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This is one
of a series of articles comprising
in the Break the
Cycle! self-improvement course. This lesson aims to educate readers to healthy
grieving basics so they can spot and complete unfinished mourning and evolve
pro-grief relationships and families.
Typical survivors of childhood trauma (Grown Wounded Children - GWCs) never
learned these basics, and risk psychological, physical, and relationship
problems from incomplete mourning.
Benefitting from this Lesson requires that you make major progress on
Lesson 1 - reducing psychological wounds.
Lesson 3 exists;
terms used in this
lesson and Web site;
adults and kids need to know about their
three levels of healthy grieving, and their
several phases; and ...
Seven requisites for healthy grief.
learn about yourself: get undistracted and curious, and take this
quiz before continuing...
This article assumes you're familiar with...
the intro to this nonprofit web
site and the premises underlying it
their lives, healthy infants, kids, and adults (like you) automatically form
bonds (emotional / spiritual attachments) to special living and
inanimate things. By choice or chance, these bonds break, creating painful
Nature provides an automatic way to
questions, thoughts, and painful
feelings created by losses over time,
understand and accept broken bonds and
their impacts, and to
regain personal and social
balances and life purpose.
This is the slow
emotional + spiritual]
process of grief, or mourning.
Healthy grieving requires seven
personal and environmental
factors. Few adults and no kids can name
them. Can you? A sobering implication is - many parents are unable to
and teach these good-grief requisites to their kids - i.e. they can't
provide a "pro-grief" home..
Without these requisites, mourning
may be slowed or blocked. This can promote serious personal,
relationship, and family problems,
depression, addictions, obesity; hypertension; "endless" rage or sadness;
divorces, difficulty sleeping, digesting, concentrating, and/or forming new bonds;
and premature death.
My experience as a therapist since 1981 suggests that incomplete grief is so prevalent
that I include it among five core
hazards that promote epidemic misery,
stress, and illness in our society. Americans avoid recognizing this hazard by condoning
ceaseless distractions (like TV, PCs, iPods, and smart phones). These discourage personal solitude, reflection, and awareness,
key grieving requisites. Do you agree?
U.S. mental health workers are just beginning to recognize incomplete
("complicated") grief is a serious, widespread condition in our country.
This recent research summary notes that it is
not yet recognized as an "official" mental-health condition by the American
Psychiatric Association (APA).
Incomplete grief has distinct
symptoms. Knowing them can help people like you identify missing personal and
family requisites, and facilitate the grief process in themselves and
others. This is specially important in typical
dysfunctional, divorcing, and
whose adults and kids are prone to many major losses,
requisite-deficits, and incomplete grief.
SO - these Lesson-3 Web articles and resources exists to...
inform Web site visitors on basic
psychological attachments and losses,
three levels of
healthy grief and their phases, and...
seven requisites for healthy
to provide a useful way of
personal and family
grieving policies (healthy > unhealthy) and
> discouraging); and...
grieving status in kids and adults (blocked > incomplete >
And Lesson 3 exists to provide practical
ways to acquire healthy-grief requisites and to help family members - specially
kids - to fully accept their inevitable life-losses
and regain their personal balances and life-interests.
to help courting partners
learn how to assess whether incomplete
grief and what causes it could promote unwise
commitment decisions .
Lesson-3 Web resources are integrated in
two chapters of the guidebook
(Xlibris.com, 2003). Most of the book pertains to all courting
All relationships and families evolve a ser of beliefs and values about
handling life-losses - i.e. they grow an unspoken
grieving policy. One element of an effective family grieving policy is
each member learning
how to talk clearly about bonding, losses, loss-impacts, and the mourning process. That
learning and using some....
Grief Concepts and Terms
self-improvement Web site and its guidebooks and videos....
bonding is the normal
psychological - spiritual process of developing an interest
in, appreciation for, enjoyment of, and spontaneous caring for, a living
thing, or a prized place, ritual, activity, idea, sound, smell, object,
dream (hope), memory, or fantasy.
Some professionals use attachment to describe bonding,
specially between parents and kids..
survivors of childhood
abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma) are unable to bond,
empathize, or love,
so they have no significant losses to grieve.
They can appear to be cold, callous, uncaring, and insincere.
Bonding is different than
It may be one-way or mutual, and may or may not include
feelings of love.
losemeans a process or event which
results in an adult or child being deprived temporarily or permanently of part or all of something s/he's
a loss may mean
(a) this process, or (b) the
tangible thing that is changed or
gone. All losses are changes,
but not all changes cause losses (broken bonds).
griever, or mourneris a person who
is trying to accept and adapt to one or more broken
mourning both mean
the natural mental-emotional-spiritual process that heals the pain and
a significant loss over time - unless
by the loser and/or their
good grief means an unhindered natural
process that completes well enough to allow the loser to (a) fully accept
losses on mental, emotional, and spiritual levels; and to (b) eventually resume
normal life interests and form new bonds.
to the interrelated mental +
emotional + spiritual dimensions of the normal mourning process. Each level
has several sequential
phases, ending with stable acceptance. Awareness of these levels
and phases allows tracking a person's grief progress..
or frozen grief occurs on one or more levels when a person and/or
family lacks the requisites to grieve to completion. If prolonged, blocked
(incomplete) grief promotes significant personal and family stress.
incomplete ("complicated") grief
occurs when a loser has not reached the acceptance phase in all
three levels of healthy
mourning. They may or may not be blocked by personal and/or environmental
factors in their mourning process. Incomplete grief promotes observable
behaviors in typical adults and kids.
means fully accepting and adapting to a major loss and its personal, family,
and social impacts on mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.
grief permissions are internal (personal) and social encouragements to move
through the natural mourning process to completion.Without
stable permissions, grieving slows or stops.
seven things that typical kids and adults need in order to
complete grieving significant losses.
a grieving policyis a set of semiconscious attitudes + values + expectations about
bonding and "proper" or "healthy" grief conduct and
person and family
unconsciously evolves such a policy. Typical adults (like you?)
are unable to articulate it without
studying mourning basics, undistracted meditation, and discussion. Personal, home,
and family grief policies range from healthy
(grief-promoting) to toxic (grief-blocking).
pro-grief relationship, family, or organization is one which
clear understanding of
human bonding, losses, and the mourning process;
a healthy grieving policy,
effective grief support,
mourning to completion.
occurs when one or more people accept and empathically encourage
a loser to move through their process towards full and stable loss-acceptance. The
alternative is discouraging a loser from moving through the three
grief levels in their own way. This often stems from a low family
nurturance-level and toxic personal
and/or family grief policies.
How do these definitions compare with yours?
Do you think most teens and adults could accurately define each of these
This brief YouTube video hilights what you're about to read:
Most adults and kids automatically associate "grief" with
death. Actually, we must mourn the endings of many kinds ofbonds we
form throughout our
To grieve well, it helps to realize that
inevitable for any child or
adult who is genuinely able to bond;
can betangible(e.g. loss of a prized physical thing or place),
invisible (e.g. losing a dream, a
relationship, trust, hope, a security, a ritual, a freedom, an
ability, a group status, an identity, a family role, a
purpose, ...); And our losses ...
may be planned and expected (e.g. a
chosen job change, graduation, or geographic move),
or unforeseen (e.g. a car crash
or illness). And losses can be....
very slow (like natural aging),
or sudden(e.g. being robbed, flooded, or fired without warning).
many concurrent modest losses may have a cumulativeemotional
impact in us, if not well mourned as we go;
And specific losses...
by each of us
- e.g. a child usually reacts differently to the loss of a pet hamster
than their parent does; and...
well-mourned losses usually make hope and new bondings possible, like
acquiring a new friend, partner, ritual, dream, or pet.
Notice your thoughts and feelings now. Do you agree with these premises?
Were you taught these things as a child? Was your mate (if any)? Is someone teaching these loss-basics to the young
people in your life? Doing so is part of an effective grieving policy.
We're each born with the
instinct to form
minor to major psychological bondsor attachments. Because Life usually forces
most bonds to break, we're also naturally
able to grieve
or mourn -
to move through
predictable sequence of emotional, mental, and sometimes
unhindered, this healing sequence eventually relieves our painful thoughts
and feelings from broken bonds over time by attaining stable acceptance of our
losses and their personal and social effects. Our genetic
programming to survive and to grow
naturally triestomove us through concurrent mental,
emotional, and - for some - spiritual levels of grief.
Study this summary of grieving levels
and phases now, and return here.
Let's explore each level briefly
MentalLevel of Good Grief
significant loss, typical losers need to
gradually shift from mental chaos to
clear, credible answers to common questions. Think of a
significant loss you've experienced and recall if you had questions like
what have I lost? What has ended temporarily
or completelyfor me?"
"Is it reallygone for good?"
why did my loss/es happen?"
"Am I to blame? Could I or others have prevented this
"Why did this happened to
"How will this
me and others important to me?"
"Can I replace what I've lost? How? At what cost or
risk? Do I want to? When?"
adults can gently and patiently help young losers and each other to
find their own
answers to these questions over time.Suggestions andpatientempathic listening help more than giving
mourners "right" answers.
clear, realistic answers to questions like
these can promote a welter of emotions like confusion, doubt, anxiety,
guilt, and shame .These can complicate the emotional level of grieving
(below) and slow loss-acceptance. Mentally acknowledging realities about
significant broken bonds (answering these questions) can
take a long time, because they can be so painful and/or slow to manifest ("I'll
never have my birthday
again the way we used to do it!")
One requisite for healthy mourning is undistracted solitary times to clarify
and try out answers to loss-related questions like these. A related
requisite is the need to discuss these questions with empathic, supportive
others. These requisites can be hard to find in today's over-stimulated,
book "Second Chances," psychologist Judith Wallerstein and
Sandra Blakeslee propose that it takes some kids 10-15 years to fully adjustto
(accept) their complex set of tangible and abstract losses from parental separation,
family restructuring. I believe where this is true, it probably indicates that such
kids are not living with pro-grief caregivers.
While typical losers are mulling questions and answers like these, they're
EmotionalLevel of Good Grief
Noted British researcher John Bowlby proposed that
young children's' grieving of absent caregivers has three emotional phases:
protest, despair, and detachment(unbonding and indifference). Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who
has studied and written widely on psychological reactions to human death, proposes five phases of (the emotional
level) of mourning for
Shock, numbness, and disorientation
("This can't be happening!");
Irrational pleading, fantasizing, or bargaining
("magic thinking") - e.g. "If I start taking out the garbage on time like my
parents want, I know they won't divorce."; This is really an
early phase in the mental level of grief.
Cycles of anger and rage. These surges may
be felt or
repressed and denied. If
anger-energy is felt,
it may be expressed directly or indirectly,
unconsciously converted into a "safer" emotional/physical state
(e.g. "heaviness," "depression," or "hyperactivity.")
persuasive evidence that
repressed anger can be stored in our muscles as a tight jaw,
and/or shoulder, stomach, and "back pain." It also seems to contribute to some
recurrent headaches, facial tics, teeth grinding, and stomach problems.
deep sadness, apathy,
(perhaps) depression. Again, these emotions may be felt
or not, and
or not. By the way, medical research reports that
tears of joy differ chemically
from tears of pain because the latter contain compounds that cause
ejecting these chemicals, cryingis one of our
body's naturalways of staying balanced during times of trauma and endings.
Implication - blocking our healthy human reflex to weep stresses us,
often a sign of psychological wounds and a toxic grieving policy!
The last phase of the
of our normal grief process occurs when we fully accept our loss/es and
their impacts us and others. It's characterized by...
Regaining stable calmness
and focus; resuming our life interests, activities, and goals; and forming
selective new bonds. Resolving the array of mental questions we have about
our losses and their impacts (above) promotes this calmness. Periods of calm sadness (e.g. at anniversaries) may
can move through these phases in order, repeat or skip one or several phases for a while,
or may move back and forth between the phases over time.
We each evolve our own mourning style, so it's usually
not helpful to "persuade" a loser to grieve
"right,"unless they're stuck.
Try reading this insightful summary of the emotional level of normal
grief out loud, and see what you think and feel...
Work through the
denial that hides the anger;
Work through the
anger that hides the hurt;
Work through the hurt that hides the loss
and loneliness; ...
Work through the loss and loneliness that
lack of self worth;...
Work through the lack of self worth that hides
the total confusion; ...
Work through the total confusion that hides
to give up our own control and to surrenderour lives to the Creator.
SpiritualLevel of Good Grief
A third level of
healthy mourning has to do with (re)gaining a stable, nourishing
spiritual faith in a
trustworthy Higher Power, "Nature," and/or "the Universe." People
overwhelmed by grief can lose a life-long trust in a benign Supreme Being, raging
"How could you let this happen to me (or a beloved other)?" - and perhaps
guilt for this "sacrilege."
They may alter or stop their worship
(religious) practices, reject their God and perhaps Guardian Angels, stop
participating in a religious community, and feel spiritually disconnected, betrayed, and abandoned.
Non-believers can feel their skepticism in a loving Higher Power is obviously justified.
the third phase of healthy mourning is regaining or growing a new, firm faith that their Higher Power
"Nature" is trustworthy in ways that can't be humanly understood.
Many factors seem to affect how important
spiritual grief is to a child or
adult, and how long it takes to move through it. It's possible that people with firm
(vs. toxic) spiritual faith can often
accept significant losses more quickly than
non-believers. Some options to help move through the
phases of spiritual
prayer, reflection, and perhaps spiritual guidance and/or pastoral
In healthy mourning, the concurrent mental, emotional, and spiritual levels
and phases are eventually complete
Loss emotions and questions gradually subside, and refocusing on normal
living returns. Significant needs created by the loss/es start to
fill with new rituals, activities, goals, and bonds. Each person's unique needs, traits, and situations shape if and how
this grief-completion occurs, and how long it takes. Because mourning involves mind, body, and
spirit, conscious effort speed it up, but can
three-level grief process can be unconsciously slowed or stopped.In my clinical experience, this seems to be very common in members of low-nurturance
adds greatly to ongoing, day-to-day personal and family distraction and
stress. I believe it is one of
five main stressors in
typical troubled families. Does this premise
If effective grief
is vital for personal wholistic health and growth and family welfare, what's needed to "do" it? Pause, breathe, and
say your answer to this question
out loud before reading further. Then compare your answer to this...
brief YouTube video previews what you're about to read. The video mentions
eight self-improvement lessons in this Web site - I've simp-lified that to
these seven factors are key
good-grief ingredients for most kids, adults, and families:
reducing psychological wounds from
trauma. Without this, the other six
requisites probably won't help much.
Lesson 1 in this nonprofit Web site focuses on wound
assessment and reduction.
the natural three-level mourning
process we're all endowed with (above);
and invisible losses, and...
impactson us and key others.
3) Confidencein surviving our losses and their impacts, based on experience +
realistic counsel + faith;
patient grieving as a healthy personal priority, without excessive
guilt, ambivalence, or anxiety.
Three more requisites for healthy mourning
inner and outer permissionsto...
feel and express our natural shock, disbelief, rage, and despair -
over and over; and permissions to
turn our mental confusion into clarity and order,
over time, by asking questions, and repeated venting, discussion, and meditating.
Restated - grievers need a stable,
environment to move steadily through the phases toward loss-acceptance;
6) Motivation and opportunities
to meditate, sort, feel,
and process; and
the time we need,
and patience as we
mourn a day at a time.
more of these requisites that are missing for a loser, the more likely s/he will move slowly through, or be frozen in,
life losses and moving on.
What do you think?
This article proposes that incomplete grief is epidemic in our culture -
partly because of psychological wounds, and partly because of widespread
unawareness of bonding and healthy grief.
The article overviews fundamental concepts about losses and the three-level
process of healthy grief. It defines key grieving terms, summarizes 7
requisites for health grief and some common effects of incomplete grief.
This article is part of online self-improvement Lesson 3