Lesson 3 of 7 - learn how to grieve well


Learn to Accept
Your Losses

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW

Member NSRC Experts Council

HRbrass.gif (3108 bytes)

The Web address of this lesson is https://sfhelp.org/grief/guide3.htm

 Updated 01-30-2015

      Clicking underlined links here will open a new window. Other links will open  an informational popup, so please turn off your browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site. If your playback device doesn't support Javascript, the popups may not display. Follow underlined links after finishing this article to avoid getting lost..

       This is the study guide for the third of seven free self-improvement lessons. The lessons are designed to help you break the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle that may be degrading your life and stressing your family. This Lesson and guide exist because my experience over 36 years as a family-systems therapist suggests that...

  • unfinished grief depletes wholistic health and stresses relationships and families;

  • average adults like you don't know healthy-grieving basics and how to grieve effectively, and...

  • they don't (want to) know that, or what their unawareness means to them and their family.

This puts family adults at risk of not teaching their kids how to understand bonding, losses, and healthy grief. That jeopardizes future generations in many ways.

  Learn something about your family with this 1-question anonymous poll.

       This brief YouTube video overviews what you'll learn in this Lesson:

Objectives - Lesson 3 will empower you to (a) understand bonding, losses, and healthy grief; so you can (b) identify and finish any incomplete grief, (c) evolve a pro-grief family, and (d) protect your kids from inheriting toxic [wounds + unawareness].

      This Lesson has five parts:

  • "Good grief" basics,

  • How to assess someone for incomplete grief.

  • How to complete unfinished grief;

  • How to support other grievers effectively, and...

  • How to grow a "pro-grief" family.

  Why Study This Lesson?

      Starting in infancy, healthy people automatically form bonds (psychological attachments) to special people, animals, dreams, places, rituals, freedoms, securities, and objects. By choice or chance, these bonds break, causing painful losses.

      Nature provides an effective way of accepting our losses over time and resuming normal life - grief or mourning. If people have several requisites, they grieve (accept) their losses fully and move on. Many people who survive early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse ("trauma") lack these requisites and can't grieve well or at all. Our warp-speed, over-stimulated Western culture pays little attention to losses and healthy mourning. Older cultures seem to be far more aware and respectful of this vital healing process.

      Premise - Incomplete grief in adults and kids is a symptom of...

  • significant psychological wounds, and...

  • lack of knowledge and awareness, and...

  • toxic social environments that don't consistently encourage healthy mourning.

      Incomplete grief promotes chronic stress and a mix of physical and behavioral symptoms like obesity, addictions, "depressions," "rage attacks," insomnia, and digestive problems. These in turn stress marriages and families, inhibit effective parenting, and promote our U.S. divorce epidemic. If underlying wounds and unawareness aren't admitted and significantly reduced, they and these secondary symptoms may promote premature death. 

      All healthy adults and kids form bonds and have major losses to mourn. Some psychologically-wounded people are unable to bond, so they have few or no losses to grieve and little empathy for healthy mourners. Members of typical dysfunctional, divorcing, and step families have significant "extra" losses, compared to intact high-nurturance biofamilies. Many of them lack the requisites for healthy mourning and they don't know it. .

      In 36 years as a relationship and family therapist, I have never met one couple that intentionally developed a ''pro-grief'' policy for their home and helped their kids learn and follow it. Has your family done this? 

Status Check:  on a scale of one (I don't know how to grieve well) to ten (I'm very  knowledgeable about and effective at mourning broken bonds), rank your ability to grieve now ___.  We'll see if your rating changes at the end of this lesson.

  Prepare to Learn

      To get the most from this Lesson...

  • review the intro to this Web site and the premises underlying it.

  • free your true Self to guide your personality;

  • adopt a long-range view and the unbiased curiosity of a student as you study. You'll use this information for the rest of your life.

  • make major progress on Lessons 1 and 2. This lesson builds on them.

  • review how [psychological wounds and ignorance] pass down the generations. 

    If you're an auditory/visual learner, you can gain many of the key points in this lesson by viewing all the YouTube videos in this playlist. Doing all the assignments below will give you a much more in-depth understanding of how and why to do "good grief" and build a pro-grief family.


      This Lesson has 44 "assignments." Do them in order at your own pace. Check off each one when you feel finished. Take your time! Consider studying and discussing this Lesson with a partner who shares your interest in learning. If you belong to a support group, consider making this a group project.

      Take some weeks to do these assignments thoroly - specially if you're concurrently reducing psychological wounds (Lesson 1). Edit these tasks or improvise to better fit you and your situation. Option - keep a log or journal  as you work through these assignments. Your learning process is as valuable as the knowledge you gain

Lesson 3, Part 1 - Learn "Good-grief" Basics

__ 3-1)  Take this quiz to see what you know about bonds, losses and grieving.

__ 3-2)  Review these Q&A items about bonding, losses, and mourning.

__ 3-3)  Update your awareness about human bonding

__ 3-4)  Study this introduction to good-grief basics, losses, and seven requisites;

__ 3-5)  Compare these three grief levels and phases with your experience.

__ 3-6)  Learn about inner and outer permissions to grieve. Do you have both of these? Do the young people in your life have them?

__ 3-7)  Reflect on these ideas about personal and family grieving "policies." Then...

__ 3-8)  Define your personal grieving policy and discuss it with other family members. Option - meditate and identify the grieving policy you  were taught by your childhood caregivers - perhaps more by their actions than words. "No policy" is a policy.

__ 3-9)  Ask your mate (if any), to compose a personal grieving policy, and see how compatible it is with yours. Discuss any significant differences ands what they mean. 

__ 3-10)  Study and experiment with these steps to practice healthy grief.

__ 3-11)  Search the Web for information on "mourning" and "grieving." Other sources will probably not mention the [wounds + unawareness] cycle or the idea of grief-levels and phases - and they can still be informative.

__ 3-12)  Cement your learnings by practicing the good-grief basics above, over time.

      Now you're well-prepared to do...

Lesson 3, Part 2 - Assess for Incomplete Grief

      View this Part as a win-win project - either you have no significant unfinished grief, or you can become aware of any you have so you can complete it. 

__ 3-13)  Review this brief report on "complicated" (unfinished) grief and decide if it may apply to you and/or someone you care about.

__ 3-14)  Study these worksheets on common abstract and physical losses. Edit the worksheets as needed to fit your unique life history

__ 3-15)  Meditate and write down the personal grief policy of each of your primary childhood caregivers, as judged by their remembered actions. Option - also decide what each caregiver's personal anger policy was. Feeling and safely expressing anger is a requisite for healthy grief.  

__ 3-16) Decide if you were raised in a "pro-grief" childhood - i.e. one with consistent permissions and encouragements to grieve well. If not, expect some unfinished grief.

__ 3-17)  Draw a timeline of your life from birth to the present. Use your learnings from the prior steps and mark each major physical and abstract loss (broken bond) you experienced with an "x" on the timeline. Note the approximate date of each one. Keep in mind that several  small losses can impact you like a big one, and that some losses happen gradually (like aging). Option - color-code the losses for physical (say, blue) and abstract (red). Focus on your losses, not your family's.

__ 3-18)  Review this article on the three levels of normal grief and each level's typical phases.

__ 3-19)  Use these symptoms of incomplete grief to assess each of your significant losses across the years to see if you feel you have fully accepted each of them and their effects mentally + psychologically + spiritually.  Option - label each major loss as "F" (finished), "U" (unfinished), or "?" (not sure).

__ 3-20)  Options: show the symptoms of unfinished grief to someone who knows you well, and ask whether they see any of them in you for losses in question. Some losses are hard to judge (e.g. "I lost my self esteem between ages 3 and 14"). To be really sure, consider hiring a professional (certified) grief counselor to help you assess.

__ 3-21)  If you've had periods of significant depression, read this. Pills will not help you break denials, reduce psychological wounds, and resume healthy grief!

__ 3-22)  If you or someone you care about has chronic or explosive anger episodes, read this. They can be signs of psychological wounds and incomplete grief.

__ 3-23)  Premise: non-organic addictions are unconscious attempts to reduce inner pain. Major losses cause inner pain. If you or someone you care about may be - or are clearly - addicted to substances, activities, relationships, and/or mood-states, suspect incomplete mourning as part of the cause.  If this applies to you, learn more about addictions here

__ 3-24)  If you are significantly overweight and/or are a compulsive overeater - specially of "comfort foods" (sugar, fat, and carbohydrates) - you may have a food addiction or "an eating disorder" and incomplete mourning (inner pain). Someone has observed "Every fat cell is an unshed tear."

__ 3-25)  As you assess, note your feelings and thoughts. Significant anger, sadness, "numbness" (feeling nothing), anxiety, ands/or avoiding these assessment steps may indicate significant psychological wounds and unfinished grief.

      If you have honestly assessed yourself for psychological wounds in Lesson 1 and for incomplete grief (above), and you believe you have neither, then study the next Part for increased awareness - specially if there are young people in your life:

Lesson 3, Part 3 - Complete any Unfinished Grief

      Progress at Lesson 1 and parts 1 and 2 (above) will prepare you for this work. Healthy grief is a major payoff for breaking the [wounds + unawareness] cycle. Expect this work to take "as long as it takes," and be patient. Motto: "Progress, not perfection!"

      Keep your perspective: facilitating grief is part of the main goals of freeing your Self, raising your knowledge and awareness, and improving your wholistic health and life.

__ 3-26)  Use this worksheet to clarify your present values about bonding, losses, and grieving. If any of  them discourage you from mourning completely, revise them so they encourage you. You'll need your true Self to guide you with this upgrading.

__ 3-27)  Review this article on inner and outer permissions to grieve. If you don't have solid inner permission, (a) use parts work (Lesson 1) to identify the subselves who withhold permission, and to (b) negotiate their help in fully accepting the effects of your losses. 

__ 3-28)  Assess your living and work and/or school environments for solid outer permissions to grieve. If key people around you are not genuinely empathic and supportive, seek others who are. Often they will be  guided by their true Selves.

__ 3-29)  Review your current daily priorities. If "self nurturance" is not close to or at the top, use parts work to discover which subselves devalue that, and retrain them. Part of self-nurturance is setting aside enough solitary time to grieve, and being patient with the three-level acceptance (mourning) process.

__ 3-30)  If you haven't already, define your personal grieving policy, and use it to guide you through these steps and beyond!

__ 3-31)  Read this article on completing grief, and apply it to each loss you feel unfinished with. If you get stuck, consider getting professional help from an inner-family therapist and/or a licensed grief counselor. Option - use this chart of grief levels and phases to identify where you're stuck, and why.

__ 3-32)  Option - as you do these steps, let key people know what you're doing and why. Lessons 1 to 3 may significantly change your attitudes and behaviors, which may alarm insecure (wounded, unaware) people. They (their false selves) may try to sabotage your efforts, and keep you wounded and stuck.

      If this happens, review and live by your personal rights as a unique, dignified  person. Scan these communication options and this article to help you assert and defend your boundaries effectively - and to keep healing without guilt!

Lesson 3, Part 4 - Seek and give effective grief support

      You will encounter people with losses wherever you go - in your family, workplace, church, and community. Many will be unaware they're ruled by a false self and may have unfinished grief. They may need knowledgeable, caring support at times - just like you do. This Part focuses on learning what typical grievers need - and don't need.

__ 3-33) Review this perspective on human empathy. Being able to empathize with a griever is a major requisite for effective support. Some psychologically-wounded people are unable to empathize, and they don't know it.

__ 3-34)  From your life experience and all that you've learned here, write down the specific things that typical healthy (minimally-wounded) adults and kids need to help them grieve well.

__ 3-35)  Compare your list to this, and reflect on who taught you your beliefs. Then update your opinion as needed.

__ 3-36)  Identify specific things that typical grievers don't need - like hearing...

  • "I know just how you feel." No you don't - even if you've had a similar loss.

  • platitudes like "Things'll get better with time - you'll see!"

  • about your or others' losses - or "(your loss) could be a LOT worse!".

  • "C'mon - you have SO much to be thankful for! Look on the bright side!"

  • "Aren't you over that (loss) yet?"

  • "Keep a stiff upper lip!" (so I can avoid my discomfort with your emotions)"

  • "Just accept (your loss) and move on!"

  • "Don't you ever stop blubbering?"

  • "Don't you realize you're depressing everyone?" That's their problem, not yours!

  • "Honestly - what's the big deal (about your loss)?"

  • "I know, I know - you've told (your loss story) over and over again!" Doing so is part of healthy grief.

  • "Let's talk about something positive for a change." Wounded, uninformed people cast grieving as negative to diminish their own discomfort.

  • "Isn't (someone) great? S/He never lets anything get her down (so you shouldn't either)."

      Well intentioned comments like these are usually about...

  • the speaker's discomfort with your emotions (which may trigger their own),

  • their frustration at not knowing how to support you; Option - tell them what you need!

  • unhealthy grieving values (Avoid trying to "convert" or "correct" them);

  • ignorance about losses and the natural process of three-level grieving; and/or...

  • lack of real empathy for you, and/or denial of their own grief.

__ 3-37)  Option - Research what programs and resources your local hospitals, churches, and mental-health centers have for grievers. Note programs that acknowledge that losses span far more than death of a loved one. Also note that probably no programs will acknowledge the core need of freeing your true Self to grieve well. (Lesson 1).

__  3-38)  Option - alert any counselors, teachers, doctors, or parenting programs you find to this ad-free Break the Cycle! site and online self-improvement course:


Lesson 3, Part 5 - Grow a Pro-grief Family

      Because every family member has losses and needs support at times, "good grief" is a family affair. A "pro-grief" family is one whose adults are motivated to...

  • assess for and reduce psychological wounds (Lesson 1);

  • learn at least the mourning basics in Part 1 above,

  • evolve, discuss, and live by a healthy-grief policy, and who...

  • consistently give all family members and others (a) permission to grieve well, and (b) effective support as they mourn.

Reflect: in your extended family, who is responsible for evolving and using an effective family policy about healthy three-level grief?

__ 3-39)  To form a foundation for a healthy family grief policy, invite each adult in your family to read and discuss:

  • this overview of five epidemic hazards that may be stressing your family now;

  • this introduction to Grown Wounded Children (GWCs);

  • this summary of what it means to be a GWC;

  • this overview of psychological wound reduction; and...

  • this overview of the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle; and discuss...

  • whether your ancestors have passed on this cycle to any of you.

      Option - each of these articles includes a brief summary YouTube video. Watch and discuss them together.

__ 3-40)  Invite any psychologically-wounded family adults to study Lesson 1 and consider reducing their wounds - specially if they care for minor kids or may conceive kids. The more wounded your family adults are, the less likely you all will be to forge a pro-grief family together.

__ 3-41)  Invite your family adults to take this Lesson-3 quiz, and then to read these Q&A items about losses, bonding, and grief. Then encourage open conversation among all of you to define your family's current grieving policy. Use this article to guide your discussion. Options

  • based on what you've learned in this Lesson, draft what you feel your family's present grief policy is. Then discuss it with your other adults and older kids.

  • ask your adults to read this article on permissions to grieve, and discuss whether your family members give each other external permission to mourn their losses.

__ 3-42)  As appropriate, ask your family adults (including grandparents) and older teens to study and discuss this Lesson-3 guide together. Whether they will or not, model "good grief" for your adults and kids.

__ 3-43)    Ask other family adults to help you see that your young people learn good-grief basics (Part 1 above) as part of protecting them against inheriting the [wounds + unawareness] cycle.

Status Checks

      Back away from the details now. Pause, breathe, and reflect on why you read this guide. How do you feel - honestly - about committing time and effort to applying these good-grief ideas?

I feel __ highly motivated  __ moderately motivated  __ uninterested in applying these ideas in my life and family now.

      On a scale of one (I don't know how to grieve well) to ten (I'm knowledgeable about and very effective at mourning broken bonds), rank your ability to grieve now ___. Compare your answer here to the one at the top of this lesson. Did it change? Who just answered - your true Self or ''someone else''?

__ 3-44) Finally, take this good-grief quiz again and affirm your learnings.

You're done!


      This is the self-study guide for the third of seven online self-improvement lessons designed to help you protect your family and descendents from inheriting toxic psychological wounds + unawareness.

       Premise - Incomplete grief is widespread and unacknowledged. It contributes to major personal, family, and social problems. This Lesson's 5 parts combat that by focusing on...

  • learning basic information on bonding, losses, and healthy grief;

  • assessing yourself or someone else for incomplete grief;

  • completing any you find;

  • seeking and giving effective grieving support; and...

  • how to grow a "pro-grief" family.

      The overall goals for this Lesson are to motivate and prepare you to build a "pro-grief" family and to help break the expanding [wounds + unawareness] cycle burdening most families and our society.

Learn something about yourself - take this 1-question anonymous poll now.

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this study guide? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

  This study guide was very helpful  somewhat helpful  not helpful    

Share/Bookmark  Lesson 3 link index  /  Prior page 


 site intro  /  course outline  /  site search  /  definitions  /  chat contact