Many people call The Grief Recovery Institute looking for help. Their lives have been shattered by deaths, divorces, or any number of other losses that have made it difficult for them to negotiate a smooth path in life. As caregivers, we do our utmost to hear them and guide them to the kind of actions we know will improve their emotional well being. We also receive a lot of calls from those who want to help grieving people. Some of those folks are mental health professionals who want to add our unique Grief Recovery skills to their ability to help their clients. Many calls are from clergy and church-related people who have also recognized the need for additional tools to help their parishioners. The third largest group of calls come from people whose lives have been affected by loss, and they in turn want to help others. Often it has taken them years, a great deal of trial, and too many errors to make their way back into the mainstream of their lives. As a result, they have a strong desire to help others move from grief to recovery more quickly and without the need to reinvent the emotional wheel.
Talking to a caregiver
One day several years ago I received a call from a woman in Alexandria, Virginia who fit into all of the above categories. She was a mental health professional working as a social worker in a senior citizen facility. She was a lay deacon in her church and she was a griever, with a backstory of losses like many who call here. Working with the elderly had given her an awareness of the degree to which grief compounds their lives. She realized something that we explain with the phrase, “Unresolved grief is cumulative and cumulatively negative.” The people in her care were experiencing more and more losses on a regular basis. She wanted to help them deal with that accumulation so they could enjoy the time they had left. In dealing with her own losses, she had experimented with a variety of actions from therapy to spiritual principles to just plain common sense. She had managed to get back into the flow of life. But, with all the things she’d done over a long period of time, she couldn’t quite decipher exactly what she’d done that caused the changes. It was all jumbled together. Therefore, she couldn’t really show anyone else how to arrive at a better place. She had called here to find out if we had a system or method that could help her better serve the people in her facility. I told her about our Certification Training and the Grief Recovery Method Support Groups we’ve developed over the past 25 years. She was thrilled to hear about it and made plans to attend the next one in her area. We had a very long chat. In many ways the conversation wasn’t so much me helping her, as it was preaching to the choir. We shared some of our common experiences and the joy of helping others. Because of the need to provide a great deal of information and education when people call to learn about our training programs, I don’t often get to have such relaxed and sharing chats. It was truly delightful, and obviously memorable. As I write this, at least ten years after the actual call, I still remember it vividly. At the end of the call I said to her, “This has been a heart-warming interaction for me. Sharing information and experiences with you has been delightful. If I were there in the room with you, I’d stretch out my arms for a big old hug. In fact, when we hang up I’m going to go get a hug from someone in my office. I hope you’ll do the same thing and designate that that hug is from me.” Based on the nature of the conversation, I knew that it was safe to say what I said. What I didn’t know was the wonderful gift I was going to get in return. She said, “Oh, that’s easy. We have a special arrangement here at the facility. Anyone, anytime, staff or client, can just stand in the hallway and call out, VITAMIN H, and they are immediately swarmed by anyone in the area.” We’d suggest you go to your emotional health food store and stock up on Vitamin H. Your body can never get enough.