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Posts from the ‘Healing Grief’ Category

Clichés to Avoid When Talking to the Bereaved


Sasha J. Mudlaff, M.A.

“It was God’s will”
“It’s a blessing”
“God needs him/her more than you do”
Human beings do not have the omniscience to determine the will of God, and most bereaved will not care anyway. Such  statements paint God as a cruel and vicious force that would tear a person away from those who loved him/her without any consideration for the survivor.

“I know just how you feel”
Each person is unique, and every relationship is also one-of-a-kind. We cannot possibly know how someone else feels when a death occurs because that is a relationship we will never experience.

“It has been three weeks since he/she died. aren’t you over it yet?”
There is no way to put a time limit on grief. It is generally agreed that the grieving process takes six months to two years, although some may grieve for longer or shorter periods of time.

“Be grateful you still have other children”
A grieving parent will always miss the child who died, even though there are other children present. It does not take away from the love given to the living children; it simply reflects the loss of that particular relationship.

“God picks the most beautiful flowers first”
This implies that those of us who are still living, including the bereaved, are not beautiful in the eyes of God. It also shows, again, that God is uncaring about the pain inflicted on the survivors. Read more

Sudden Versus Anticipated Death

by Peggy Sweeney

Peggy Sweeney

Peggy Sweeney

No matter how our loved one died, we grieve. However, the manner in which the death happens will influence our grieving process. For instance, a heart attack, stroke, or a motor vehicle accident are examples of sudden death. Shock and disbelieve are often our first reactions. When I received a phone call from a family friend that my dad had a heart attack and was dead, I immediately hung up the phone and dialed my parents’ home because I knew the person who had called must have been mistaken. Sadly, they were not.

When death occurs as the result of a long-term illness or injury, the levels of shock and disbelief may be less intense than they are with a sudden death, because we have known for some time of the imminent death. Nevertheless, when someone we love is slowly dying because of cancer, heart disease, a brain injury, or Alzheimer’s disease, we may find ourselves surprised when his or her death occurs. This is not an abnormal response, but rather a belief that as long as there is life there is hope. Read more

Grief ~~ A Natural Response to Loss

Grief applies to the loss of a loved one to death, certainly. It is also a natural and normal human response to any big change in life. Even if we initiate the change (new job or house) and there are advantages. Moving is one of the biggest, requiring many changes.

Read more

Listening Is An Act of Love

by Beth Rotondo

Beth RotondoIn grief, the heart is traumatized.  Everything it knew for sure is thrown up in the air, unanchored, grasping for familiarity.  The mind is also traumatized.  It looks for answers, for sureness, for the past, for right and wrong.  This confusing and tumultuous time is what people who are grieving experience moment by moment, day by day, week by week, month by month.  It is exhausting, constantly changing, overwhelming and frightening.  This may seem “dramatic” to someone who hasn’t experienced a significant loss.  Many people find it strange that the griever is “still” grieving after all this time, and the griever may feel those same feelings.   People want to help and there are various ways to do that.  One of the simplest and most profound ways is listening. Read more

The Irony and Inconsistency of Grief

by Charles W. Sidoti and Rabbi Akiva Feinstein

1026Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart. Don’t scratch for answers that cannot be given now. The point is to try to live everything. Live the questions for now. Perhaps then, someday far into the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. – Rainer Maria Rilke (German-Language Poet)

When life turns difficult, a common way of trying to get around the pain is to try to think our way out of the situation. The problem with this is that it assumes the process of effectively dealing with emotional upset and spiritual challenges is linear, sort of like a Betty Crocker recipe, in that one step necessarily follows another in order to get the desired outcome. The truth is that the process of inner healing is inherently non-linear and is often contradictory. When things do get better and our inner struggle eases for a while, we often don’t know how or why we feel better, we just do. Have you ever gone to sleep with a problem on your mind and awakened not troubled by it anymore? As the saying goes, “What a difference a day makes!” Nothing about your problem changed, you just went to sleep.

Our mood and therefore our perspective change constantly, and that has much to do with the way we process the problems that come our way. Sometimes we wake up feeling great and ready to face the day’s challenges. On these days, problems that come up don’t bother us too much. We process them easily because we approach them from a positive perspective and keep moving along. The very next day (or even hour), we may feel totally different. The world seems to be spinning in the wrong direction and it seems that everyone is working against us. In addition to affecting the way we handle the daily problems that arise, our moods and our perspective affect the way we handle the big problems in our lives. This is especially true regarding the way we process grief, the pain involved in losing someone or something very important to us. Read more

Journaling the Unsayable

by Sheila Bender

What are my fragments?
Parachutes that open as I fall through the night.

–Olivia Dresher, “Moments & Confessions” from In Pieces

1027How can we overcome the inertia we experience concerning writing about our experiences when we are processing difficult ones? How can we see if writing helps us continue to invest in our lives and the lives of those we love by living authentically and experiencing joy as well as sadness, love as well as sorrow, allowing dark feelings to inform and enrich brighter ones?

Therapists advise us to keep journals. But if we are not already writers and are also busy with work, hobbies, family and friends, it may not be an easy thing to begin doing. We convince ourselves we can cope without writing our feelings or that it is easier to suppress difficult feelings than to have to live them again as we write.  And we fear that we can’t write well enough to honor difficult feelings. Read more

Take My Hand, I Will Walk with You

by Peggy Sweeney
The Sweeney Alliance

No one should walk the road of grief alone. Yet every day, adults and children must cope with the pain of grief by themselves. Alone. Grief can be a very frightening and overwhelming experience filled with an array of emotions and feelings. This article will explore our reactions to grief as well as offer advice for coping with day-to-day struggles.

Grief affects us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Grief is similar to a roller coaster ride in the dark. We never know from one moment to the next which reaction or combination of reactions will overpower us. Following are some of the numerous grief reactions you may experience:

  • Physical reactions – sighing, shortness of breath, a change in eating habits, weight loss or gain, headaches, loss of energy, apathy, illness, gastrointestinal problems, sleeplessness, crying or uncontrollable sobbing, gut-wrenching pain.
  • Mental or spiritual reactions – selfishness or egocentric focus, distracted thought patterns, short attention span, auditory/visual hallucinations (we think we hear or see the person who has died), regressed actions (may become childlike or more dependent on others), suicidal thoughts, loss of interest in socializing, over-protection of our children (especially when a child has died), a loss of faith or religious beliefs.
  • Emotional  depression, fear, resentment, powerlessness, emotional numbness, withdrawal, blaming, frustration, anger, guilt.

@ by puuikibeach

Each person will react to grief and loss differently. Your individual reactions are defined by previous experiences as well as your coping skills. You may feel, at times, as if you are functioning on automatic pilot or are in a daze. Your senses may seem numb. You may cry uncontrollably, be short-tempered, or be unable to cope with simple tasks. There may be occasions when you feel as if your insides have been ripped out. The pain you feel physically and emotionally seems never-ending. You believe you will never be happy again. Your grief may shake the foundation of your religious beliefs. You find yourself playing the “what if?” game and endlessly searching for answers to “why?”

Guilt and anger play a major role in grieving. They are normal, healthy reactions. You may feel guilty for unkind actions or words spoken in haste towards the person who has died. You may regret the opportunities you’ve missed to spend quality time with them before their death. You may be angry due to the circumstances surrounding their death (suicide, homicide, etc.). You may find that you are angry with them for dying and leaving you alone. Discontent within a family during or following the funeral may cause undue emotional stress. Nonetheless, guilt and anger can be the driving force that motivates you to get out of bed in the morning and live another day. It is not wrong to feel guilt or anger; however, you do not use them as an excuse to inflict pain on yourself or others.

Grieve in your own way and in your own time. I recommend keeping a journal or diary. Write down your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. This will help you realize that you are progressing in your grief. Compose letters to your loved one or list simple accomplishments you’ve mastered; such as, doing chores around the house, participating in social activities with friends, or just enjoying the glories of nature. We become so burdened with grief that we forget to celebrate the simple things in life. Laughter is good for healing grief as well. I do not expect you to laugh and reinvest in life and living quickly. This will take time; whatever time you need. Your grief journey may take many months or even years. You will never be the person you were before your grief journey began. I promise you, though, that if you are willing to do what it will take to heal your grief, the pain will subside. You will be able to smile and be happy again. Grief has the power to help you become a more sensitive, loving, and caring person.

Read articles and books on grief. A bereavement support group or speaking with a minister, priest, or rabbi can also be of help. Avoid excessive alcohol or addictive drugs. They may temporarily dull your pain, but they will do nothing to heal your grief. Exercise and eat healthy. If you are having trouble sleeping, drink a glass of warm milk or listen to soothing music.

If you have a special friend who is willing to walk with you through your grief journey hold their hand tightly. They will guide you around the obstacles in your path. They will surround you with love and lift you up when your days are long and lonely. This special friend can reaffirm your simple achievements and acknowledge that you are making progress in healing.


The road to healing grief is filled with many hurdles and detours. Family and friends may find life just as challenging and painful as you. Keep in mind that no two people will deal with feelings and emotions in the same manner. Do not be surprised to find that some of your acquaintances may tire of your seemingly long journey. People expect you to be over it (grief) in a short period of time. Do not plan to have your grief healed by a certain date (i.e., six months, the anniversary of the death, etc.). Take whatever time you need. It is important for you to acknowledge all your feelings. Do not feel ashamed or weak as the result of your emotions or expressions of grief. Seek out someone who will walk with you and guide you through your journey. Take hold of their strong hand and lean on them. Let them help you survive your grief.

Copyright Peggy Sweeney. All rights reserved.

About the Author: Peggy Sweeney is a bereavement educator and the president of The Sweeney Alliance. She has written and taught countless workshops about coping with grief and trauma, including How to Understand Grief Seminars (HUGS), Child Healing After Trauma (CHAT), and the Grieving Behind the Badge program for emergency response professionals. She has reached out to her community through Halo of Love, a support group for bereaved parents, and Comfort and Conversation for bereaved adults and teens. She is the author of numerous award-winning articles and is the editor of three online newsletters: The Road Less Traveled, Bereaved Parents and Grieving Behind the Badge. Peggy is currently a member of the Comfort (TX) Volunteer Fire Department and a former mortician and EMT-B. You may contact Peggy at

Grief 101

Peggy Sweeney
The Sweeney Alliance

Adults frequently associate grief with the death of someone loved. However, this is not the only reason we grieve. We confront grief whenever we experience a loss or traumatic event: a divorce, retirement, a debilitating illness or injury, addiction, abuse, the aftermath of a fire, flood, or an earthquake. The list of grief-generating experiences is endless. Healing our grief is a life-altering event and a very personal experience.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a world-renowned expert in the field of death and dying, is credited with the development of the five stages of grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Her studies, often thought to define the stages of grief following the death of a family member or friend, actually focused on terminally ill patients. Read more

Healing Through Writing

by Barbara Force

My name is Barbara Force. I’m 70, retired and worked for Trans World Airlines for 35 years. I met my husband, Dan, at TWA and we were married for 34 years when he died at 64 from cancer. After he was diagnosed, we both attended Writing for Wellness, a class offered by the Cancer Support Community. This class encouraged us to dig into our feelings and put them on paper. After Dan died, I attended a weekend writing workshop through UCLA extension. I’ve been pushing myself to do something different. I now facilitate the Writing for Wellness class because the current instructor resigned after volunteering for fourteen years.

by Barbara Force

Grief comes in waves
On different days
And sometimes stays.

Grief hovers out of sight, waiting:
For a song
A smell
A kind word
A shape in the crowd,

Waiting to be called.

Grief is a sharp pain
A loss of breath
A smothering fog
A siphoning of sanity.

As days, weeks and months pass,
less sharp
Less smothering
Less painful.

Grief becomes a small ache in the soul.

The Train
by Dan Force, Barbara’s husband

The train is far off, on the other side of the valley.loco
You can see it winding in the distance,
smoke from its stack.
You can hear the whistle, but not too loud.
When the wind is right, just for brief moments,
you can hear in snatches, wheel against track,
but it is far off,
not immediate, not pressing.
Oh, it will get here, sure,
but that will be later.
So: you take care of business,
do what you think needs to be done,
occupy yourself, live life.
And then, it’s here!
I remember it far off,
but how did it get here so quickly?
Was I not paying attention?
This massive train, stopped on the tracks in front of me.
Undeniable it looms,
leaking steam and water, impatient,
eager to proceed.
If it were a beast, it would be pawing the ground.
I face it from the side, naked and dwarfed.
I have no options.
I must get on.
It will not be denied.

Growing Through Grief

by Gary Warren

Gary WarrenHere is a brief journey in dealing with Men’s grief. I am honored to speak with men on a weekly basis about their struggles and the deep sense of loss that they wrestle with to put into words. Grief is a word that I am finding has an ugly connotation. From my own experience and the guy’s I coach and the men in Men’s Circle, we just don’t have a vocabulary that includes grief.

That is until something major happens; the job is lost, the parent dies, the marriage withers and the child does not come home. Then and only then we feel as men that we are heartsick and have no way to wrap our arms around it.

I know for me that grief was not even on the radar until my oldest daughter was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and my marriage of twenty-three years was ending. I saw this at first as a cosmic joke. God, the church and the whole culture had betrayed me. This was not like having the rug torn out from under me. It was more like the floor suddenly lurching and vanishing beneath my feet. Overnight I lost my optimism, my hope and an indefatigable resolve that life was, for the most part, good.

For a very solid working definition of grief I want to cite Tom Golden, LCSW from his article entitled “A Man’s Grief”. Here is Tom’s insightful definition:

“Grief is a part of life. We are familiar with our responses to gain and celebration, and grief is the other side of that coin. Grief, simply put, is the physical, emotional, and mental responses we have to a loss of any kind. We expect grief to flow from a major loss such as the death of a friend or family member, but it can also flow in smaller amounts from ordinary, everyday losses. Such losses might be the conclusion of your favorite time of year a holiday or being in a traffic jam and late for an important meeting. These smaller losses are examples of what is termed micro-grief. Grief can be related to losses of childhood, such as the loss of seeing the world as a safe place, or all of the unmet expectations, thwarted intentions, or unspoken communications we might have stored inside us. When looked at in this way, we begin to see that grief is an integral part of being alive, a part of our daily living. It is woven into the fabric of life.”

Grief is the very stuff of life. Tom’s use of the term micro-grief really helps to clarify that we are faced with grief daily in even small situations. What I find most remarkable is that if you ask a guy how to change a flat, wire up a ceiling fan or even tune-up the car, he is in his element and has the answers. Ask him to describe how he is handling the loss of his job, an aging parent’s chronic illness and approaching 40 and he is absolutely silent. This seems completely upside down; however, this is the state of things. Men are unable to verbalize the pain of grief and are unprepared for its presence and lack the knowledge of how it can be transmuted into wisdom and power.

In light of this, we have to ask what now? How do we start a meaningful dialogue about grief and bring not just awareness but skillful means to work through it. Here are a few key things that can help us as men come to terms with pain, shame and grief.

First, we need to start talking to each other about this. This means establishing a Talking circle, Men’s group or a Support group. A safe place to get together and go deeper. We can enjoy the game, the race, the big win, but life is a balanced coin and loss must be understood and learned from.

Secondly, we need to know that handling grief is a skill and it can be cultivated. Men are brought up feeling like we rise and fall as men based on how “good” we are at doing. We strive to be the star athlete, the rainmaker sales manager or the corporate visionary. Performance only gets us so far before the disruption in our inner life catches us unaware. Our interior world is at first foreign, inhospitable soil but we must learn to navigate this inner world. Our growth as friends, husbands, fathers and mentors in a large part depends on how we learn to deal with pain, loss and grief.

Lastly, we must see that grief is natural not a sign of weakness and therefore we can welcome it and learn to grieve appropriately. Shame and silence in our grief leads to isolation, fear and even rage. Our clear path is to create a safe space for the heart of wounded men.

Here is a final thought. I talked recently with a wife of a firefighter who was upset that her husband had shut her out. He had buried himself in work and was physically and emotionally distant. She asked me to spend an hour with her husband and I agreed provided he was comfortable with this. He contacted me and we began to talk. For the first time in years, he began to talk about the pain of seeing victims of fires, automobile accidents and homicides. He explained that he had recently lost a very close friend in a fire. He was grieving and had no label for it. He thought he was just in a slump. In a few moments, he and I were able to put a plan together for him to begin the process of being with his loss. He was relieved and he felt the weight of shame lift off.

Grief is a doorway, a potential opportunity to learn about ourselves and to share this common strength with other men in our lives. Today is the day to start living again. Don’t be silent, speak about your pain and ask your brothers to hear you. We are learning together and 2013 can be a new opportunity to grieve and grow.

About the Author: Gary “Max” Warren is an Intuitive Life Strategist and self-styled practitioner of multiple ancient spiritual systems. He is a passionate communicator of the truths he seeks to synthesize and embody. He writes from his own experience, struggles, breakthroughs and deepening awareness. Max presents principles of spiritual growth and personal development that are drawn from Integral Theory, Eastern Buddhism, Gnostic Christianity and the Western Mystery Schools of Alexandria and Europe.

Max emphasizes that “Integrated Spiritual Practice is the only way to grow as a man, a Husband, Father and Friend. We are living in a new time and we have a mandate to optimize our lives and become what we are meant to be. Engaged authentic living is not optional it is essential”. Visit Gary’s blogs, Conscious Masculinity, and Awaken You.