Tag Archives: grief

When Your House Is On Fire



There can be events in our lives that are so intense that we might compare them to a house fire. They are so immediate that they cannot be ignored. They are so all-encompassing that everything else takes a back seat.

What are some of them?

  • A medical emergency.
  • A financial crisis or eviction
  • A death
  • A credible threat of divorce
  • A criminal arrest
  • A home invasion or assault
  • And a house fire, flood or other natural disaster that results in serious destruction of your property

All of these situations have the potential to change the course of your life, perhaps forever. And the inevitable result will be grief when the crisis has abated or passed.

But what can we do when a crisis hits?

Action. Regardless of your personality and response style (fight, flight or freeze) action is required. To ignore, over or under react is simply not an option. In these situations, time is not your friend, but your nemesis. My typical way of dealing with a crisis is to freeze. I want to pretend like it might just go away. It never does. Usually it just gets worse, sometimes much worse. Nan, on the other hand, is the opposite. She tends to take immediate action, but not always measured. That can also compound a problem.

Focus on the essentials. When the house is on fire it’s serious – really serious. There may be a tendency to focus on less important details. If your finances are collapsing, trying to reduce your credit card interest rate a few percent is not going to fix the problem. If you are in shock this might be a way of trying to cope with the overwhelming feelings. You will need an outside voice to guide you.

Accept what you cannot change. Look forward towards what you can do rather than backwards at what might have been done to prevent it. That needs to be saved for the grief process later on. Trying to save a home from certain foreclosure is not helpful. Looking for a place to move your family is.

Get support. There is a great need to have others around us during times of crisis. There are things we cannot change. We just have to go through them. But we do not have to go those earthquake events alone. It has frequently been said that there are no atheists in fox holes. At these times almost everyone prays regardless of their faith position. It is comforting to know that there is a greater power that can be called upon in times of trouble. We Christians know that power to be Jesus who is constantly bringing our name before the Father and interceding for us.

Romans 8:34 (NIV)  Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

(Don’t)Leave Me Alone

Alone Loss

I’ve been thinking about losses both in my life and in the lives of some (all?) of my clients. The natural response to loss, large and small, is grief. Often we are given misinformation about how to deal with these losses. One I was thinking about was this: “Just give him some space – he needs space.”

In other words, distance from the person in their time of grief. Huh?

Growing up I always thought separation was a form of punishment. You know – getting sent to your room for misbehaving. And isn’t that what society does to law breakers? We incarcerate them away from the general population. And if they are really a threat, they are sent to solitary confinement – which is total isolation from human connection.

So why would separation from people be a benefit to someone who has just gone through a loss of some sort? Don’t we need the opposite – connection and comfort? Of course we do. But we do need the right kind of connection.

When someone asks for some “space” after a loss, I don’t think they are talking physical, but rather emotional. What they don’t need is someone trying to minimize the loss with well-intentioned chatter. But perhaps a good response would be “May I just sit here quietly with you for a while?” Sometimes people will open up a little and talk, which is good. Our best response is to affirm by nodding our head and empathizing when appropriate. Never try to fix the situation. It will only create distance. That is a step that might come at a later time if asked for.

Don’t judge someone else’s loss. For some, a pet has been their closest relationship, an object has been their connection to a special experience, or a setback is a block to a long-held dream.

If we are the one hurting, we can add to our problem by making it difficult for people to connect with us. Our fear of not being understood might result in us pushing away people who can offer legitimate comfort. And internally we can deny or minimize our losses, judge them unimportant, or push them away and bury them.

Feelings never die. They are just buried alive – which leaves us vulnerable to unpredictable resurfacing of the feelings.

So the solution, no matter what side of the equation you are on is a willingness to connect with either exquisite sensitivity, or cautious, but courageous openness. We were not designed to isolate from others, especially during the difficult moments in our lives. Even though some people might shy away from our pain as if it was contagious, we need to persist in finding those who understand. Usually those are people who have experienced pain and loss themselves and know what is and what isn’t helpful.

When God came to us in the form of a man, He experienced all the pain, loss and isolation that we do. Even when we are alone, we are not alone.

Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.


Recording Contracts and Disappointments


Back in the day (the late 1960’s) our band signed with a now long defunct record company, Dot Records. Many experts consider this era the pinnacle of the record business, where every company was scrambling for talent to promote. Money was being spent on artists with potential, as opposed to those with a solid track record. We recorded some vocal tracks at a cool little pro studio (Alamo) in North Hollywood, and the now famous Wrecking Crew provided the instrumental tracks. We were on our way. It was going to be the “big time” for us.

But then the bottom dropped out. Dot Records went bankrupt and shut down and we were left with a worthless contract. We were looked at by a couple of other companies, but didn’t generate enough interest to get picked up.

What do you do when disappointment comes your way?

Yes, grief ensued in all it’s glory: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I know we, the band, felt all of those things. But what did we DO that got us through the disappointment?

  1. We kept on going. We didn’t let the demise of the company mean the demise of us. We took action and started looking around for other options. Although we did not ultimately get where we had hoped, we met a lot of really great people along the way.
  1. We didn’t blame people. Everyone involved was affected by the company closure. People lost their jobs and had to find new employment. Trying to pin the loss on someone was unproductive: it wouldn’t have changed the outcome.
  1. We managed our feelings by processing together. Individually isolated we might have leaned toward pessimism or bitterness. Instead we supported each other by affirming our worth in a very musician kind of way: we spent more time practicing together and wrote more songs. We released the pent-up energy in a positive manner.

We all have had, and are going to continue to have setbacks in our lives. It is inevitable because we live in a competitive world. Your needs, wants and desires compete with other people’s at times, and you won’t always have things your way. Or circumstances emerge that are either not controllable or favorable to you and you have to adjust. It is disappointing.

The kind of work we do at The Relationship Center is largely helping people manage these challenges. We guide them through the grief, power struggles, trust issues and marital drifting that occurs, particularly in long-term relationships.

Will you see these occasions as opportunities for growth? Will you allow your feelings to accept the losses in a realistic manner without over or under reacting to them? In a culture like ours which is principally person-centered, it can be really hard to do. But that is what maturity is all about.