Have you ever felt an intense yearning, longing, or preoccupation when someone close to you has died? Did it cause you distress, or did you have difficulty functioning?
I am willing to bet that almost everyone has felt this way. That's because intense yearning, preoccupation, distress, and difficulty functioning are natural responses to a significant emotional loss like death.
In over 40 years of helping people with grief, we commonly hear that grief feels like being in a bad dream, that people have a hard time concentrating, and often feel isolated and lonely.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), again attacks grievers by saying "Prolonged Grief" is a disorder. They say that a normal human response to grief that lasts longer than 12 months for adults, or six months for children, is an illness.
That is 100% false!
Ask yourself this: Do you still feel pain surrounding a loss that was more than a year ago? 5 years ago? 10? Does that pain impact your life and relationships in any way? If so, you have normal and natural feelings. Under the new DSM-5 guidelines, you'd be suffering from a disorder. Don't you think any child who loses a parent might have difficulty making sense of the world only six months after the loss?
Grief is NOT pathological, nor is it a disorder of any kind. On the other hand, those incapable of feeling emotions have a disorder. When you call something a mental disorder, there is something wrong with your brain.
When you walk through grief, your mind might tell you something is wrong with you, but there isn't. The real problem is that no one is taught how to walk through grief healthily. People want you to heal your brain when your heart is broken in our society.
Sure, you hear intellectual misinformation from well-intentioned friends, such as "keep busy" or "time heals all wounds." When those things don't work, you think that something is wrong. What's wrong is that grievers are given incorrect tools to heal. But to say that people who have conflicting or sad feelings following the death of someone, or any other loss, are somehow broken or suffering from a disorder is simply wrong.
Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss of any kind. As humans, we are designed to feel our full range of emotions, sweet or sour. As such, we all experience loss and the grief that follows. To say that feeling painful or negative emotions is somehow wrong, harmful, or a disorder is labeling a normal process in life.
Those advocating for this new diagnosis also make the false assumption that people cannot recover from some losses. It also assumes that to experience the loss of a child, as an example, is somehow a life sentence of pain. Therefore, the sufferer is broken and needs medication. We have heard this storyline before, and it's completely false and only serves to perpetuate these pieces of absolute misinformation.
The Grief Recovery Method (GRM) was created by a Vietnam Combat Veteran who also lost a child. Over the last 40+ years, we have helped countless people recover from the most devastating losses imaginable and have proven that any loss is NOT a life sentence of pain.
The GRM has published five books on Grief Recovery, translated into over 26 languages, and has helped millions of people around the planet. Not only that, but research conducted by Kent State University has indicated that The Grief Recovery Method approach to assisting grievers in dealing with the pain of emotional loss in any relationship is "Evidence-Based" and effective. Ours is the only Grief Support Program to have received this distinction.
Loss is inevitable, it's the most basic human experience, but suffering is a choice. When grievers don't know what choices they can make, that's when they are stuck with the pain.
Don't let anyone give you a timeframe, category, or stage for how long you should grieve, or you might get stuck there. Your emotions are normal, natural, and unique to you. Instead, know that recovery is contingent on the work you are willing to do.
We also strongly disagree with the concept of the "take a pill, fix your life" approach to grief. While some may benefit from prescriptions, medication isn't always the best approach, nor should it be the first choice for grief and loss. Medications numb the pain and replace one experience, of grief and loss, with the experience of relying upon medications to feel differently. And that's key; medications result in feeling differently, but not always better.
The addition of "Prolonged Grief Disorder" by The American Psychiatric Association is dangerous and harmful.
As our founder, John W James, once said, "We realize it is difficult for these professional groups to let go of their belief that everything can be fixed with intellect or drugs, but we wish they would get some help from true professionals in the Grief Recovery field before muddying the waters further."
If you truly want to heal your heart after significant emotional loss, a first step is to grab your FREE copy of The Grief Recovery Handbook: The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses including Health, Career, and Faith.