A Grief Support Blog

This blog will allow you the opportunity to acquire both support and guidance after experiencing a significant loss.

The Loss of One of Our Heroes

On Saturday, November 26th, The Grief Recovery Institute lost an important member of our family. Russell Friedman, our executive director, died peacefully in his own home, surrounded by his loving wife, Alice, and family. Russell was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, and it rapidly metastasized throughout his body. When he first announced the diagnosis, he wrote: “It seems that my ‘use by date’ will be much sooner than I had hoped for or anticipated.” He fought it with his typically positive attitude and delightful sense of humor, but this was one battle that he could not win.

Russell, like many others, first contacted the Institute to deal with personal loss in his own life. He was dealing with a divorce and the failure of a business. This was in 1987. After completing his training, he became, in his own words, “the volunteer that would not leave,” and ultimately moved into the position of the executive director. In his time with The Institute, he trained thousands of Certified Grief Recovery Specialists and conducted regular personal workshops.

That, in and of itself, would be a life fulfilling accomplishment for most people, but he did so much more in helping grievers. He brought his wonderful gift of writing to many projects. He co-authored the first major revision of ”The Grief Recovery Handbook,” as well as “When Children Grieve,” “Moving On” and “The Grief Recovery Handbook for Pet Loss.” He and John wrote answers to many of the most commonly asked questions about grief and loss for Tributes.com and those articles were collected together in the book, “Moving Beyond Loss.” He was also instrumental in creating the complete lesson plans that Specialists use around the world in educating grievers as to how to use these books to change their lives through recovery. He wrote word for word what needed to be said to make grievers feel safe in these support groups so that they could take the necessary actions for their recovery.

Just as important as all the things noted above, Russell spent countless hours on the phone with both the educated Specialists and with grievers themselves, listening to their concerns and questions and offering guidance where needed. He firmly believed that grievers needed to be heard and not fixed. He believed in helping them discover what was incomplete in their personal relationships and offering the necessary assistance for them to take personal action. His ability to listen, without criticism, analysis or judgement was one of his greatest gifts.

John James may have created the Grief Recovery Method, but Russell played a key role in sharing it with others. His legacy is in the people he assisted and trained, not only to deal with their personal losses, but to guarantee that there would be others to make sure this vital work continued after he was gone.


I am so sorry about Russell's passing. The program helped me immeasurably, I shall miss him, & will always be grateful to him, & for the training I received from him.
Hello Lois, thanks for your kind words. We're all hurting here at the TGRM to be sure.
Hello Cole and TGRM family and friends...
I am saddened to hear about Russell's Passing-- He was a force for sure... for good, for advocacy, for awareness, and my sense is, he is not slowing down-- just working his magic from the ethers. He, you, John and the rest of your awesome group have provided so much to me and to many with whom I have shared your info or referred. As many, I have not been in touch as often as I would like, but my thoughts and prayers are nevertheless heartfelt. May your hurt be met with the many wonderful memories and reminders of his presence and contribution. Blessings and much care to you all!
I am deeply saddened by Russell's death. I feel blessed to have completed my specialist training with him. What a tremendous loss! His legacy will continue to bless many. Peace and blessings to you in your mourning.
May God grant him eternal rest and may God console & heal Russell's family
I am so saddened to hear of Russell dying. He was a great teacher,and full of compassion. He was a great man. My prayers go out to the family and co workers.
Every encounter with Russell left me feeling better. Whether it was in the class or when I dropped in just to say hello, he always made me feel like I mattered and gave me words to leave with more than I came with.
He enriched my life in ways I am still discovering.
Will there be a funeral or public memorial?
My heart is heavy over hearing the news about Russell. He was an amazing teacher and I am blessed to have trained with him in Los Angeles. His devotion and compassion to others will be greatly missed in this world. My heartfelt sympathies to his family, friends and co-workers. I send thoughts of comfort and peace to you all.
I thank God for Russell Friedman's life as an experience of loving one another through The Grief Recovery Method & Institute with John W.
James. Russell will be missed by all. God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change... Courage to change the things I
can... And the wisdom to know the difference. ,The Serenity Prayer
I took the Grief Recovery Training in the summer of 2006. Whenever I had any questions, I would call and speak to Russell. He was always patient, supportive and very wise. He always knew exactly what to say in any grief situation. I feel so sad because this is such a great loss. He was a beautiful person and will be missed by many including me.
So sorry for Russell's passing... condolences to his family and the James' family and his GRM / GRI family.
I got to meet him & hug him in person at my certification class in Boston, a great warm guy. RIP Russell. <3
My sincerest condolences to Russell's family and his TGRM family and friends as well. My husband and I had the great pleasure of spending time with Russell on two occasions, and he was a friend from the moment we met. I think this is probably true for anyone that was lucky enough to have met him. He was as gracious as he was funny and smart. He will be missed by all who ever knew him. We will miss him. R.I.P. Russell, our friend forever.
I'm so sorry to hear of this tremendous loss. Thank you for sharing your kindness with our community. It's because of a conversation I'd had with Russell that I became a GRS. Thank you. RIP!
Although I never met Russell in person, I felt like I knew him as he assisted me many times with my clients and even before I became certified, with my own personal grieving. Russell always called me by phone within 24 hours of my messages to him and spent as much time as needed to resolve issues. Russell was a truly remarkable human and man, loving, kind, amazingly generous, compassionate and wise. He will be greatly missed by me and so many others. Bless your soul in its travels, Russell. Rest in Peace.
I have had Russell's picture up at my desk all week, giving thanks for such a warm, engaging, heart-centered, humorous, feeling person. As a workshop trainer myself, I especially appreciated his style. I went back to my notes from the GRM certification workshop in 2011 and on the first page I had written a note in the margin, "Like him immediately -- warmth." My most sincere condolences to Russell's family and GRM community.
I, too, spoke to Russell years ago and remember he had a warm welcoming voice and so patient. May we all be blessed with the memories of this wonderful man; may his family be blessed with lots of love, and may future generations be blessed with his knowledge and wisdom through his books and through the Grief Recovery Program as well. Truth, knowledge and wisdom live on - and so shall Russell.
To my favorite "little red-headed boy"...the things you taught me will always be in my heart. And you always told us never to say goodbye without first saying "I love you."
As a long time certified support group trainer of this wonderful organization. I will miss this wonderful man who had a heart of gold. He had deep compassion and understanding for those working with him and for all who have been afflicted with grief. In our organization: The Grief Recovery Institute will be a hollow spot never filled as there is only one lovely Russel Friedman... Bless his soul.
Russell and I spoke several times by phone in the years since I was first certified. His timely and wise counsel helped me grow as a helper of those who are grieving, and I am forever grateful for the Grief Recovery Handbook, which enabled me to heal after the loss of the daughter I loved. Will miss you, Russell. Thanks!
Russell will truly be missed..... I took his class a while ago and it helped me tremendously especially in the area of forgiveness. It took me a while to get there but when I finished the course I knew I wanted to become a consultant and took the certified course and started teaching GR to others but really it was for me as I went thru many losses with miscarriages, failed ivitro, failed surrogacy and a failed adoption where the mother took the baby back, it was a devastating time in my life, after going to many grief classes I found that the GR method was the one that really helped me to see hope. It was the amazing method but it was really because of Russell, he made so many deposits into my broken heart. He listened to all the things I went thru and helped me to see that you can overcome or complete the grief. I love the graphing probably the most powerful tool ever. He always told me to never make my kids caretakers and I felt awesome that I was the connection to raising up leaders in Cambodia thru my brother Cesar Lopez who also took the course. I remember my brother took the course and then he preached at a big conference in the OC and every one said that was one of the most impacting sermons I have ever heard. Russell thank you for your genuine heart, your love for people and just being YOU. I am also encouraged by the many friends that have taken this course to heart and are spreading the love thru GR method. I'm sad but it is true all the things you have taught you were preparing all these years for your time. Thank you for staying consistent and staying true to what you taught. No hypocrisy and I hope that the school districts will wake up and implement this program in the schools. Rest in peace my friend and Rest in Love. Gina Alexander
We continue to remember Russell and to be grateful for his work that has powerfully influenced our lives, even though we never personally met. As we reach out to communities in the Northwest, and to African and to Central and South American missions, his gentle words and insightful explanations will touch the lives of many in years to come.
I am in shock and filled with such deep sorrow and guilt. It had been a while since I stopped by to catch up with Russell and made the unrepairable mistake of putting life ahead of honoring an important relationship and a very important being! Russell touched so many lives for the better. He was kind and compassionate and his love for his four-legged-family members was unforgettable. I met with Russell after reading, "The Grief Recovery Handbook" at which point I had been offering Pet Loss Support Groups for ten or so years. After meeting him, I signed up to go through the Grief Recovery program. He was an amazing teacher and, like the dogs he loved so much, never judged anyone but rather, found the way to connect with each person and thereby made everyone feel respected, unconditionally. During class he would often refer to me to give an opinion on a question he couldn't answer...he always referred to me as his "rock". I often say, "Let the gift of your loss be that you never take any important relationship for granted for it can be gone in seconds". Sadly, I didn't listen to my own words this time and I will regret that forever.
May Russell's family be held in the compassionate arms of love...my deepest condolences.
Dr. Kathleen Ayl
Kathleen - One thing about Russell was that her really practiced what he preached. Were he still physically with us, I am sure that he would have acknowledged your pain and then advised you to write a completion letter so that it would not be something that you carried with you, taking away from your joyful memories. Knowing him as I did, I think he might have followed that advise by offering a caring smile and a hug! Unlike so many people with whom we have unfinished business, he was one who actually offered a plan of action in his life's work to help people deal with these incomplete communications. Take care and know that I wish that I could be with you now to offer that caring hug! Steve
Mr. Friedman was an incredible help to me. I was founding an organization about being there for others in times of suffering, and in response to a cold email request, he called me and guided me through ideas on how to build my work. He offered straight, sage advice generously and with humor. He is a model for how I can support others who are looking to find their way.
I Just learned of Russell's death this afternoon. I cannot begin to define how much he helped me grieve the disability issues my family faced for years. Most importantly, he was the first incredible advocate that invited a Deaf family who had lost a family member suddenly to come to a workshop with their interpreters. One of the interpreters, me, went on to be trained as a specialist as well as the Deaf wife of the man who died. I cannot begin to tell you how much her work with Russell's encouragement meant to the Deaf community in Northern California. He was a man who truly understood the most the road to genuine grief recovery for thousands in this country and abroad. I happen to feel that he is still guiding all those who seek recovery from loss from a very special place in Heaven. Thank you Russell for helping us to life LIFE not become mired in our own " fur balls" as you liked to say often in training! God bless you

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