by Russell Friedman & John W. James of The Grief Recovery Institute
The question of when to begin a process of completing relationships that have ended or changed, due to death or divorce, is confused by conflicting opinions from a wide variety of sources. Medical, psychological, societal and family experts all approach the issue from differing perspectives.
It is not at all uncommon for us to hear of people being told, by their Professional, "it's too soon to begin your grief work, you're not ready yet." We grit our teeth every time we hear that comment.
Imagine that you have fallen down and gashed your leg. Imagine that blood is gushing from the wound. Imagine someone walking by and saying: "it's too soon, you are not ready for medical attention yet."
Now, imagine that circumstances and events have broken your heart. Imagine that you are experiencing the massive and conflicting feelings caused by significant emotional loss. Imagine a friend, or worse, a professional, saying to you: "it's too soon, you are not ready for emotional attention yet."
This is an area that is so filled with misinformation that it is often difficult to fight through to the truth. We have been falsely educated to believe that grievers want and need to be alone. We have been incorrectly socialised to avoid the topic of the loss, in an attempt to protect the griever.
Here is the simple truth: most grievers want and need to talk about "What Happened" and their relationship with that person or event. They want and need to talk about it almost immediately following the loss. It pre-occupies them, just as the person with the gashed leg is pre-occupied with their accident and their treatment and their recovery. Those who do not want to talk about it will let you know.
When a person learns of the death of a loved one, an almost automatic review process begins. This process may be conscious or unconscious; usually both. In reviewing the relationship, the griever remembers many events that occurred over the length of the relationship. Some of the events are happy and produce fond memories; some are unhappy and produce sad memories. During this automatic review the griever will usually discover some things that they wish they'd had an opportunity to say, things they wish had ended "different, better, or more." It is those unsaid things which need to be discovered and completed.
The review is most intense and most accurate in the time immediately following the death. It is the time when we are most focused on the person who died and our relationship with them. We will rarely have another opportunity to remember with such detail and intensity. This is the circumstance where "time" not only doesn't heal, but also diminishes our memory as we move further away from the death itself.
We will refrain from offering any concrete definition as to the "time" involved. Every griever is unique. Every griever responds at their own pace. It is essential never to compare one griever to another. Each and every griever has their own individual beliefs about dealing with their feelings of loss. Each griever is remembering their own individual relationship with the person who died.
We have been talking about the review that follows the death of a loved one. Everything above also applies to the death of a "less than loved one." Everything above also applies to divorce and to any and all significant emotional losses.
As soon as a griever becomes aware of the review process going on inside their head and their heart, it is time to begin the process of Grief Recovery. The Grief Recovery Handbook is an excellent guide and addition to the natural process that the griever is already doing. The Handbook will keep you on track and help you to complete the pain caused by the loss.
If your loss occurred some time ago, even many years ago, do not despair. The process in The Grief Recovery Handbook can help you recapture the review that took place and may have been repeating over and over.
© 2002 Russell P. Friedman, John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this and other articles please contact The Grief Recovery Institute at Editor@grief.net or by phone USA (818) 907-9600 Canada (519) 586-8825