There are many misconceptions about the pain associated with significant emotional loss. Some relate to the relationship of others, for example: "It's not fair to burden them with my pain," or "You have to be strong for others" [mom, dad, kids, etc.]. Some relate to how we think we should be reacting to the loss, for example: "I should be over it by now," or "I have to keep busy."
One of the most hidden and dangerous fears is that if I ever let myself feel the pain that I sense, I will start crying and never be able to stop. It is precisely this kind of incorrect assumption that can keep us locked into a position of unresolved grief, forever. And yet, based on what we have been taught in our society, it is a most logical extension of everything we have ever learned.
We were taught from our earliest ages that sad, painful, or negative feelings were to be avoided at all cost. And if we were unable to avoid them, at least, not to show them in public. Everyone we've ever talked to can relate to these comments: "If you're going to cry, go to your room, and cry alone"; "Knock off that crying or I'll give you a reason to cry"; "Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone."
Those are just a small sampling of the kinds of remarks that have dictated your reaction to loss events in your life. In one of our articles we said that many of our survival habits were developed when we were quite young, and that we may be managing adult lives with the limited skills and perceptions of a child.
If you picture a tiny infant, unhappy about something, you will realize that the infant communicates displeasure at the top of its little lungs. If you think about it, you will recall that infants also express pleasure at the top of their lungs. They make no distinction between happy and sad, in terms of volume or intensity. As children move out of infancy they are socialized to reduce both the volume and intensity of the expression of their feeling responses to life. This might be somewhat acceptable if both happy and sad were merely muted a little and muted equally. Unfortunately, only the sad side gets severely crimped. The happy, joyful, and positive feelings are allowed to stay, and can even be shared with others. The other half of our normal feeling existence is relegated to isolation, separation, and aloneness.
With all of those beliefs and habits as a backdrop, it is almost entirely logical that we might be terrified to show or express any of the normal and natural painful reactions to losses of any kind. It even makes sense that we might believe that if we started crying we wouldn't be able to stop. So, if you have been a little hard on yourself for what you could not do, give yourself a break. You may have been executing your programming perfectly.
It may sound a little harsh and inhuman to say that you were programmed, but if you follow the analogy, you might find it helpful in allowing you to change. At the very least, if you can see how well you executed the incorrect things you learned, you will see that you can also execute correct things with great precision.
We have yet to see anyone not be able to stop crying. However, we have seen too many people avoid using The Grief Recovery Method because of an inordinate fear of any expression of their sad, painful, or negative feelings.
If you found this article helpful, you may also want to read Emotional Muscle Memory
I am trying to work up the courage to attend the workshop but am afraid of the feelings that might come up--and the aftermath that would make it all much worse than it already is.
I'm not going to avoid it but, so far, crying is allowed around my partner and nobody else. I say 'so far,' b/c I'm hoping it will change.
Eric used to say 'As long as there's life, there's hope.'
Eric, my daughter's dad and my former husband. He thought that no emotions or actions are so fixed within you that you can't change them.
But I've seen lots of people in my life, and the only time I've seen life bring hope is when the person desired the hope to change.
I've never seen it work w/ severely conservative people, who insist on keeping everything the same.
It's easy for me to believe I was taught wrong about almost everything, b/c I was so severely abused physically and emotionally that the law entered the picture, took me out of the home and gave me a "new mom."
Then I had to think or act as if this woman was my mom even though I remembered the other mom.
It's difficult to explain how it makes you feel to "lose" your mom while she's still alive and then be adopted by a new mom. It's just confusing to a 7-year old, and I feel like it's a loss even though the new mom was a gain.
So sorry to miss the webnar at Tributes last night. I am interested in your program. Any other webinars I may attend. Thank you Maryann
Thanks for your note.
Here's a link so you can catch the webinar you missed: http://www.tributes.com/grief_recovery_center/webinar_replay
We'll be announcing the next webinar on our home page soon. Check in here once in a while and you'll get plenty of advance notice.
If you want to chat about the Certification training, give me a call at 800-334-7606 Ext 12.
Steven Bear - Johnson
I have been hidding my grief for such a long time I don't know where to begin. I have lost alot of loved ones since 2006. First It was my father he died from cancer and stroke them my uncle as well from cancer then my aunt and last but not least my dear mother all in a matter of seventeen month one after another they followed each other witch gave me no time to really grieve and not to mention inbetween all of this just about lost my wife to a breakin that resulted in her getting stab six times, in alot of ways I had no time to grieve I need to be the strong one and just about two years know we baried the last of my family my uncle know there is just nine of us kids left no uncles, aunts or parents left. Don't get me wrong I still have my family and my wonderful wife still with me. Its just that during those special time not only the holidays but time when our kids do those special thing that you want to share with your parents. My baby girl is four know and she dosen't really remember her grandparents she see's the pictures on the walls but no real memory of them and this breaks my heart when I tell her about her grandparents. I can't have kids of my own so she is my angel. My wife has three kids from previous marriage in witch I have grow to love like my own. going back to grief it is something I'm having a hard time with and no time for really and it has been said manytimes men don't cry and this is simething that is programed into me. funny thing is I've worked in the helping field for such a long time helping people go through what they need to go through. I feel I need to take this workshop to help sharpen the skills I have. Thank you
Thanks for your note.
When you mention the fact that you’ve experienced so many losses within the past 17 months, we’re reminded when there are multiple losses, grievers often feel like they’re drowning in the ocean, and just when they start to get their head above water after one loss, another huge wave crashes down and pushes them under again.
As to your concern about crying: Many people, not just us men, were programmed not to feel sad or bad and not to cry. Rather than fight that default setting for no, Steven, let’s just agree that you’ve been feeling really sad in response to the deaths and other losses that have affected your life in the last few years. You don’t need to cry to show or prove that you have feelings.
Just saying what you said in your note, is more than enough for us to believe that your heart hurts. With that in mind, please do a few things for yourself. First, go to the library or bookstore and get a copy of The Grief Recovery Handbook. Read the first 58 pages [Part One], After that, make a decision that you will look for someone to partner with to take the actions outlined in the book; or, go the Specialist Finder on this website at: http://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/outreach-program/ Type in your zip code and see if there’s one of our Certified Grief Recovery Specialists in your community. If there is, you can enroll in their Outreach Program group or see them one-on-one to help you do the Grief Recovery work that will help you.
From our hearts to yours,
Russell and John and the Grief Recovery Method Team
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