. The joy in our lives returns. Admittedly, our lives have obviously changed forever because someone we loved has died, however, we’ll find ourselves more confident and assured as time goes by.

These are a few of the benefits that people get when working through the Grief Recovery Method.  I know it has changed my life forever, for the better.

Hugs, Cee

email: cee@cee-chris.com

 

 

Grief Can Be Scary

This post was written by Stephen Moeller, Grief Recovery Specialist.  It was published on October 23, 2017 on the Grief Recovery Method, A Grief Support Blog.

Photo by Chris Donner

Most of us deal with grieving experiences on a regular basis and never realize it! While most people associate grief with death, it’s something that reaches far beyond that narrow focus. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to every change we experience in life. Many of those changes are so small that, while we have feelings attached to those events, we do not label them as grief.

Most of us learn to bury our emotional pain at an early age, because, without their even realizing it, our parents have told us to do just that. Think back to an early loss that caused you to cry. It may have been a lost treat, toy or even a balloon. In all likelihood, your parents told you, “Don’t feel bad,” and probably added, “We will get you a new one.” Now ask yourself, when they first said those words, did you feel any better? Perhaps you felt somewhat better if they were able to quickly replace it with an identical copy, but in those first moments you still felt sad.

That discounted grief you felt in those first moments helped set the stage for how you would deal with grief and loss for the rest of your life. As you dealt with more losses, at that early age, you probably heard those same words many times. The message that you internalized, again without realizing it, was that showing feelings of sadness was not the right thing to do and you simply stuffed those feelings inside. This is hardly a unique experience. With these additional losses, you were likely given intellectual reasons why you should not feel bad. While that might not have helped you feel any better, the logic that was used further convinced you to discount the impact of each loss.

What you did not understand, because there was no one to tell you, is that grief is emotional and not intellectual! A grieving person may try to deal with their feelings in their head, but that offers little solace. Grievers have broken hearts, not broken heads.

How do people store grief energy?

Perhaps the best way to describe what is happening to you, when you continue to stuff those feelings of emotional pain of loss, is with an analogy.

Think about a large mixing bowl. Every time you stuff another painful emotional experience, rather than releasing it, it is like adding water to that bowl. Sometimes, you are adding a few drops. Other times you add a teaspoon or a cup of water, depending on the emotional intensity of the loss. As time passes, you are slowly filling up that bowl. In a sense, just as you see there is less unfilled space in that bowl, in your heart, you have less space for joy in your life. The process of filling this bowl is so gradual, as you store more losses inside, you never notice that it is getting heavier and heavier. Then, one day, you experience another loss that causes your bowl to overflow.

All of us, at one time or another, have had a moment when we found ourselves overreacting to something that has happened. In that moment, you cannot help adding a little more volume to your voice or being more physical in how you respond to your situation. Sometimes you might even realize that you are over reacting, but you just cannot help it, because it feels so good! It’s in those moments that your emotional bowl is so full that you cannot help but shake it to splash out some of that water. You are a little out of control, and have no tools to relieve that pressure that has been building up inside.

That lack of control is what makes grief scary!

Most of us develop the ability to try to control lives and emotions. That is one part of the socialization process. When you are deeply grieving a loss, it’s then that you feel a loss of control. Suddenly, you cannot control your feelings and that can be overwhelming. You might find yourself feeling sad and/or crying without any ability to stop. You might find that things that were once important no longer have any meaning. These are among the many common reactions people have to grief. This can be scary, since this is different than what you have experienced before. It can make you afraid of your future, since, due to that loss, it’s likely not the future you had planned.

fear.jpg

What actions do we take to deal with that fear?

When feeling so overwhelmed, there are two different directions that grievers take.

The first is to start looking for physical actions you can take to feel better. It might be having a drink or taking medication. Some turn to food or exercise, while others find temporary relief in gaming of some kind. The list of possibilities is endless. The problem is that these only offer a measure of relief while you are doing them. Once you are done, that emotional pain tends to resurface. These activities are called Short Term Energy Relieving Behaviors. They offer short-term relief, but no lasting sense of well-being.

The other activity that many turn to is to seek out a support group. (If that “short-term” relief has grown into a grief issue of its own, it might be a group to help you deal with this new problem!)

Independent support services can be very helpful, if they are properly directed. The problem with most of these groups is that you will not know how effective it is until you participate. Some of these groups fail in that try to assist you by exploring your problem from an intellectual perspective. As was mentioned before, no amount of logic will help if it does not direct you to taking action concerning the underlying emotional issues of loss. Other groups can unintentionally focus on supporting your emotional pain, rather than helping you find direction beyond its power. After my cousin’s husband died, following a brief illness, she joined a group where everyone seemed intent on convincing everyone else that their personal loss was the biggest. She left the meeting feeling worse than when she arrived, because the others in the group discounted her emotional pain. Neither of these types of groups offer any level of “grief relief” or support in the long run.

Where can you find real support and assistance?

A Certified Grief Recovery Specialist has undergone specific training to help you take emotional action to deal with the underlining issues that make your personal grief so overwhelming. They understand the power of loss, because they have also dealt with the grief in their own lives as part of their training. They understand the definition of grief as being about the emotional pain of loss, rather than being an intellectual issue. A trained Specialist will walk with you as you take the necessary actions to deal with your own emotional pain, rather than just telling you why you should not feel bad. He or she will help you to safely drain that bowl of emotional pain that you have filled over your lifetime.

Hugs, Cee

email: cee@cee-chris.com

Isolation

When I went through the certification training to teach the Grief Recovery Method, I had a personal moment of enlightenment.  I discovered that living with loss forced me into isolation.  And with each successive loss in my life, isolation become more and more my modus operandi, my way of living life.

I thought I was so clever to analyze the patterns of loss and come up with that revelation, until the instructor pointed out that he had written that on the white board for us during the very first day of class.  His comment had gone right over my head, until I stumbled across it by accident while doing my homework.

I didn’t come up with that on my own, but I did live it for decades without realizing it.  Now I hear people in my groups come to the same clarity of understanding.  Isolation is the most common trait of grieving people.  Why?  Because grieving people make us uncomfortable so we tell them to get over it, to move on, to get busy, to get a life, to get over it.  It doesn’t matter if the griever is dealing with death, divorce, or any of the other seventy-two losses we have on our list, people don’t want to hear it.  It makes them uncomfortable to see how close their lives are to that kind of pain.

So grievers end up shunned by society, pushed away by their co-workers who need them to be normal and pulling their weight, ignored by all the people who are busy getting on with things.  They learn to live a life of “less than” the way they were before their loss.

What I also learned in my Grief Recovery training is that there are ways of breaking out of isolation.  We can   see this trait in ourselves and change how we respond to loss and life.

Have you ever felt isolated?  Can you trace that feeling back to a loss in your life?

Hugs!

Chris

 

“F” word #3 – Familiarity

The following article was written by one of the co-founders of The Grief Recovery Method (GRM), Russell Friedman, on October 27, 1993.  You can find this article on GRM’s blog.   This is the last of three articles he wrote.  

In our posts dated April 14 and April 21, Russell explored the impact of forgiveness and fear might have on our hearts, our minds, and our bodies. In this last article, he focuses on our stuck patterns of familiarity to guide our recovery from significant emotional loss.

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What you practice is what you get good at! The Grief Recovery Handbook makes constant reference to the fact that you must grieve and complete your relationship to your pain. Lacking grief recovery skills, grievers often begin to identify themselves by the pain they have experienced. In a relatively short time, the griever becomes familiar with that painful identity. The griever may also develop a very strong loyalty to the now familiar pain. No one wants to give up things they own or feel very familiar with.

What you practice is what you get good at!

In a society that does not encourage or support effective grief recovery actions, it is typical for grievers to find themselves isolating from friends, family, and co-workers. In an attempt to escape the very real sense of being judged or criticized for having the normal feelings caused by loss, the griever may begin to avoid all people or events that might lead to having to defend their feelings or to act as if they were recovered. The griever becomes very familiar with and loyal to the isolation that seems to protect them.

What you practice is what you get good at!

We have been taught, incorrectly, that grievers want and need to be alone. We have been taught, incorrectly, that grievers do not want to talk about the losses they have experienced. The griever, caught between the treatment they receive from well intentioned friends and their own fears, begins to become very familiar with being alone.

What you practice is what you get good at!

So far we have identified pain, isolation, and loneliness as highly probable areas of familiarity for grieving people. It is tragic when a griever, already struggling with the normal and natural emotions caused by loss, is further limited by some habits that do not enhance or encourage completion and recovery from significant emotional loss.

Familiar is not necessarily good, it is only familiar. Comfortable is not necessarily good, it is often just familiar. The old cliché, “better the devil I know then the devil I don’t know,” almost explains our loyalty to the familiarity of pain, isolation, and loneliness. Change can be difficult and awkward at the best of times, and it is clearly difficult for grieving people for whom the whole universe may seem upside down.

It is essential that we begin to become familiar with actions, skills, and behaviors that will lead to successful recovery from significant emotional losses. It does not require any more energy to practice helpful things than unhelpful ones. The Grief Recovery Handbook is an excellent source for appropriate and effective grief recovery tools that can lead to completion of familiar behaviors or beliefs that are not helping us improve our lives. In a prior article we said, “Familiarity can create a powerful illusion that change is not necessary, that growth is not possible.”  You must fight off the illusion of comfort caused by familiarity. It is not your nature to live a life of pain, isolation, and loneliness. It is your nature to be loving and lovable, trusting and trustable. Practicing the principles of grief recovery will help you become familiar with your natural ability to be happy.

What you practice is what you get good at!

If you found this article helpful information, we suggest you consider reading the other two articles in this series:

Exploring the “F” Words – Forgiveness

Exploring the “F” Words – Fear

Hugs, Cee

email: cee@cee-chris.com

 

The Circle Game

I heard Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game” playing the other day and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.  (The song and lyrics links are below.)  It speaks so much to loss and grief.  It’s a poignant song about a young boy growing to manhood and how his hopes and dreams are changed by the losses he encounters going through life.

We’re captive on a carousel of time…

The song’s chorus talks about going round and round, and being captives on a carousel of time.  Isn’t that how grief works?  We never quite get over it.  We just experience one loss after another, some small, some big, but always adding to our load, stuck on a seemingly never ending carousel of time.

We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came….

And how often does that happen?  We spend too much time in the past, living with painful memories, having trouble moving forward.

Cee and I tell you that we are Certified Grief Recovery Specialists but we haven’t really explained much about the Grief Recovery Method (GRM).  It’s a practical and proven way to break that never ending circle, to get you off the carousel of time.

How can I explain GRM in a nutshell?  We start by giving you a better understanding of loss and the part it’s played in your life.  We talk about how the world deals with grief, and the ineffectiveness of what we refer to as grief myths.  Then we help you chart the losses in your life, so that you can see how they’ve influenced your beliefs, attitudes and behaviors all these years.  We work together to unravel your relationships, one at a time,  that you would like to complete with a person, living or dead.  Your grief generally stems from having unfulfilled hopes, dreams and expectations, and communication with someone that was never voiced.  There are things you still need to say to that person so that you can get some peace.  We help you say them, and bear witness to that.

What does all that accomplish?  It gets us out of the circle game.

(Joni Mitchell is a very talented Canadian singer, songwriter and artist.  She’s been a favorite of mine since high school.  —  Chris)

The Circle Game

by Joni Mitchell, L.A. Express

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like, when you’re older, must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town
And they tell him,
Take your time, it won’t be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Songwriters: Joni Mitchell, 1966

The Circle Game lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Crazy Crow Music / Siquomb Music Publishing

“F” word #2 – Fear

The following article was written by one of the co-founders of The Grief Recovery Method (GRM), Russell Friedman, on September 17, 1993.  You can find this article on GRM’s blog.   This is the second of three articles he wrote.  They will be posted here on the next few Saturdays.

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In our post dated April 14, Russell explored the impact that lack of forgiveness might have on our hearts, our minds, and our bodies. In this one he focuses on our emotional microscope on the possible consequences of using FEAR to guide our recovery from significant emotional loss.

Retained FEAR is cumulative and cumulatively negative. If the griever does not feel safe enough to communicate about their fears, then the fears themselves appear to be real and begin to define and limit the griever. In a play on that old phrase, “you are what you eat” and “you create what you fear.”

Fear is one of the most normal emotional responses to loss. The fear of the unknown, the fear of the unfamiliar, and the fear of adapting to a dramatic change in all of our familiar habits, behaviors, and feelings.

Fear is one of the most common emotional responses to loss. For example, when a spouse dies: How can I go on without them? Or, after a divorce: Where will I find another mate as wonderful, as beautiful?

Those fears are normal and natural responses to the end of long-term relationships. If acknowledged and allowed, those fears and the thoughts and feelings they generate, can be completed and diminish without serious aftermath. As we learn to acknowledge and complete our relationship to our fear, we can then move on to the more important task of grieving and completing the relationship that ended or changed.

But, if we have been socialized to believe fear is unnatural or bad, then we tend to bury our fears to avoid feeling judged by our fellows who seem to want us to feel better very quickly after a loss.

There is also danger that we may have been socialized to express fear indirectly as anger. While there is often some unexpressed anger attached to incomplete relationships, we usually discover that it accounts for a very small percentage of unresolved grief. It is also important not to confuse Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s “stages of dying,” which includes anger, with the totally unique responses that follow a loss.

An even larger danger looms when we develop relationships with and loyalties to our fears. We believe them as if they were real. We defend them with our lives, and to some extent, it is, indeed, our lives that we are gambling with. As we develop a fierce relationship with our fears, we lose sight of our original objective, which was to grieve and complete the relationship that has ended or changed. It is as if we have shifted all of our energy to the fear so we do not have to deal with the painful emotions caused by the loss.

Reminders of loved ones who have died, or relationships that have ended will often take us on a rocket ride to the PAST, where we are liable to dig up a little regret. After thinking about that regret for a while, we might rocket out to the FUTURE, where we will generate some worry or FEAR. The point is that those fears we generate, while they feel totally real, are often the result of some out-of-the-moment adventures. It may be helpful to remember this little phrase: “My feelings are real, but they do not necessarily represent current reality.”

While FEAR is often the emotional response to loss, in our society, ISOLATION is frequently the behavioral reaction to the fear. If isolation is the problem, then participation is a major part of the solution. Fight your way through the fear so that you will not isolate further. Recovery from significant emotional loss is not achieved alone.

This article on Fear was written by Russell Friedman on September 17, 1993.

august 16The article on forgiveness was written by Russell Friedman on September 17, 1993

Hugs, Cee

email: cee@cee-chris.com

 

The Dog

Here is my first story I ever wrote about grief.  I was six years old and in the first grade at the time.

Here is the translation for those of your who need it.  I was known as Patti at that age.  My father was a forest ranger and we lived in the woods.

The Dog

Lady was a little dog.  Lady only a year old.  She got lost in the woods and got a bullet.  She had to go to the veterinarian. She had to die.

I remember getting Lady as a young puppy.   Someone we knew had a littler of puppies and my sister and I got to pick her out.  One day in the fall she just never came home.  About a week later there was this faint sound at the door and it was Lady who had been shot by a hunter.

My father took her to the nearest vet, a long drive away.  The vet had to put her down.  She was too injured, and had too much infection to recover.

Somehow I instinctively knew how to write about the death of my dog.  I am lucky.  I was able to process this loss.  I was able to share it with my teacher and that allowed me to close my own grief process, much the same as the Grief Recovery Method teaches.

Hugs, Cee

email: cee@cee-chris.com

 

“F” word #1 – Forgiveness

The following article was written by one of the co-founders of The Grief Recovery Method (GRM), Russell Friedman, on August 16, 1993.  You can find this article on GRM’s blog.   This is the first of three articles he wrote.  They will be posted here on the next few Saturdays.

I am one who has a hard time with the word forgiveness.  I tend to think like the rest of the world and believe forgive means to condone a specific act or person.

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This article is the first of a trilogy where we will probe some of the myths and misinformation about three words that are very important when using The Grief Recovery Method. The words are FORGIVENESS, FEAR, and FAMILIARITY. FORGIVENESS is the subject of this article.

It is almost a pleasure to write about forgiveness rather than talking about it. There is no subject that provokes more argument, more rigidity, or more pain than the idea of forgiveness. In fact, if forgiveness were not such an important stepping stone to successful grief recovery, we would not bring it up at all.

Forgiveness is one of the least understood concepts in the world, and is especially problematic in English-speaking countries. Most people seem to convert the word forgive into the word condone. The definitions in our Webster’s Dictionary illustrate the problem.

FORGIVE ….to cease to feel resentment against [an offender].

CONDONE…. to pardon or overlook voluntarily; esp.: to treat as if trivial, harmless, or of no importance.

If we believe the two words to be synonymous, it would be virtually impossible to forgive. The implication that we might trivialize a horrible event is clearly unacceptable. However, if we used the top definition for forgive we would be on the right track.

For example, a griever might harbor a tremendous amount of resentment against the person who murdered his/her child. That resentment might create and consume a lot of energy, that in turn might mask the pain and sadness about the death of the child. As long as the griever stays focused on the murderer, they may find it impossible to grieve and complete their relationship with the child who died. The resentment, or lack of forgiveness of the murderer, gives more importance and energy to the murderer than to the child. Successful recovery from the pain caused by loss requires that we focus our energy on completing our relationship with our loved one who died. By not forgiving the murderer we almost guarantee staying incomplete with the child.

Grief is the normal and natural emotional response to loss. It is essential to correctly identify the loss – the death of the child – so a process of completion can begin. The example about the murderer and the child can be applied to the perpetrator and the victim of any kind of event.

If the death of a loved one was a suicide, you might need to forgive them for taking their own life so that you could then complete what was emotionally incomplete for you when they died.

Forgiveness is not our objective. Forgiveness is one of the tools we may need to employ in order to complete the relationship that ended or changed, due to death or divorce or other life circumstance. The subject of forgiveness is massive and carries with it many, many beliefs, passed on from generation to generation. We offer this article and the following questions and answers to help you determine if the definitions that you were taught are helpful or if they need some updating.

QUESTION: What if I have built up a resistance to the word forgive. Is there any other way of approaching the issue?

ANSWER: We recently helped someone who couldn’t even say forgive. She called it the “F” word, which inspired this column. We gave her the following phrase: I acknowledge the things that you did that hurt me, and I am not going to let them hurt me anymore.

QUESTION: Is it appropriate to forgive people in person?

ANSWER: An unsolicited forgiveness will almost always be perceived as an attack, therefore it is almost always inadvisable. It will usually provoke a new issue that will create even more incompleteness. The person being forgiven need never know that it has happened.

This article was written by Russell Friedman on August 16, 1993.

Hugs, Cee

email: cee@cee-chris.com

 

Incompleteness

Before I got sick with Lymes Disease, I had a lot of hopes, dreams and expectations for myself, especially when it came to physical activity.   Before I met Chris, I was a runner.  I played tennis and was actually fairly active.  Shortly after we got together, we would camp and hike at 10,000 ft elevation nearly every weekend in the spring to early fall.  When we were not camping, we would be planning the next hike or traveling.  We even would camp in the winter on the eastern plains of Colorado in the snow and wind.

In 2001, I woke up from my 40-day coma unable to move nearly any muscle in my entire body.  I couldn’t hold a pencil, talk or lift my hands.  Since the doctors at that time didn’t know why I was so deathly ill, they said I should regain the use of my body.  What they didn’t tell me was it would take many years to get my body back to a functioning level, to where I was prior to getting sick.  The hope of camping at altitude and hiking every weekend was not in my future, at least not for a few of years, as long as I stayed healthy and worked on getting my body back in shape.  So I lived the next 16 years expecting and hoping and dreaming I would be able to be physical once again.  But my body failed me time and time again as Lymes Disease kept flaring up.

When we suffer a loss of any kind, no one ever tells us that we have to change or adapt our hopes, dreams and exceptions for ourselves.  The Grief Recovery Method teaches us to look at these hopes, dreams and exceptions.  Once we can examine them, we can make the changes that need to be addressed.

It’s easy to understand how the death of a loved one changes dreams, hopes and expectations for that relationship.  The person is gone, and all your future changes in an instant.

It’s easy to understand how divorce does the same thing in your life.  You had planned to spend a lifetime with this person.  “To death do us part”.  And yet here you are, sitting with your lawyers, dividing up your stuff, battling over custody and visitation rights for the kids.  So long,  Hopes.  Bye bye, Dreams.  See ya, Expectations.

What you are feeling is grief.

How did your hopes, dreams and expectations change with your loss?

(Coming soon… how “better, different and more” figure into your grief equation.)

Hugs, Cee

email: cee@cee-chris.com

 

Why does the Grief Recovery Method work?

I thought I’d take a few minutes to answer some questions we’ve been getting.

What is the Grief Recovery Method and why does it work?

We have the following information on all of our pages on the right hand side of the screen, but I thought it would be good to post it here, too.

Because grief is such a misunderstood and little talked about topic, it may be easier to start by saying what the Grief Recovery Method isn’t:

It’s not counseling
It’s not therapy
It’s not an alternative treatment

While any of the above routes may be of some little or great benefit, they mainly offer a path to discovery of the thoughts and feelings you have around the loss in your life. The Grief Recovery Institute maintains that discovery is not the same as recovery.

The Grief Recovery Method is an action plan. It is a series of small steps that when taken, in order, by the griever, it leads to the completion of the unresolved business linked to the loss.

What do you do as a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist?

We teach the Grief Recovery Method and guide you through it.  We start by giving you a broader understanding of grief, what it is, how it influences your life and how you’ve been trained to handle grief by your upbringing and society, then talk about grief myths (like “time heals all wounds”).  Once you have a better understanding of all that, you’re ready to start working on unresolved grief in your life.  This is a real class.  You will have a textbook, reading and homework assignments.

Every week we explain the steps you’ll take in your homework assignments but you decide which grief event you’re going to work on.  I like that part of it.  Cee and I just act like tour guides, helping you see the patterns in your life, but you control the process and do the work.  It’s all about YOU.

Can I just get the book and do it myself?

Yes, you can, but I have this story to share with you.

When I started working with grieving children nine years ago, I wanted to know everything about grief that I could.  I had read extensively, and the Grief Recovery Method Handbook was the book I found the most valuable.  I now have three different editions of it in my bookcase.  But for all of that, I didn’t make a lot of progress with the Method.  I think the problem with doing it on your own is that we have all become such experts at stuffing grief, we can’t call our bluff when we’re avoiding things that are important.  We stuffed all those feelings for a reason.  We’ve kept them buried for years, and quite effectively so.  We aren’t going to be turning those impulses off in an instant just because we’re reading a really helpful book.

So working with another person is better, provided it’s someone you can be comfortable with and can trust.  A word of caution, however.  You can’t do this work with someone who is involved in your grief.  That’s why I’m not helping Cee work through her unresolved issues around her illness.  I was there.  I’m a big part of that story.  We each have grief because of it.  There is magic in saying things out loud to a compassionate, non-judgmental listener who isn’t normally a part of your story.

The best thing is to work with a trained Grief Recovery Specialist.  We’ve gone through some intense training to be able to do this work.  We have our own support system set up and plenty of resources for when people ask us difficult questions or when we come across unusual situations, like chronic illness and the many layers of losses that come with that kind of prolonged illness.  We also have ongoing educational opportunities and an impressive library of audio and video instruction.

Keep those questions coming!

Lots of virtual hugs,

Chris and Cee

 

Listen to Chris’ Story

Cee and I were tossing around ideas for this post and she suggested that I write the story of how I became involved with the Grief Recovery Method and why I’m so passionate about it.  I thought that it would be better if you HEARD it from me instead of just reading it on the page.  So here you go…

Hugs and blessings,

Chris

 

From Head to Heart

The longest journey you can ever take is from your head down to your heart.  I know, because I’m a master at getting stuck in my own head.  I can chew things over, analyze, script conversations, and generally make myself crazy trying to figure out how and why some of my life experiences happened.  Some things just don’t have a “how” or a “why” that we can ever understand.  Cee knows when I get quiet and withdrawn that I’ve worked myself into my little mental hamster wheel and I’m running in circles as fast as I can.  And I’m getting nowhere but tired.

What we do in the Grief Recovery Method is learn special techniques that you can use to get out of your head and move down to your heart.  The heart is where the real healing begins.  So many of us tend to hide behind our intellect as a way to avoid feeling pain.  We’re taught that from childhood.  Don’t cry.  Be brave.  Be strong.

Our hearts are broken.  Our hearts hurt and are sad.  We are taught not to listen to our hearts.  We are taught not to feel sad.  We are taught that time will heal all wounds.  But those are intellectual words that take us back out of our heart and into our head.

To heal the heart you have to take a leap of faith, feel what is in your heart, and then you can begin to heal it.  Then you can begin to enjoy life, to live life, to look forward to the new day, to walk out into the sunshine and be happy.  To smile.  Just because it feels good.

Feeling out of touch with your heart?  We’ll be putting out a list of feelings tomorrow that will help you get back in touch.

Hugs and blessings,

Chris

Chris@Cee-Chris.com

Loss: Cee’s Chronic Illness

WARNING: Emotional Honesty Being Practiced Here

I believe in the Grief Recovery Method so much that I not only teach it, but I practice it in my own life.  The biggest incomplete loss I have is that concerns the decades of my life surrounding Lyme Disease.  It is a huge topic for me, with many, many kinds of losses.  Up until now, I have not wanted to tackle it because I needed to know that I am on the verge of life instead of the verge of death.  I needed to know there would be another tomorrow.  Chris and I were ready for me to die.  And yet, I somehow always had the strength to stay alive.  In this past year, I have truly come to know I am now healthy.  I need to work on my loss issues to regain control of my life.

I’ve charted out my health history and already noticed patterns of illness in my life. This last week has been a rough one for me. I felt, lonely, powerless, ashamed, unhappy, exhausted, and hopeless.

On Monday, I’m going to start working Cari Dawson on my loss history for Lymes Disease.  So we will start working through those.  I don’t know where this journey will take me, but I will give you an update from time to time.  One of my favorite teachers always says, “Words don’t teach, only life experience teaches.”  I’ll be sharing my life experiences so that I can become a better teacher and also encourage you to start or continue your own journey through the losses in your life.

What I am intending to see at the end of this work is that my soul is lighter, my mind is clearer, and the smile has come back onto my face.

To be continued …

Hugs,

Cee

email:  cee@cee-chris.com

Loss: Grieving Our Pets

(We are thrilled to have our friend, mentor, and fellow Grief Recovery Specialist Cari Dawson doing a guest blog for us today.)

First Love, First Loss: Grieving Our Pets

Sunday night, winter in the Ohio Valley, light snow falling and I’m sitting on my bed half listening to comedy programs on the radio, half doing my homework. It’s the 1950’s. My two younger sisters had gone to the neighborhood store for some milk. My year-old puppy, Toni, followed them, but didn’t see the car coming after my sisters crossed the street. Toni was hit and died immediately.  Of course, I didn’t know this until my sisters came running back to the house, hysterically summoning me.

I grabbed my coat in a daze, as I had been sitting in my underwear, and ran shoeless down the snowy hill. There was my beloved puppy lying in the street. I gathered her up and took her home, placed her on the kitchen floor and held her and wept uncontrollably.  Toni was my first significant loss, much more traumatic than the death of my great-grandfather with whom I grew up, who died about a year before. At that time, I recall my mother quietly shedding a few tears at his funeral, quickly gaining her composure, but that was the only display of grief I saw from her or any other relatives. She had modeled for me how to grieve.  You just shed a few tears and then stuff it. Move on. Something I was having difficulty doing.

It is not surprising in retrospect that I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me when I found myself becoming more and more depressed and, embarrassingly,  on the verge of tears for many months after Toni’s death. Embarrassed that I couldn’t control my feelings that wanted to bubble out just as they did when I held Toni on the kitchen floor of my childhood home. I was just entering puberty, trying to blend in with my contemporaries, trying to lead a normal life. And, no one seemed to notice how profoundly this loss had impacted me. No one asked about my feelings. Alone and isolated, I worked hard to stuff this loss deep within my psyche where it lay accumulating and gathering other losses and unresolved grief like a huge snowball over the ensuing 40 years.  In 1995, the Grief Recovery Method helped me delve into those painful old losses, including the loss of Toni, when another major loss—my granddaughter—led me to grief work.

My first significant loss and my adolescence seem quite remote now. In my seventies, I had the audacity to welcome a new furry companion into my life, Pace`.  She reminds me daily of what I know deep in my soul: Life and Love will always include joy and sorrow. We can hold the tension of both. It is worth it!

Cari D. Dawson, MTS, MA, JD, has been a Grief Recovery Specialist for over twenty years. She helps grievers in the Portland, Oregon area. Visit her website is www.transitionscelebrant.com for more information and a link to her blog. 

Loss: Chronic Illness

Cee and I have uncovered a lot of new ideas as we’ve been doing our Grief Recovery work.  We’ve had some huge “Aha!” moments.  But we haven’t started doing a deep dive into the “elephant in the room”, her journey through Lyme disease and the impact it has had on our lives.  That is going to be an epic saga, I think.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve done a lot of processing of it through the years.  We couldn’t be the happy, sane, caring people we are if we hadn’t.  But chronic illness has huge ramifications, with many layers of losses.

So what is a chronic illness?  A chronic illness is a health condition or disease that is persistent in its effects or a disease that comes with time. The term chronic is often used if the condition lasts longer than 3 months.  Examples of chronic illnesses are:  heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, COPD (lungs), lupus, MS, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and our not-so-favorite, Lyme disease.  These conditions are just the tip of an ever growing iceberg, and often bring with them depression, anxiety, insomnia and a host of related problems.

Chronic illness affects the person with the illness, and also the family members who provide care or live with them.  In general, here are some of the most common losses:

  • mental and emotional wellbeing
  • physical comfort
  • a clear mind, because brain fog is normal with chronic illness
  • personal dignity and physical privacy, as people are always examining you
  • control over your body
  • financial stability
  • the feeling of having a future.  When it’s a struggle to make it through today, tomorrow doesn’t matter any more.
  • friends, as they give up on someone who is always cancelling on them at the last minute
  • independence
  • happiness, as pain and physical struggles replace it in life
  • fitting in, as you park in the handicap spot, or need a walker, or have visible scars on your body, or wear a head scarf to cover your bald head
  • the security of having loved ones in your life.  If you suffer from illness, there is the chance your spouse/child/parent will give up and walk out.  If you care for someone with an illness, there is the fear of death of your loved one, sometimes coupled with the guilt at hoping the end will come peacefully and quickly.

Cee will be applying the new techniques we have learned with the Grief Recovery Method to resolve some of these losses.  I will be working on my related ones as a caregiver at the same time.  We’ll be talking about how it feels, and what it means to get some resolution around these losses.

It’s going to be an interesting adventure.  If you or a loved one suffers from a chronic illness, please join this blog and participate in the discussions we’ll be having.  Feel free to share your own story in the comments below, but please be safe when you do so.  Remember that you are sharing with a lot of people, almost all of whom you don’t know.  Or email us privately.  We will never disclose any communication we have from you without your prior consent.  We treat your privacy as a sacred trust.

Much love and very gentle virtual hugs to all of you,

Chris and Cee

chris@cee-chris.com

cee@cee-chris.com

Loss: Death of a Less-Than-Loved One

My mother was a mentally unstable person who inflicted a lot of abuse on her children.  I could find some way to sugar coat that, but I won’t.  It’s the truth.

But, wait, isn’t there a rule that we don’t speak ill of the dead?

That idea has caused so much pain to those who are trying to come to terms with the death of a less-than-loved one.  We need to throw that idea out and allow people to own their feelings.  Just because someone has died is no reason to elevate them to sainthood.  They were here.  They are gone.  They did some good things in life.  They did some bad things in life.

I know when my mom died, and I told my manager at work about it, she immediately sent this gorgeous bouquet of flowers.  I felt like a hypocrite accepting them because I wasn’t grieving the passing of my mother.  I thought grieving was about being sad someone was gone, and missing them, and that wasn’t me.  But I was grieving.  I just didn’t recognize it at the time.

What I did feel at first was a feeling of safety.  I felt like I had my life back.  Even though I had not spoken to her for many, many years, I still carried the emotional weight of her on my shoulders.  I heard her voice in my head.

What amazed me, though, was that the tears came months before she actually died, while she was on the decline.  My brother had called to say that she had another stroke and they thought the end was coming.  I got off the phone and suddenly started crying, and the crying felt like it was never going to end.  I asked myself what was going on, and discovered that I was grieving the mother I never had, the mother she could never be to me.

Grief is the reaction to loss, and in this case it was the loss of my hopes, dreams and expectations that I could have a loving mother.  She never, ever said she loved me.  She wasn’t capable of that.  I was finally adult enough to recognize it, and the anger I felt toward her was gone, but inside I was still that vulnerable child longing for love.

Here is some more information about dealing with the death of a less-than-loved one from the Grief Recovery Institute.

As always, you are welcome to share your experiences, tell your stories, or just ask questions.

Thank you for being here today, and for caring.

Blessings and hugs,

Chris

Chris@Cee-Chris.com

Can You Say Yes?

How many of these can you answer yes to?  These are a sample of the 47 or so types of losses we experience in a lifetime, and those losses often have deep running currents that influence the rest of our lives.  Pretty scary when you stop to think about it.

 

 

 

  • Did you move more than twice before the age of 10?
  • Did you ever have a pet die?
  • Did you have early childhood religious training?
  • Have you experienced a major change in financial conditions? (Positive or negative)
  • Have you ever quit a job?  Have you ever been fired?
  • Have you ever been married or divorced?
  • Did you graduate from high school? …from college?
  • Have you ever experienced the death of a close family member?
  • Have you ever experienced the death of a distant family member?
  • Were you physically abused during childhood? …adulthood?
  • Were you sexually abused during childhood? …adulthood?
  • Have you ever been involved with a miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion?
  • Do you have a strained or painful relationship with a living parent, spouse, or friend?
  • Have you ever experienced the loss of the use or function of any part of your body?
  • Have ever experienced the death of a spouse?
  • Are there long stretches of your childhood that you cannot remember?
  • Have you experienced a series of illnesses or accidents?
  • Have you been in a long series of unsuccessful relationships?

Feeling Stuck?      Heartbroken?      Confused?

These are some of the normal reactions to losses we have had in our lives if we never find a way to resolve or complete them.  All those feeling are grief.  Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss.  We grieve for everything.  And unresolved loss is cumulative,  and negatively cumulative.  It drains us of energy and robs us of choices.

You may have been told to believe that:

  • You have to bury sad feelings
  • Time heals all wounds.
  • You should be strong for others.
  • You have to keep busy.
  • It was just God’s will.

Yet the clichés listed above, and the hundreds of other not listed, may have caused you to cover up your normal and natural responses to loss.  The simple truth is that you may not have much helpful information with which to grieve and complete the losses that have occurred in your life.  Consequently, you may have spent, and continue to spend, an inordinate amount of time and energy covering up the painful feelings associated with loss.

This doesn’t have to be!  Join us in workshops designed to help you heal yourself.

Workshops Offered

In our workshops, we create a safe and supportive group setting.  Individual one-on-one classes are also available.

  • Moving Beyond Loss – How to move beyond all types of loss.
  • Moving Beyond Divorce – How to dump your relationship baggage and make room for the love of your life.
  • When Children Grieve – For adults wanting to help children deal with divorce, moving or other losses.
  • The Loss of a Pet – Helping you get over the loss of your cherished pet.

Chris Donner                                           Cee Neuner

503-278-6324                                         503-964-1921

Email:  Chris@Cee-Chris.com             Email:  Cee@Cee-Chris.com

Website and Blog:  http://www.Cee-Chris.com

Serving the Central Willamette Valley and the Greater Portland Area in Oregon