A Grief Support Blog

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

Grief: Recovery Involves Changing Habits

Let’s start with a question: Do you drive to work the same way every day? You may think that this has nothing to do with how you deal with significant emotional loss and grief recovery, but there is actually a direct relationship. Most of us take the same route every day. We do so without even thinking, because it’s our habit. We do many of the same activities each day by habit alone. Once we establish a behavioral pattern, we tend to follow it, even if there are other, and better, ways of doing things.

How we choose to do many things and how we respond to situations is an integral part of our “belief system.” Surprising to most is that 95% our personal belief system, that we will likely use for our entire life, is firmly established by the time we are 15 years old. (Even more amazing is that as much of 75% of these patterns are firmly established at just three years old!) The other behaviors that we later develop, such as choosing our route to work, are often influenced by those long ago established elements of that belief system.

Most of our habituated behavior serves us well. Checking for traffic, when crossing a street, keeps us safe. Brushing our teeth and washing our hands promotes better health. The list is endless. Once that belief system and our habits are established, we follow them without a second thought. The fact is that these habits become such an integral part of who we are, that anything that doesn’t fall within them tends to receive an automatic critical response from us.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t make changes in how we deal with things over time. As an example, many of our behaviors have evolved with changing technology. Where once we went to the library or consulted an encyclopedia to check facts, most of us today turn to the Internet. The once popular phone book and yellow pages have likewise been replaced with web searches as a better way of gathering information. The fact that you are reading this now is proof that we can adapt to new and better ways of finding things. Children do this automatically, since this technology has always been a part of their lives. Those who are older generally have taken longer to make these changes, because it wasn’t a part of their early established belief system and behavior patterns. Most have made these changes because many around them had taken on these new behaviors and methods of gathering information, and blazed the trail. Since others were doing this, it made it a positive and safe alternative to what they have done in the past.

It’s much harder to make changes when we’re not constantly reminded that there are better ways to do things. This is particularly true when dealing with emotional loss. Most of us never realize that we have few useful and valuable habits in dealing with emotionally painful events, until we come face to face with an overwhelming one.

As we deal with relatively minor grief events in our lives, the suggestions that we “need to be strong”, "be strong for others", “soldier on”, and “get over it” seem to work. We continue on with our life’s journey suppressing that emotional pain, because it’s our habit, and think that we are doing the right thing. We may find that we carry a little less joy with us, due to the impact of these events, but we still seem to be able to move forward. Every time we repeat this habituated behavior, we get better at hiding how emotionally painful things have touched and changed our lives.

Then, one day, a particularly painful event hits and we discover, no matter what anyone one says, we just cannot seem to “get over it.” It may be the death of a family member, friend or pet. It may be a divorce or the breakup of a relationship. It may be a financial crisis. Once again, the list of possible reasons is seemingly endless. Whatever the cause, we suddenly become aware that how we have dealt with these problems in the past no longer seems to work. Despite our lack of success, we still try to follow our old behaviors in how to deal with pain because it’s our established habit, and we have no other way of coping. Our body may signal us that it’s not happy with how we are trying to deal with these problems, in terms of headaches, stomach issues and other signals, but we still try to cope with our old survival mechanisms, because we have no better tools.

Death and Grief: How suppressing negative emotions turns you into a trash compactor

If, no matter how you try to “feel better” is failing, this is a sure sign that you need to develop a new habit in how to deal with emotional pain. If constantly burying your feelings inside isn’t helping, you need to find a safe and successful way for working through those feelings that are now too much to carry with you on a daily basis. There are better ways to deal with grief than to forever suppress it.

The grief that we feel, related to these highly stressful events, typically relates to unfinished business in these relationships. It tends to revolve around those things that we wish had been different or better. It relates to dreams and expectations of a future that is different than the one we are facing. Left stuffed inside, these feeling can continue to negatively impact us. We can be reminded of them at the oddest moments, when we least expect it, by the words of another, something we see, or even something that we smell.

Your established belief system may tell you that you will always carry this pain with you, but that simply means that you are dealing with elements of “misinformation” that were therein established. This means that you need to change your old habits on how to deal with painful emotional events and establish better habits that really work!

The Grief Recovery Method is all about changing old habits on how to deal with emotionally painful events and creating new ones that help you move through and beyond them. It’s about helping you discover those things that are incomplete in relationships and finding a way to let go of those painful feelings that you have stuffed inside. It’s not about forgetting the past, but rather being able to effectively deal with it. The Grief Recovery Method (GRM) is a guided, step-by-step process for taking action to move beyond the pain of any emotionally painful loss. GRM isn’t about seeking therapy to deal with problems, but instead taking therapeutic action.

The steps that you need to take, to create these new habits in dealing with loss, are spelled out in “The Grief Recovery Handbook.” This is not a textbook, but rather a guided map to making this journey to feeling better. The authors walk you, hand-in-hand, through these steps with examples on how to take these actions. It’s about creating new habits in both how to deal with the emotional losses of your past and how to create healthier habits for dealing with ongoing relationships.

Once you have successfully used this process to deal with the emotional pain of one loss, it would serve you well to practice this with the other losses you have faced in your life. You need to make this your new habit to better deal with all of the emotionally painful events you face. In doing this, you can create a new habit to help you better enjoy your fond memories and fully experience elements of joy that you might think you could ever have as part of daily living. Best of all, this is a new habit you can share with others!

Changing old habits isn’t always easy, but when they lead to better outcomes, it’s worth the effort. Basketball great Rick Barry, who is the only player to lead the NCAA, NBA and ABA in scoring, discovered that he needed a new habit in how to do better at hitting free throws. He searched for a better technique and practiced until he established a new habit of throwing them underhanded. His percentage of success shot to 90%, which is well beyond that of even the more famous players. He tried sharing this with others, but found few that would follow his lead, even when they found it worked. It’s my sincerest hope that once you have seen the principals of The Grief Recovery Method work in your life, you will do as Rick Barry did and establish new behaviors of pattern that will forever make a difference in your life!

The key thing to remember about successfully dealing with grief: recovery involves changing habits on how you deal with your emotional pain.


Image Credit: Bram Janssens Argus456



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