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
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. The answer is NO! There are no stages of grief or grieving. Even though you may hear or read that there are such stages, there is no predictable progression of feelings and thoughts that applies to any one person, much less to a group of people.
Every relationship is unique. Therefore the feelings you have when someone important to you dies are also unique. Any attempt to quantify your emotional reaction to the death of someone important to you may keep you from taking the actions that will help you deal with your unique reaction to the death of that person.
Why Do People Think There Are Stages? Many years ago Elizabeth Kübler-Ross wrote a book entitled On Death and Dying. The book identified five stages that a dying person might go through after being told they had a terminal illness. Those stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. For many years, in the absence of more accurate information, well-meaning people incorrectly assigned the stages about dying people to the grief people feel when someone important to them dies.
It is fair to say that following a death, grievers may feel sad, and they might have some anger about the circumstances or cause of the death, or even about things that did or did not happen in their relationship with the person who died. But those are feelings, they are not stages. They are normal and natural emotional reactions to a death. They don’t happen in any predetermined order if they occur at all. If we start with an incorrect premise, we will wind up far away from the truth. The idea that stages of grief even exist is dangerous.
After all, a griever is often in a very suggestible condition; dazed, numb, walking in emotional quicksand. Many grievers are told that they are in denial. Yet in all of our years of experience, working with tens of thousands of grievers, we have never met anyone in denial that a loss had occurred. They say, "Since my mom died, I have had a hard time." There is no denial in that comment. There is a very clear acknowledgment that there has been a death, and that there has been an emotional impact.
What about anger? Often when a death has occurred there is no anger at all, as this story explains: “I had a wonderful relationship with my grandmother. At age 92, she got ill and died. Blessedly, it happened quickly, so she did not suffer very much. I’m pleased about that. I had just spent some time with her, sharing memories and saying how much we cared about each other. I’m very happy about that. The funeral ceremony created a truly accurate memory picture of her, and people came and talked about her. I loved that. A friend reminded me to say any last things to her and then say goodbye, and I did, and I'm glad. I think of her often with fondness and sometimes with a tear in my eye and I cherish those feelings. I am aware of the wonderful memories of my relationship with the incredible woman who was my grandma, and I miss her. And, I am not angry.”
Unresolved Grief Is About Undelivered Communications Unresolved grief is about undelivered communications of an emotional nature. It is about the things we wish we had said or done differently, better or more; and it’s about the unrealized hopes, dreams, and expectations about the future. It can also be about the things we wish the other person had said or done, or even had not said or done.
The discovery of those undelivered communications or actions that were never taken is not an orderly process that can ever be quantified and applied to groups of people. Nor does each person attach the same emotions to the awareness of those unspoken things or untaken actions.
The fact is that there are a whole host of feelings that may be attached to those unsaid things. Happiness, sadness, love, fear, anger, relief, compassion, are just some of the feelings that a griever might experience. We do not need to categorize, analyze, or explain those feelings. We do need to learn how to communicate them and then say goodbye to the physical relationship that has been ended by the death.
It is most important to understand that there are no absolutes. There are no definitive stages or time zones for grieving. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss. Grief is emotional, not intellectual. Rather than defining stages of grief which could easily confuse a griever, we prefer to help each griever find their own truthful expression of the thoughts and feelings that may be keeping them from participating in their own lives. We all bring different and varying beliefs to the losses that occur in our lives, therefore we will each perceive and feel differently about each loss.
Please don’t let anyone label your feelings as stages.
Note: In a most interesting statement in the introduction to her book, Question & Answers on Death and Dying, Kübler-Ross states: “I have specifically excluded chapters on ‘Religion and Life after Death’ as well as chapters on ‘Bereavement and Grief.’ This was done not only because of lack of space, but because there are others who are more qualified to answer those questions.”
For an even more in-depth look at the idea of “stages,” please access and read this article of ours which was published in 2008: http://budurl.com/NOStagesofGrief.
© 2016 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.
Two First Ladies — No Feelings, Please!
Preamble: On March 6, 2016, former First Lady Nancy Reagan died. In honor of her life, we thought we'd show how human emotions are often distorted in Read More »
Deaths of Celine Dion’s Husband and Brother Open Questions on Grief
The recent death of Celine Dion’s husband, followed a few days later by the death of her brother, opens questions about how grievers cope. By Read More »
Two Year Tragiversary of the Boston Marathon Bombings
Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 marks the second “tragiversary” of the Boston Marathon Bombings which killed three innocent people and injured 254 Read More »
The Art of Condolence
When an acquaintance has lost a loved one, it can be difficult to know what to say or do. Here’s some guidance on offering sympathy with grace. Read More »
The 4th of July—Another Reminder of Those Who Are No Longer Here
The common bond that connects all holiday celebrations is that they tend to be family-oriented events. Whether the holiday commemorates religious Read More »
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!
Many people are rightfully concerned about the powerful impact the end-of-year Holidays can have on their friends who've recently experienced the Read More »
In the wake of the recent deaths of Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, this preiviously published article has good advice for all.
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 2015 - 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.
April 2016Perth, WA Australia - Apr 14-17, 2016
Denver, CO - Apr 15-18, 2016
Indianapolis, IN - Apr 15-18, 2016
Vancouver, BC Canada - Apr 22-25. 2016
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire UK - Apr 22-25, 2016
May 2016Jacksonville, FL - May 13-16, 2016
Dallas, TX - May 13-16, 2016
Princeton, NJ - May 13-16, 2016
Seattle, WA - May 20-23, 2016
Los Angeles, CA - May 20-23, 2016
Regina, SK Canada - May 20-23, 2016