Grief Recovery Institute® Guidance Center
John W. James
Founder of The Grief Recovery Institute®
Co-Author of The Grief Recovery
Handbook & When Children Grieve
Co-Author of The Grief Recovery
Handbook & When Children Grieve
Where were you when I needed you?
The saddest question we ever hear is, "Where were you when I needed you?"
That's what people ask when they find out what we do in helping grievers. We're presenting helpful and accurate information on this site, at the time you need it most, with the hope that you'll never need to ask that question.
It's an honor and a sad privilege to be addressing you, knowing that each of you has recently experienced the death of someone important to you. We also know some of you are reading this because of your care and concern for someone who is confronted by the death of someone important in their life.
We bring our personal experience in dealing with the deaths of people who were important to us, and our professional know-how in helping grievers for more than 30 years. We'll help you distinguish between the "raw grief" that is your normal and natural reaction to the death, and the equally normal "unresolved grief" that relates to the unfinished emotions that are part of the physical ending of all relationships.
A basic reality for most grieving people is difficulty concentrating or focusing. With that in mind, we asked Tributes.com to print our articles in a large type font to make them easier to read. Sharing our concern for grieving people, they agreed.
From our hearts to yours,
John & Russell
Articles & Media
Time Doesn't Heal - Actions Do
I have heard that it takes two years to get over the death of a loved one, five years to get over the death of a parent, and you never get over the death of a child. Is this true?
It is impossible to answer that question without first debunking the phrase "get over."
You will never your child who died, nor would you forget a parent who died, or a spouse, a sibling, or anyone else with whom you had a meaningful relationship. Another problem is the arbitrary determination of time periods for grief corresponding to your relationship with the person who died.
Those time-based criteria make crippling and illogical comparisons between relationships and your feelings about them. Since no two relationships are ever the same, it is never helpful to compare your reaction to the death of someone important to you with any other loss – someone else’s or your own.
Grieving people are confronted with an unbelievable amount of uncontested misinformation. Immediately following a death, grievers are hit with ideas that are not only incorrect, but suggest that recovery from the pain caused by death is solely a function of time, or in some situations, isn’t even possible.
The assumption that time heals emotional wounds is so prevalent that we include it as one of the six myths that most limit grieving people. Imagine that you have gone out to your car and have discovered that your car has a flat tire. Would you pull up a chair, sit down, and wait for air to get back in your tire? Obviously not. Time is not going to put air into your tire. Only the actions of fixing or changing the flat tire will get the car back on the road.
The same is true of grief. Time can’t do any more for your broken heart than it can for a flat tire. It is equally true that only correct actions can help you complete what was left unfinished between you and someone who died, so you can get your life back on the road.
Not The Time For A Debate
Since grievers are reeling under the impact of a death, they usually don’t stop to analyze and debate the bad advice they receive. Without accurate and helpful guidance, they simply cling to the myth that time heals because they have nothing to believe in its place. The idea that time can repair an emotional wound is not only false, it is also dangerous, because it stops grievers from learning what actions would help them deal with the inevitable discoveries they make of things that were left incomplete in their relationship with the person who died.
Why does the myth that time will heal persist?
Like many misleading ideas, the notion that time heals has a partial basis in reality. Recovery from loss and completion of emotional pain is the result of small and correct action choices taken over time that lead to successful completion of what the death left emotionally unfinished for you.
There is a world of difference between time healing a wound and a wound healing over time as the result of actions.
Let us try to explain how an aspect of truth dictates the falsehood. Death of someone important to us can produce an overwhelming amount of emotional energy. At times the pain is so unbearable that our hearts and brains numb us out when it is too much for us to handle. We call it emotional Novocain, a metaphor that helps people understand what they are experiencing.
Numbness notwithstanding, in time most people adapt to the reality of the loss. As that occurs, some of the pain will diminish naturally. Most people interpret the reduced pain to have been caused by the passage of time, since that’s what they were taught to believe. But that’s not true. It is the natural survival ability to adjust to the altered circumstances of your life that creates the illusion that time has healed you.
Even though most people find a way to accommodate the new reality of their lives after someone important dies, that does not mean they have completed what was left unfinished. That is why so many people tell us that even years after the death, they feel the pain is getting worse not better. For them, time is an enemy, not a friend.
The key to dealing with the impact of the death of someone important to you is not to wait for time to do what it cannot do, but to take the actions that will help you complete what the death left unfinished. The actions of Grief Recovery are spelled out in detail in The Grief Recovery Handbook, which is available at most libraries and book stores.
© 2013 Russell P. Friedman, John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute®. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this and other articles please contact The Grief Recovery Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone, 800-334-7606.
The Boston Marathon Bombing, The Aftermath: Loss of Life, Loss of Safety, Loss of Trust, and Loss of Innocence
April 15, 2013, the date of the Boston Marathon bombing, joins the list of dates we’d rather not remember, but we can’t forget. It takes its sad Read More »
Post-Holiday, Grief-Related Blues!
Logically, for many grieving people, the holidays are difficult enough, especially the first season after someone important to them has died. But Read More »
Not following impulses leads to unfinished emotional business—aka Unresolved Grief!
Today I feel compelled to write about a personal loss, that just happens to be one of the national obituaries currently featured on the home page of Read More »
Newtown, Connecticut—Our Grief, Because We Are The Family Of Humankind
Certain events have the power to propel us into an emotional numbness, as if a hidden thermostat inside our hearts shuts us off. The pain is too much Read More »
Veterans Day—Lest We Forget
In its day, World War One was called "The War to End All Wars." Sadly, it wasn't. WW I officially ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day Read More »
Dealing with Grief During the Holidays
Dealing with Grief During the Holidays While there are other critical dates and times that affect grieving people, the holiday season is the biggest Read More »
We Never Forget The Important People In Our Lives.
We recently received a note from a woman named Linda, who had a child die, and who interacts with other parents who’ve also experienced the death Read More »
On Crying—Part Two
In Crying—Part One, we focused on the idea that it can be dangerous and counterproductive to attach our personal ideas and beliefs to how other Read More »
On Crying—Part One
Almost everyone has some questions and confusion about crying. How much crying is enough? If I start crying, will I be able to stop? Do I have to Read More »
9/11: The Aftermath, Loss of Life, Loss of Safety, Loss of Trust, and Loss of Innocence
By Russell FriedmanSeptember 11, 2001 now lives in our language in the same emotional way as December 7, 1941 and November 22, 1963. Nearly everyone Read More »
Am I Going Crazy?—An all-too frequent question from grievers.
“Since my mother’s death, I’ve had the experience of being in one room, deciding to go to another room to do something, and when I get there, I Read More »
Father’s Day 2013 - My Dad, Babe Ruth, and the Ball That’s Still in Orbit
In the kind of emotional reviews our minds and hearts make on chronicling days like Father’s Day, we often discover a level of appreciation that Read More »
What a Difference a Day Makes—Lest We Forget!
Memorial Day as we know it today began as Decoration Day in 1866, in upstate New York, after the cessation of the Civil War. First conceived as an Read More »
Mother’s Day! Remind Me—Remind Me Not—Remind Me
In mid-April there are two things you can count on in the United States. One is the due date for filing your tax return. The other is the arrival of Read More »
BECAUSE WE ARE THE FAMILY OF HUMANKIND
BECAUSE WE ARE THE FAMILY OF HUMANKIND [March 11, 2011]At 11:15 PM on March 10th, 2011, my heart was burning and my stomach was churning. I was Read More »
Am I Paranoid, Or Are People Really Avoiding Me?
The simple answer to the question posed in the title of this article is, “No, you’re not paranoid, people really may be avoiding you.” Even Read More »
Valentine’s Day—For Many, The Most Painful Holiday
The traditional Holiday Season begins around Halloween, continues through Thanksgiving, crests with Christmas and Hanukkah, and ends with New Read More »
Our Reaction to The Tucson Tragedy – Because We Are the Family of Humankind!
Within a two year span, from February 1, 2003 to December 26, 2004, we used the title “Because We Are the Family of Humankind!” for articles we Read More »
Uh-oh, it’s that time again. Grief and the holidays
Many Grievers Wish They Could Skip The Holidays And Jump From Late October To Mid-January The holidays are approaching. A joyous time. A festive time Read More »
Stages of Grief: Are There Actual Stages Of Grief?
Is there any truth behind the idea that grief and loss recovery comes in stages?We are often asked if there are actual stages of grief or grieving. Read More »
Is It Ever Too Soon To Recover?
Conflicting opinions from a wide variety of sources confuse the question of when to begin a process of completing what was left emotionally Read More »
Why Won’t Anyone Let Me Feel Sad?
If we were forced to quantify the problems grieving people encounter, there’s no doubt the number one offense they must confront is being told that Read More »
Six Major Myths – The Short Version
There are six major myths about grief that are so close to universal that nearly everyone can relate to them. This is true not only for those of us Read More »
Do I Have to Cry To Grieve?
"My father died recently. I have been very sad, but I have not cried. Do I have to cry to grieve?"That is a question we get all the time from people Read More »
When Your Heart Is Broken, Your Head Doesn’t Work Right And Your Spirit May Not Soar
For most people, the immediate response to the death of someone important to them is a sense of numbness. After that initial numbness wears off, the Read More »
If I Start Crying Will I Be Able To Stop?
Grieving people sometimes hold back their tears based on the fear that if they start crying, they won’t be able to stop. To the best of our Read More »
Time Doesn't Heal - Actions Do
I have heard that it takes two years to get over the death of a loved one, five years to get over the death of a parent, and you never get over the Read More »
I’m Fine And Other Lies!!!
Approximately 20% of your ability to communicate is verbal, leaving about 80% as non-verbal. Non-verbal communication includes tone of voice as well Read More »
Normal and Natural reactions to the death of someone important to you.
Grief is the wide range of normal and natural reactions to the death of someone important to you. The seven most common reactions are: Read More »
If you or someone important to you wants help with grief: Look for a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist℠ in your community. The Grief Recovery Institute ® trains and mentors Certified Grief Recovery Specialists℠ throughout the United States & Canada.
Workshops & Training Schedule
The Grief Recovery Institute ® offers Certification Training programs for those who wish to help grievers.
June 2013Calgary, AB - June 21 - 24, 2013
St. Louis, MO - June 21 - 24, 2013
July 2013Oklahoma City, OK - July 12 - 15, 2013
Palm Springs, CA - July 12 - 15, 2013
Los Angeles, CA - July 26 - 29, 2013
Moncton, NB - July 26 - 29, 2013
Atlanta, GA - July 26 - 29, 2013
Chicago, IL - July 26 - 29, 2013