Tag Archives: grief

(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

Disappointment

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.

Grieving Your Losses

stages-of-grief

As counselors, one of the phrases that rolls off our tongues easily is:

“You have to grieve your losses.”

“Great” says a lot of clients “How do I do that?”

I really had to think about that for a while. I mean I know how to feel sad, but I am aware that it’s more than that. So I started at the beginning of the grief process as theorized by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying.

The first stage according to Kubler-Ross is denial. I found it interesting that the first step in the “twelve step program of recovery” is breaking denial. But it makes sense – grief is the process of recovery from loss.

When death is the loss, it is pretty easy to identify. It is just so up front and in your face. But there are so many other kinds of losses that we experience, and it may be that we don’t recognize the need to identify them as losses and grieve.

I would ask the question “What loss(es) might you be denying? 

Dig deep – go into you history, your past. What do you regret? What things have passed you by? What relationships are unfinished because they didn’t end well, or you said too much or too little and wish you could have a “do-over”?

I know that I have rationalized some of my bad decisions so that I wouldn’t have to admit them as losses – but they really are. Other decisions were made for me and the reality of my powerlessness in those situations is a loss.

Truth be told, I don’t want to grieve my losses. I would rather stay in denial or avoid them. I don’t want to feel sad, or scared or angry. But the problem is that it is highly likely that I will either shut off all my feelings, or I will redirect them into an addiction of some sort. I might not even recognize it as an addiction if the pursuit seems positive, like focusing on a career, or volunteerism, or mastering a musical instrument or acquiring some other skill.

So what is the goal? For me, I would say freedom. Like releasing the air pressure that builds up in a balloon, the grief process releases the stored up pain and allows us to keep moving forward. Women often talk about the relief they feel after a “good cry”.  Guys not so much, but I’ll bet it is still true. But I do know that the first step toward freedom is “owning” our losses, no matter what they might be. Then it is likely that some of the other stages of grief will follow.

The Bible clearly tells us that there is a time for mourning as well as a time for rejoicing. Perhaps it is not possible to do one without making room for the other.

Psalm 30:11 – You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.