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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 on healthy
grieving basics so they can spot and complete unfinished mourning and evolve
pro-grief relationships and families.
This brief YouTube video provides context for what you're about to read:
Typical survivors of childhood trauma (Grown Wounded Children - GWCs) never
learned these basics, and risk psychological, physical, and relationship
problems from incomplete mourning.
This article assumes you're familiar with...
intro to this nonprofit web site and the premises underlying it
This article overviews two of seven
requisites for healthy mourning:
(a) personal attitudes and beliefs ("inner
permission") and (b) consistent grief-support from other people ("outer
Permission to Grieve
for a moment on your definition of "permission." Illustrate your definition
by identifying several things you "aren't permitted" to do now (e.g. "I
can't drive past stop signs without risking a traffic ticket").
Then identify several things you are currentlypermitted to do ("I
can drive ahead when the light is green.")
Permissions come from some
authority's (a) rules [should (not)s,
ought (not)s, can(not)s, have to's, and must (not)s],
and from (b) consequences for
following or breaking their rules.
Accepting and adjusting well to the impacts of life
(broken bonds) depends partly on having stable inner permission to
process grief on mental, emotional, and perhaps spiritual
levels.Our conscious and unconscious
rules about feeling and
expressing strong emotions help or
hinder our vital mourning process.
These rules can be called a
grief policy. We
each unconsciously form our grief policy early, mostly from observing family
adults, teachers, friends, hero/ines, and the media.
Our feel-good, frenetic Western culture
and hyper-stimulating media don't promote personal and family
- in general, and of
our values about mourning. So most people (like you?) seldom
evaluate and discuss their grieving policies or teach the
kids in their lives to grieve well. Yet our attitudes and beliefs powerfully
loss-related feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.
permission to grieve well is firmly believing something like this:
"When I lose something I value, it is healthy, safe,
and good for me to...
identify and admit (vs. deny) my significant losses (broken bonds),
fully feel and
express my shock,
confusion, anger, and sadness; and to
talk about my losses and
as often as I need to;
And it's healthy for me to...
identify and evolve clear answers to my
questions about my losses and their personal and family effects,
without significant anxiety,
an adult or child believes something different [e.g. "Its not necessary,
safe, or acceptable now for me to (do these things.)"],
healthy inner permission to mourn well, and risk the
of incomplete grief.
Inner mourning permissions can be
conditional - e.g. "it's OK for me to get angry, but not OK to cry" or vice versa; or
"it's OK to cry, but only (alone / at night / in the car /...)"; or
"grieving is women's work"; or "It's proper to feel these things,
but I selfishly burden others if I show my feelings."
Reflect: as a child, what did you see your key
caregivers (parents, key relatives, teachers, older sibs, clergy) do about
acknowledging and mourning significant losses? What rules and
values did you inherit about
feeling and expressing
the full range of normal emotions?
Did the adults who raised you promote healthy grief
completion mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? How do you
if you were discouraged from grieving
a child, you can identify and replace old inhibitions with
healthier beliefs and behaviors. You can also intentionally
teach young people in your life to (a) have guilt-free inner permission to
grieve well, and to (b) empathically help others do the same. Not doing
passes on toxic
to future generations.
Check: choose a
quiet, undistracted state and place, and meditate and write down your key beliefs about...
Then reflect on what the young people in
your life have been taught about how to
mourn well. If you postpone or avoid this, or try this and
"can't think of anything," what does that
mean? This exercise
is about growing your awareness, not about blame or shame!
We just explored half of a vital requisite for healthy mourning -
inner permissions to grieve well. The other half is...
Kids or adults with
healthy inner permissions to grieve well may still be blocked from mourning
by key people around them. If such people
encouragehealthy multi-level grief, they give "outer permission"
(support) for it. There are many ways to do this.
traits of a good-grief supporter. Then decide (a) if you need to edit them, and (b) if you and/or other family
members provide them consistently to grieving adults and kids. Providing effective
grieving support (permissions) can be a challenge if we're...
unaware of healthy-grieving basics (Lesson 3), and/or
quality of our supporting other mourners (ineffective > effective) reflects
(a) who rules our
(b) our ruling-subselves' current
and (c) our semi-conscious personal and family grieving policies.
Do you generally encourage healthy
three-level grief in other family members and supporters?
Would adults and kids who know you well say you do? Have you ever been consistently
comforted by a grief-supporter? Remember what it felt like, over time. That's
experiencing full outer "permission" to mourn well.
People who lack some or many of the
traits often unintentionally hinder healthy
mourning. Their ruling subselves
may be fearful, shamed, needy, and ignorant. Their subselves will often
discount or deny this
(and their denial) to
themselves and others to avoid
and social conflict and stress.
Such people are usually
Grown Wounded Children (GWCs), not"bad" people. Most
GWCs have survived significant childhood
neglect, fear, confusion, loneliness, and
pain. They can be
blunt or subtle about withholding permission to mourn. Some are very clear:
"Stop being such a wimp!"
"Jeez - get on with your life!"
" 'Morning, Captain
"What's the big deal?"
"Isn't Jean great? Nothing
gets her down!"
"Aren't you over moping
"C'mon, cheer up - it
could be a lot worse. Look at Georges situation" "
At other times, their discouragement
comes via a disapproving glance, a silence, a sigh, a turn of the head, an overdue phone call, or
a reproving or sarcastic voice tone. Some dependent people will block
another's grief because they (unconsciously) fear the Loser will "collapse"
and won't be there to lean on. Some people with misty personal boundaries deeply feel
others' emotions, and dread feeling overwhelmed if they let others fully
express their grief.
Children of divorce can unconsciously
hinder a parent's mourning in order to (a) save their cherished dream of parental reunion,
and/or to (b) protect the
parent from feared "collapse." Stressed single parents may covertly
discourage a child's grieving, fearing (a) intense guilt and remorse, and/or
(b) the child's "collapse."
An elderly or
infirm parent can fear loss of support because of "probable" emotional collapse
of their newly-divorced or widowed adult child. They can hinder their adult child's grief by
increasing their calls for attention. All such blockers lack solid confidence in their own
- and/or their losers - ability to survive griefs intensities.
Kids learn how to mourn from their family, friends, church, school, community, nation, and
music, and fantasy heroes can powerfully model or inhibit good grieving for kids and
teens. Do the Chicago Bears, Ninja Turtles, Barbie, GI Joe, Batman, Madonna, Santa Claus,
Captain Kirk, Led Zeppelin, Jesus, or the Masters of the Universe have losses? Obsess and
cry? Rage? Talk about their broken
bonds and what they mean? Get deeply sad and
depressed? Seek counseling?
are your hero/ines and mentors, and what grieving permissions have
given or withheld from you, your partner/s, and/or your kids?
cultural values are
important factors too.
Some British, Scandinavian, Oriental, Native American, African,
and Central European cultures prize stoicism- at least among males. Other
Mediterranean, Latin, Arabic, and Indian groups expect males to feel and
intensely and spontaneously. Some "permit" showing anger, but not weeping. Some
the reverse. Some also inhibit kids and/or females from feeling and/or
expressing strong emotions.
culture/s do you identify with? Do you know what ethnictraditions
are shaping your and your kids' grieving policies and behaviors? Can your
adults and kids discuss this
Getting consistent outer grieving
support ("permission") can be hard for average
and stepfamily grievers.
Typical stepfamilies have more members than typical intact biofamilies, and three or more sets of ancestral
and cultural customs to
merge (vs. two) about feeling and expressing
shock, confusion, rage and anguish. These
biofamily's tradition may be "Boys grieve alone, and real men don't
the new partner's ancestors taught "Males who
cry and mourn openly
are strong and healthy." Living with new people can impede healthy grieving because full
trust in their acceptance and approval hasn't stabilized yet.
Paradoxically, close relatives and friends may not
provide stable outer permissions to grieve well. If they (a) have a high stake in the
mourner's quick recovery, (b) don't understand the grief process, and/or
(c) carry strong
biases about divorce, death, and stepfamily cohabiting and mergers, they can
Some wounded, unaware clergy can
accidentally discount grief feelings by urging exclusive focus on humility,
piety, and gratitude for God's blessings,
rather than empathically affirming and patiently encouraging multi-level
Each response reflects the clergyperson's personal and denominational
grieving policies and priorities.
Grief support groups (like
Rainbows, and Kaleidoscope); (some)
divorce-recovery groups; and qualified therapists
can provide more objective and effective support. If you or a loved one have
"It's OK to grieve well" inner permission, and get "not OK"
outer messages from key other people (or vice versa), confusion and stress can be high -
specially without clear awareness of this conflict. Do you know anyone
with such stress?
If such a "someone" is you
or a dear child, you have clear choices:
do nothing, or...
and endure the toxic personal and family
of incomplete grief, or...
accept the wholistic
of grieving well and intentionally learn and apply good-grief basics, and...
supporters who providegenuine outer permissions to mourn well on all levels.
36 years' clinical research, I believe that
incomplete grief in kids and adults is one of four or five
for major family stress and psychological and legal divorce.Do you
Do your other family adults and supporters?
This article proposes that personal and family permissions are
someone's rules and consequences that define acceptable social attitudes,
behaviors, and boundaries.
in this nonprofit educational Web site proposes that
for healthy personal and family mourning is well-informed inner and outer
permissions to grieve.
The article explains and illustrates inner and outer permissions. It proposes that widespread psychological
and ignorance of healthy grieving basics commonly
hinder these vital permissions and healthy personal and family grieving
policies. The tragic - preventable - result is the toxic
effects of incomplete grief in our families and
Implication - an essential safeguard for every adult
(like you) is to (a) study Lessons 1-3 here, (b) honestly assess
the health of their personal and family
grieving policies and permissions, and (c) check honestly
of incomplete grief. Unwillingness to do this is a form of self
and family neglect,
and probably indicates the protective denial
of well-meaning false
Are you motivated to take these three steps now?
Encourage your family adults
to study Lesson 3, and discuss these questions about bonding. losses, and healthy grieving
Pause, breathe, and recall why you read this article. Did you get
what you needed? If so, what do you need now? If not - what
do you need? Is there anyone you want to
discuss these ideas with? Who's answering these
questions - your wise resident