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
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 of the eleventh month of the year, in 1918. Each year we commemorate that ending on Veterans Day, which was originally called Armistice Day. There aren't too many folks left who were around when that came to pass.
My dad was a lad of 8 in 1921, when the first unknown American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony took place at eleven in the morning on the eleventh of November [the eleventh month]; with similar ceremonies taking place in England and France. That event led to the establishment of the holiday we honor today.
In 2003, shortly after my dad turned 90, we had a chat. I asked him what he recalled of that first Armistice Day, nearly 82 years earlier. Having triggered his memory bank, he told me all about it. It was wonderful in more ways than one, to be able to talk with my dad and have such a direct link to the past. It was like having an interactive civics class with someone who could bring history to life. A living witness is so much better than Google and Wikipedia combined.
In 1926, Congress passed a resolution formally designating November 11th as Armistice Day to honor those who gave their lives in WW I, which was also called The Great War. My Dad remembered because his Uncle Willy had gone off to that war. Uncle Willy returned physically, but his heart and soul never came back. My dad recalled too many nights as a young lad being sent to the saloon to fetch Uncle Willy, who spent most of his post-war waking moments drowning his memories in booze.
"The War to End All Wars" claimed more than 10 million lives. In 1938 Congress acted again and declared Armistice Day a national holiday. The simple definition of armistice is truce. The idealistic hope that nothing of that scope would ever happen again was dashed just a few years later with the outbreak of World War Two. Then came Korea and then Viet Nam, and you can fill in the rest.
In 1941, two years before I was born, my dad went down to Army headquarters in New York City to enlist for WW II. He'd already said his goodbyes to my mom, thinking he would ship out immediately. But since the age of 5, he'd only had sight in one eye, and the Army rejected him. He was both relieved and saddened. Because he was not able to join directly in what was called the War Effort, my dad always made a point of honoring both the fact and the spirit of Veterans Day.
In 1954, the sacrifices of those who died in WW II and Korea, and all other wars, were honored with the name change from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
In 1968 Congress re-dated Veterans day to fall each year on the fourth Monday of October. But the symbolism of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month was lost, and with it the emotional gravity that had originally spawned the holiday. In addition, the Monday holiday began to take on a commercial, "long weekend" quality which diluted its initial respectful intent. In 1978, Congress wisely re-established November 11 as the official observance of Veterans Day.
Like my dad, a major physical liability kept me from participating in the armed forces of our country. Also like my dad, I always remember to respect and thank those who were or are members of any of the services that protect my life and my liberty. I feel compelled to honor those whose actions give me the right to vote, the right to voice my opinion, and to argue with authority, even to be a jerk from time to time. Today, the first person I will thank is John W. James, my business partner and friend—make that friend and business partner. John is a Viet Nam combat veteran, a Marine, and through the 26 years of our friendship I have learned things about war and what it does to people's souls.
I have watched John make the spirit of Veterans Day into a real-life set of actions. I have watched him "not forget." I have watched his walk and talk match as the hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan unfolded and continue. Daily, he sends letters to young service men and women who are in the line of fire. I have seen some of the responses from the grateful GIs to whom he writes and sends care packages. It's not possible for me to read those responses with dry eyes.
On Monday, November 11, 2013, this country will observe Veterans Day. Personally, I think it takes on exponential importance this year in light of the events that have shaped and shaken our world over the past twelve years. To do it justice, I will stop whatever I'm doing at eleven in the morning and walk over to John's desk and thank him. Knowing me, there will be tears in my eyes. And that will be okay.
Because I will be stopping to think about war and its aftermath, I will also be reminded of other people who are no longer here. Not just veterans. I will think of my mom who died nineteen years ago this month. Of course I will think of my dad, who died six years ago, and I will think of other relatives and friends who are gone. I will have the emotions attached to those memories, and I will talk about them with anyone who happens to show up in my life that day.
I will absolutely reach out and touch anyone who calls, emails or bumps into me at the office, in a restaurant, or in the park with my dog.
Lest we forget!
© 2015 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.
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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 »
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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
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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
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BECAUSE WE ARE THE FAMILY OF HUMANKIND
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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 »
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