“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

 

“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