In "Killer Clichés" about loss we talked about grieving and completing our relationships with loved ones who have died. While the death of a loved one is painful, we are often complete with loved ones. That is to say that we have communicated our feelings about them, to them. We believe that they knew how we felt and that we were understood. When a loved one dies we may be overwhelmed with conflicting feelings, we may feel disoriented and confused, and we may feel robbed of one last chance to say "I love you" and "goodbye." Even though we are often essentially complete when a loved one dies, after the death we usually remember some things that we wish we'd had a chance to say. We need to discover those unsaid things and say them. The appropriate methods for communicating the unsaid things are detailed in The Grief Recovery Handbook.
Unresolved Grief: What happens when a "less than loved one" dies?
Perhaps a parent or a sibling, someone with whom we should have had a more loving relationship. We are almost always incomplete when a "less than loved one" dies. Almost always we are left with the awareness that our hopes and dreams of someday having the difficult relationship be pleasant and happy have ended. Even if our hope is simply not to be tormented anymore, the death often exaggerates the torment rather than diminishing it. That is when many of us report being "ruled from the grave."
You don't have to be "stuck"
Many people labor under the misapprehension that once someone has died there is no way they can complete any unfinished emotional business. Happily, this is not true, or they would have to stay incomplete forever. The Grief Recovery Method helps grievers identify and complete the undelivered emotional communications that keep them tied to past painful experiences with people who have died or with relationships that have ended or changed. This process obviously does not require that the person we are incomplete with be a living or willing participant. Often our attempts to communicate with our "less than loved ones" failed, not because of our unwillingness, but because the other person was unable to listen to or talk about the things that we wanted and needed to talk about. Quite often our attempts to communicate started new and larger battles which may have been added to our list of unfinished or incomplete emotional events with them. Even after they have died, as we replay the events, we keep winding up hurt and helpless. We do not know how to end the vicious cycle. We may attempt to not think about them, but then a reminder will appear, outside of our control. We may see someone in the mall who looks like them, or a car similar to the one they drove. These reminders will often send us back into the pain caused by the incomplete emotional relationship. Most of you will realize that it is not possible to eliminate someone from your memory. You most assuredly cannot control the stimuli that cause you to remember a less than loved one. Even attempts at total isolation rarely work, as even dreams can rekindle painful memories.
Building an accurate memory picture
When a "less than loved one" dies we are often left with an extremely lopsided memory picture, almost exclusively negative. It seems as if we are the victim of these painful, negative memory pictures. We are also confused by our relationship to the painful memories that keep recurring. We must grieve and complete our relationship to the person as well as to our relationship with the pain we generate when we think about or are reminded of the person. And, we must grieve and complete our unmet hopes and dreams and expectations. You must become willing to re-experience some of the painful events, and finally communicate what you would have said had you been allowed to, or if you had known how. It may seem frightening to root around where there has been so much pain. Perhaps it would be more helpful to be frightened of the alternative, a life of restriction and limitation caused by staying incomplete. The alternative of keeping the pain forever, of trying not to remember, of trying to avoid any circumstances or events that remind you of that person. Many people today talk of giving away your power. There is no clearer or more painful example of that then to have your life's actions and reactions ruled by the painful memories of someone who is no longer here.
QUESTION: The above blog relates to a "less than loved one" who has died. What about "less than loved ones" who are still living?
ANSWER: Exactly the same principles apply when the "less than loved one" is still living. In fact, it is probably even more essential that you complete your part of that relationship as soon as you can. If not, you may live in constant fear of any kind of interaction with or reminder of that living person. Completion of your part of a relationship with a living person does not imply that the other person will or should change. Most likely they will continue to be just who and how they are. The difference is that you will be able to live a life of meaning and value, not limited by painful reminders of a relationship that did not live up to hopes, promises, dreams or expectations.
If you found this article helpful, we also suggest these articles from our Grief Blog:
7 signs you're experiencing unresolved grief
Unresoved Grief: How negative relationships can control your happiness
Click here to find a local Grief Recovery Method Support Group now!
January 1, 2012 my estranged husband of 22 year hung himself. We were together for 25 years. He was bi-polar. The last five years with him was hell. He left me with two young children (thankfully adopted and not burdened with his illness) and a mess to clean-up. It has taken me a few months to figure out it is ok to grieve that man I loved for 20 years and it is ok not to grieve the man he became in the last 5 years. His family blamed me for his suicide so the kids and I have had to grieve the loss of his family as well. We are going to go on to have a good life despite this.
With all respect for you and your comments, we believe that you have to grieve and complete the entire relationship, the good, the bad, and sometimes, the ugly. Please note the phrase, “grieve and complete.” A lot of people think it’s just about grieving and then somehow they’ll be okay. But it’s the completion that allows the changes that enable us to move forward and have that good life, as you say, despite what has happened.
I have an entire family of less than loved ones. Every single person in my biological family, which includes 8 kids and 2 parents were and are less than loved ones. Some are already dead, and some are alive, but all of them except me do academy award grief performances every April 21, which is the day my biological mom died. April 21, 1996. And even that, in my mind, was a "that figures" moment.
We were taken away from her on April 21, 1975, b/c everyone in the family was abusive in every form. We were beaten, yelled at, starved for food and sexually abused to name a few.
But SHE thought nothing happened to us, and she died thinking that way.
And everyone else goes along with it except me, b/c I saw too much of it when I was a paramedic. I saw other people doing what my parents had done and blaming the kids for it, which is exactly what THEY did to US.
She went to her grave thinking everyone else was the problem. Not her. Not him. But everyone else.
I don't know how I'm going to complete all the times they did things like that to me. I mean the list of memories that I have is pages and pages long. If not the variety of abuses, the number of times I was abused in certain ways is at least 50 incidents long.
I have memories of having my head banged against walls repeatedly during one incident and the incidents are in the multiples of times that it was done. I have multiple memories of not being able to eat (and medical forms to prove it was true), of being kicked out of the house in below freezing weather w/out a coat and sometimes going to abandoned buildings to find shelter after being kicked out by our dad.
How am I supposed to grieve every one of those memories when all the remembrances are in multiples of 10?
A better question is how am I supposed to like what they did, but there's no answer to that.
I don't feel like or even believe I'm going to like what they did even if I forgive them.
Okay, I'm going to admit here that your absolute transparency has made me a bit uncomfortable. I was raised in a family where emotions (even at funerals) were considered a sign of weakness or self-indulgence. I moved on to a church family where any sign of weakness at all was deemed a lack of faith'. So, now as we peel through the layers and allow God to expose lies that have covered up who he created me to be, I am finding that tears and yes grief, can arise at the most inopportune moments. Things that I thought were so far in the recesses of my past that they were buried forever are being unearthed and brought to light. But what God is doing to heal is so healthy and so amazing! THANK YOU! for allowing grief and healing yourself so that others might follow. Transparent people lead others to a place where the truth will make them free. Our God is so much better than we've ever imagined.
Truth. It makes me think of the things I have learend in my own grieving seasons. Grief is so difficult because in order to overcome one must accept the pain of loss, feel deeply things of pain and suffer despair. Eventually as we work through pain God's comfort, peace and love do heal, but only as we begin to accept the reality of the new normal we find ourselves living. Good grief leads to deeper relationships with both God and others. Avoiding grief creates deeper pain for both the bereaved and those who care for them. It is worth the sorrow to realize God's joy on the other side of grief. Thank you for sharing.
I would like to see a response to the above. What does one do when the grievances are so many that are supposed loved one has done to another. Now they are gone. I have the Grief Recovery Handbook. It seems like the letter to someone who has abused me to such a degree would be long but it would not be therapeutic to write a long letter. Perhaps many short ones and go from incident to incident to try to complete?
One of the things we go into more detail about in our Workshops and Trainings is to limit what might be called the “litany” or recitation of each and very time we were hurt or abused. It is the recitation of that kind of litany that can keep us stuck in the grief and cause us to be unwilling to move beyond it, because it has become our identity. Therefore, when doing the Grief Recovery Method Relationship Graph and Completion letter, we suggest limiting the amount of similar or parallel incidents get put into them.
We know the book doesn’t really stress that issue, with only a few mentions. One is on page 175, in the second paragraph, which starts with, “Many people tell the painful story of their loss over and over. They don’t realize that reciting a general litany of of unhappiness is one of the main reasons they stay stuck.”
Also on page 198, in the second paragraph, we say. “We’ve known people who put too many entries on a Loss History or Relationship Graph and don’t get the benefits of the graphs. They became repetitive and listed each and every example of similar things.”
Generally when there has been repeated mistreatment within your relationship with someone, we suggest you include the first major one you recall and maybe two or three others, but not the hundreds or even thousands that may have actually occurred. The reason for this is that you only need a few examples for truth and accuracy to which you will apply the recovery components, which in those negative things is mainly “forgiveness,” along with some accompanying “significant emotional statements” that identify how you were affected by the mistreatment.
Emotional completion is the by-product of the Graph and Letter when done that way. When people list every single event, they wind up re-owning the pain.
Re: the length of the Completion Letter. Here ‘s what we say on page 147, the second paragraph: “Generally, two or three standard written pages is sufficient. It is okay to write a little more or a little less. If you write more than five pages, you probably need to consider whether you’ve turned the letter into a newsletter, or if you are repeating the same things. “
As to Vicki’s comment, “I don’t feel like or even believe I’m going to like what they did even if I forgive them.” There’s nothing in the book that implies that you have to wind up liking someone who harmed you. That is not the goal, nor would it even make sense.
The goal is to become emotionally complete with what happened so that you don’t need to be a current victim of what happened in the past. It’s bad enough that you were mistreated and harmed, but you are the only one who can remove the burden by what you do now so you don’t just keep telling the story over and over and reigniting the pain.
From our hearts to yours,
Russell and John and the Grief Recovery Method Team
"The appropriate methods for communicating the unsaid ...",
How about rephrasing to state: "Some examples of appropriate ..."
It smacked to me as sounding very presumptuous for you to imply that YOU know what is APPROPRIATE ... leaving one to believe maybe they have been "doing it wrong".
Just sayin' ...
I lost my brother in June this year when he took his own life. We hadn't spoken for 3yrs, due to another family members jealously of our previously very close relationship. It has then been suggested that I should become overwhelmed with guilt, and that because we hadn't spoke for 3yrs my grief should be less than others in the family. I've also received a letter from my parents saying due to my brothers suicide, they didn't have the emotional capacity to deal with me as I too am mentally ill. My mothers grief counsellor told her she's to make herself no.1 in order to heal, yet my mother says, unless I get better, or put other people (meaning her) before myself then there will be no relationship. I ha suffer from severe continual depression & have done for 6 yrs and so because of that they've just disowned me. My 2 remaining brothers won't speak to me either, for no reason. I am seriously dreading Xmas, its the 1st without my bro, the 1st my parents won't be involved in, plus dealing with depression. I don't know how the hell I'm going to cope & I wish I could die too.
I lost my dad which was devastating, but the loss that has had the most negative ramification for me is the divorce and betrayal I experienced. I trust no one now and it's in my way at every turn. I can't seem to get beyond it. I wanted to order the book having to do with relationships, but I need it to be on a CD as I am not a good reader. I see the Grief Recovery Handbook mentions divorce and that kind of emotional loss, but it seems to be more about death. I want to make sure I'm getting what really I need. Thoughts? Thank you.
Thanks for your comment. Here is a link to our Audio version of The Grief Recovery Handbook on CD. http://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/books/the-grief-recovery-handbook-una...
This can definitely help you with both of the heartbreaking losses that you mentioned.
Also, please try and meet up with a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist in your area. Here is a link to the directory to find one in your area. http://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/outreach-program/
My ex husband of 12 years and father of my 3 sons killed himself 3 months ago shot himself in the head he was a part of my life for 20 years. Ppl don't understand y I'm hurting and can't get over it because we would fight a lot about child support but he was my kids dad and we married young we were apart of each others life's no matter what we didn't hate each other and I hope he didn't think I hated him I mean he knew it but I can't move on cause I feel awful for things we had done in the past. He was a good dad and no matter I knew he had my back. His family don't talk to me as much so I feel they blame me some too for his depression. It's hurts so much I cry every day wishing I could of seen it coming so I know how u feel
Summer, we are so sorry for your loss. What you're feeling is very normal. The Grief Recovery Method allows you to communicate all that was left unsaid, to forgive, and to apologize, and complete your loss, so that you can begin to heal and feel better. If you are interested in finding support and help to do this, please go here: https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/grief-support-groups. You can search for one of our Grief Recovery Specialists in your area who can help you.
Another resource for adults who were abused or neglected as children is www.adultchildren.org.
Grief is all the same, no matter the cause. You will be helped by this method. Just do the work and watch it unfold.
I guess part of the situation leaves us both feeling frustrated, confused, and angry. My husband says he hasn't even had a chance to cry yet over his dad's death because he's so busy trying to contact people out there and get answers -- and his own mother won't return his calls or talk to him, yet she "sees" his Facebook PMs. How do you handle grief when you won't be able to understand what happened? And how do you handle the passing of someone who clearly is a less-than-loved one? (We honestly were shocked that his dad died first... had expected it to be his mom and were expecting her to go at any time over the past two years... but she keeps on living and now his father is gone... :( ).
stephen moeller, grief recovery specialist
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