A loss is considered when we look back at an experience or a person and it brings up negative emotions; we avoid talking about it, or we have a lopsided view of the relationship (all good or all bad). There are different losses that are not just physical death. For example, there are losses as a child because one didn’t have a emotionally safe environment or an engaged parent; another example, is the loss with a miscarriage. Other examples would be the end of a marriage/ friendship, a job loss, loss of a dream, and a financial loss.
More so, there is right way to grieve and a wrong way to grieve, and unfortunately culture hurts the way we grieve. For example, culture tells us not to feel bad, to just replace our loss (get a new dog), to grieve alone, just give it time and although these statements may not be explicitly said, they are definitely implicit.
Despite what we know about the universal model about loss, which is experienced through stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. According to the founders of The Grief Recovery Institute ( John James and Russell Friedman) they were explicit about how the loss model of stages actually was not quite correct. In fact, believing in these stages as a griever hurts the grief process- the process of moving on from the pain. The founders/researchers have insinuated that when we are grieving and we label our natural emotions in such stages, that we will never work through it because we are always in a stage of grief. They believe that we can fully work through grief, but of course it is a process like anything in life, we can still enjoy life and the pain doesn’t always have to be there.
As a therapist, one thing that I am really sure about with grief work is this: if we don’t work through our emotional pain including grief, this will affect us and others around us quite negatively. For example, we won’t be able to give ourselves fully to another person because maybe we fear that they will leave us and we can’t deal with another loss. And if we don’t give ourselves fully to those who are significant in our lives, (and this includes God), then we won’t have the meaningful and profound emotional relationships that we deserve. In fact it is for learning to build and cultivate these precious relationships that is really one of the main reasons that Heavenly Father has provided a body here on earth for us!
Therefore, it is clear that it is important to grieve correctly. There are many things that can and do hurt our grieving process. The first great error is we when we use quick fixes to deal with the pain such as drugs, food, work, keeping busy and etc. The second, is when we believe that we can’t get over the pain and can never feel joy again. Such a belief is false, because if we believe in the atonement then we can be emotionally set free. Now, this doesn’t mean that our life won’t be different after such a loss. The reality is that it will.
If you are at all like me, you will want to make people feel good and support them. People in general don’t know how to respond to someone who has lost someone close to them, perhaps because their feelings scare us. The reality is this: there is nothing that we can say to truly ease their pain because the pain is real, but there is a lot that we can say or do to hurt them. Some examples of hurtful things would be as follows: 1. We must definitely avoid telling them we know how they feel (every relationship is unique) 2. We need to avoid saying the comments noted above, such as not to feel bad, just give it some time. 3. We try to change the subject. 4. We intellectualize their pain by saying something like he’s in a better place. 5. We don’t want to talk about death (imagine how hurtful and confusing it is to talk like that to children who already can’t process the pain). 5. We inconsiderately tell them they should keep their faith.
- Here are some examples of harmful quotes:
- Get a hold of yourself.
- You can’t fall apart.
- Keep a stiff upper life.
- Pull yourself up by your boot straps.
- We know how you feel.
- Be thankful you have other children.
- Life must go on.
- He is in better place.
- All things must pass.
- She led a full life.
- God will never give you something you can’t handle.
- Be strong for the others.
- Keep busy.
One thing that I know from personal experience is that Grief is painful. Grief consists an entire spectrum of different emotions. None of those emotions are “wrong”. Grief is a process and this process consists of that individual’s unique feelings as they work through their personal pain experience.
Grief is a gift from Heavenly Father so we can walk through it and come out of it as whole as we possibly can be on earth. Grief is one way to use the atonement and build or sustain an intimate relationship with the Lord. As you know there is much pain in this world, and because we do have the atonement we can heal and obtain emotional freedom. There are many types of losses.
One of the hardest things for grievers to understand is that they are responsible for their own emotions, which means that if they want to heal then they have to do their own work. No one can feel their feelings for them. They must feel their feelings…all of them.
What is the best process for someone who is doing the grieving?
- Be aware of the incomplete emotional relationship at the beginning of grief.
- Accept responsibility of one’s own pain.
- Identify recovery communications that you have not, but need to deliver.
- Take actions to communicate them.
- Move beyond loss and say good-bye as you deliver those final communications to the pain.
Last what is the correct way to be there for someone:
- Ask what happened and LISTEN without interrupting, sympathizing, or giving advice, etc. as they are in the process of answering.
- After you are sure they are done, you can say “I can’t imagine how heartbreaking that must have been for you.”
- Be empathetic and listen with your heart and feelings, not with your intellect.
- Stay in their moment, without thinking your own thoughts or ideas about what to say. Focus on their feelings, not yours.
Chance Scott, Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor
Victoria Scott, Marriage and Family Therapist