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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.
This article assumes you're familiar with...
the intro to this nonprofit web
site and the premises underlying it
My experience with over 1,000 average therapy clients over 30 years is
that regardless of
age, life experience, and education, average
know what they need to know about normal
losses, and healthy
That means they (you) don't know that they need to
research questions like
those below; so they and their family members are vulnerable to...
relationships and environments that
hinder effective mourning, and...
the toxic personal and relationship
effects of incomplete grief (Q8 below)
Status check - see which of these describes you now:
know [ nothing / a little / a moderate amount / a LOT ] about bonding,
losses, and healthy mourning now. Test your answer by viewing this
about good-grief basics:
This brief YouTube video provides perspective on what you're about to read.
video mentions eight self-study lessons in this self-improvement site. I've reduced that to seven.
Questions you should ask about healthy grieving
Underlined links will jump to an answer on this page or open a new window.
Other links will open an informatiional popup . Before following any links, try answering each question out loud. See how
many you get "right."
1)Why do typical adults need to know about
bonding, losses, and mourning?
2) How can I tell if I or other family members
need to learn anything about grieving?
Why do typical family adults need to know about
bonding, losses, and mourning?
starting in infancy, they automatically form
(emotional attachments) to special people and other things throughout
their lives, and...
these bonds break, by choice or chance,
significant losses aren't well-grieved, adults
and kids risk serious psychological, relationship, and physical
problems (Q8 below) thruout their lives.
Typical adults raised in
("dysfunctional") childhoods were not taught how to grieve well, and
develop toxic beliefs and
that hinder healthy mourning. This is amplified by our
pleasure-seeking media and culture, which trivializes the need for good-grief
My clinical research since 1979 suggests that most Americans come from
low-nurturance childhoods, and don't (want to) know that, or what it
International comments on the YouTube videos augmenting this Web site
suggest low family nurturance is common in most other cultures
Unless parents seek qualified education about losses and healthy grief, they usually
can't form pro-grief families and prepare their descendents to be self-aware "good grievers."
This relentlessly promotes the unseen
of wounds and
that is spreading and stressing many families and global societies. Could
this apply to your family and descendents?
How can I tell if I or other family members
need to learn anything about grieving?
undistracted and take this good-grief quiz. Then imagine how your other
family adults and older kids would respond to it, and whether they need to
If they do, they
probably won't know it until you alert them. Most people, including many
mental-health professionals, don't know they need to ask the questions you're
reading here for their and their kids' well-being. If relatives are
interested in learning, refer them to online Lesson 3 here (http://sfhelp.org/grief/guide3.htm.
Q3) What do our family adults
need to know about
Goodgrief starts with
understanding the range of things healthy kids and adults
bond with (Q4 below). Can you name them?
In this Web site, bondingmeans "automatically forming a psychological / spiritual
'connection' with, interest in, and 'caring about' a physical or invisible
thing." Your bonds exist because they provide significant pleasure
and/or emotional, physical, and/or spiritual comforts -
i.e. your bonds help to fill primary needs.
All normal infants are born with (a)
(discomforts) and (b) the instinctive ability to form attachments (bonds),
starting with their primary caregivers.
Needing someone or something
is not the same as bonding.
Kids raised in very
low-nurturance families may be unable to form genuine bonds. This will
stress them and
their key relationships unless they
hit true bottom
(often in mid-life) and commit to psychological-wound
The clinical name for an inability to bond is
Attachment Disorder (RAD). Current mental-health professionals and
most troubled adults seem unaware of this tragic condition, what it
means, how to reduce and
prevent it, and what to do about it.
Your and your kids' early
environments nurtured or hindered your natural abilities to bond and to
grieve. If you can bond, you may grieve well if you
have internal and environmental
to do so. These permissions will significantly improve or degrade your
relationships, achievements, and health until you die.
Q4) What do
our family adults need to know about losses (broken bonds)?
their lives, typical adults (like you) and kids who can
need to (eventually) grieve lost attachments to prized
physical things (people,
animals, plants, homes, places, mementos, etc.) and a wide range of
Most people learn to automatically associate grief with
death. They (you?) aren't aware of the wide range of things we all
bond with and must eventually say "goodbye" to across our years. Such
unawareness can promote incomplete grief in average people and families.
That can be freed up by
self-motivated education (Lesson 3), and
patient, courageous personal
how long does it take, and when is it "done?"
or mourning is an instinctive internal processtriggered
by broken bonds (losses). The process occurs on two or three
simultaneous levels: mental + emotional + (for some people) spiritual. Each level has an
sequence of normal phases.
Moving through the phases eventually
produces stable acceptance of key losses and their impacts on each level. This
allows grievers to gradually refocus their life energy and develop selective new
psychological wounds and a
(low nurturance) environment don't
How long the loss-acceptance process takes depends on...
it can take days
to years to reach stable acceptance of losses and their impacts on all three
grief levels. In some cases, mourning gets "stuck," and remains incomplete
unless the mourner intentionally frees it up.
To grow a
living by a healthy grieving
your members need to be consistently
guided by their
(Lesson 1), and to clearly understand good-grief basics
(Lesson 3), Intentionally
learning the basics and modeling and teaching them to your kids is a
powerful way to help guard future generations from
toxic [wounds + unawareness].
Q6) What are family
anger and "good-grief"
policies, and why are they vital?
A policy is a set of rules (shoulds,
oughts, musts, have-to's, etc) and right-wrong, good-bad values and
guidelines about how to do something. All kids and adults evolve
semi-conscious policies about a wide range of private and social
behaviors (e.g. grooming, hygiene, dressing, eating, worshipping, sex,
socializing, asserting, etc.) to guide them in private and social
Premise - all families (like yours) evolve and live by
policies about (a) bonding and (b) grieving - i.e. adapting to broken
bonds (losses). These policies always include unspoken rules about
feeling and expressing significant shock, confusion,
anger, depression, and
Can you describe your personal and family policies about each of these?
The personal and family effects
from these combined policies range from
wholistically healthy to
Depending on their mourning policies and behaviors, families
and relatri8onshgips range
from "pro-grief" (encouraging healthy three-level mourning in
all members) to "anti-grief"
(hindering or blocking healthy grief). Pro-grief
(high nurturance) families consistently promote genuine
(encouragements) to grieve well to all adults and kids. Does this
describe your family?
Note that "No
grieving policy" is a policy.
this sample family grieving
for more perspective. Is there anything preventing your family members
from evolving and using such a
policy? Lesson 3
in this non-profit Web site focuses on healthy personal
and family grief
the impacts of
these losses on them and key others;
And typical grievers need....
3) Confidencein surviving
significant losses and their impacts; and...
4) Steady personal and family
commitment to healthy grieving;
inner and outer permissions to
(a) feel and (b)express
anger, and sadness.
These permissions come from a family's above (usually unspoken)
grieving polices (Q6 above), and....
6) Motivation to meditate, sort out,
and move through the phases of each grieving level at their own pace; and
7) Time, compassion, encouragement,
forgiveness, patience, and faith in the normal grieving process.
Absence of some
or all of these
requisites can slow or block effective mourning, causing significant health
and relationship problems (Q8
So - family adults should help each other with
Lesson 3 if (a) their
true Selves are solidly
in charge and
(b) they're progressing on reducing any adult-teamwork
barriers. If these aren't
true, work patiently together on
Q8) When grief gets slowed or blocked
on any level, what can happen?
There can be
a group of significant effects in typical adults and kids, like:
trouble forming and/or maintaining stable,
healthy relationships - tho the real cause may be significant psychological wounds; and...
they can't control, and feel ashamed, guilty, and anxious about that. Such outbursts
concern and/or scare kids and adults close to the griever, which cause
secondary relationship stresses and reactions. Such outbursts are usually
caused by a dominant
And incomplete grief can...
promote or increase one or more self-soothing
concentrating and/or sleeping; and/or...
promote recurring bouts of
''depression'' and reduce zest for living;
a range of physiological problems (e.g. obesity) and possible
other incomplete-grief symptoms
combine to cause webs of problems in the griever's
personality subselves and family
These compound everyone's stress, and often obscure the primary
problems: psychological wounds + unawareness + an anti-grief
Q10)What can adults do to
support a family (or any) griever
Awareadults can do many things to help each other and their kids
reach full acceptance of their losses. The key first steps are to (a)
family adults thoroughly for false-self
actions - i.e. help each other do
Lesson 1 over time.
As you do, use
to intentionally grow a pro-grief family environment! See
this for grief-support
Is there any connection between a person's childhood and their
ability to grieve well?
Yes, there are at least two potential links. The first is the family
nurturance-level a child experiences in her or his
years. The less effectively a child's daily
and developmental needs are filled ("low nurturance"), the more likely s/he will
false selves and
wounds. These wounds can covertly hinder
healthy bonding and grieving by...
denying or minimizing
losses and/or their
(a) numbing or minimizing grief
anger and sadness; and/or (b) not
expressing grief emotions - e.g. not
venting, raging, and/or
unconsciously associating healthy
grief feelings and behaviors with "weakness," "being a baby," and "badness"
- i.e. misplaced
shame and guilts. And
wounds can hinder grief by...
asserting normal mourning
needs (e.g. "I
need to be alone."), including not asking for appropriate
I have a hug?").
second potential childhood <> grieving link is
neglected child growing...
grieving - e.g. "Crying is for sissies"; "Stop
whining and feeling sorry for yourself, and get on with your life;"
and "You only grieve when somebody dies,"
observing unhealthy grief
wounded, unaware caregivers; For example...
seeing family adults ignore, block,
minimize, intellectualize, avoid, or scorn major losses (broken bonds) and their impacts; and...
seeing them honestly expressing their grief-feelings or...
gender have anything to do with
Probably. In their
thought-provoking book Brain Sex - the real difference between men and women, biogeneticist Anne Moirand
Jesselpropose that typical male brains and female brains..
are "wired" differently, and often react to
the environment very differently; and...
may reside in a male or female
This suggests that typical female
brains (vs. female persons)
are more emotionally sensitive and reactive to life changes (e.g. losses), and
may feel and express grief emotions more readily and fully than male
brains. Female brains may need more
emotional processing (like venting) and less
mental processing to
reach stable acceptance of significant losses and their impacts.
In her interesting book "You
Just Don't Understand - Women and Men in Conversation,"
Deborah Tannen describes common differences in the way males and females
communicate. This suggests that the way they vent and express
grief thoughts, emotions, and needs will often vary significantly.
Implication: your personal and family good-grief
policies should include not expecting the
male brains in your family to grieve the way your members' female brains
do, and vice versa. Can you identify which members have which
brains (starting with you)? Notice where your thoughts go now...
When do grievers need to work
with a counselor or therapist and/or join a grief-support group?
Mourning significant broken bonds may be hindered or blocked by
+ ignorance of grieving basics +
organic and anti-grief
factors. The mix of
these may warrant
Some clinicians are certified
to help people and families grieve well. It's good to
learn and use practical selection criteria, rather than trusting
uninformed referrals. No matter what their credentials,
beware a counselor who quickly prescribes mood-control
medication as the solution to incomplete-grief symptoms.
Drugs may relieve the
symptoms of incomplete
grief (frequent misdiagnosis:
"depression") but inhibit healthy [ mental +
emotional + spiritual ] mourning.Mood-control medication does not promote healthy
have learned and
applied the ideas in
make no progress mourning, then...
I suggest shopping for a
qualified grief counselor. If you're unsure whether you have incomplete grief, seek a professional
evaluation. Ask local mental-health agencies and hospitals for referrals, and
try a Web search on "grief counselors."
Don't expect any you find to know how personality subselves and
psychological wounds affect bonding and grieving. They can still be very
this article to fit grief
seek an effective
grief-support group locally or online. Well-run groups can
facilitate moving through the levels and phases of mourning, but
probably can't offer informed help on assessing
and freeing blocked grief.
Such groups are often for people surviving the death of a loved one,
Friends) and/or family loss from divorce (e.g.
Rainbows and Kaleidoscope). They
may or may not include professional guidance and participation.
Learning about and
incomplete grief is specially important for (a) adults in
and (b) courtship partners considering joining or forming a stepfamily.
It may also be appropriate for members of families with a loved
one in prolonged absence, like jail or work in another country.
How can our family adults help our children become
Grow a pro-grief home and family by (a)
your true Selves to guide you all, and (b) studying, modeling, and
teaching the basics in
Lesson 3. In
particular, invest time in composing healthy family
policies. Option - use this good-grief quiz and these
as a guide to what your kids should learn.
Most people accept that "divorce causes losses (broken bonds)" for all
family members. Few people realize that
forming or joining a stepfamily
also causes sets of major
for all adults and kids - including co-parenting ex mates and
three or more sets of relatives.
Typical adults in divorcing families and
stepfamilies should intentionally form and live by healthy
personal and family grieving policies
Research suggests that the intensity of
loss-trauma from family separation and divorce is among the
of human stresses, including natural disasters, the death of a
loved one, and social chaos.
In their book Second Chances,
Psychologist Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee concluded from
studying a group of average Californian divorcing families over 10
years that it may some kids or adults over a decade to fully
grieve (accept) these losses.
new US stepfamilies
follow the divorce of one or both new mates. The others
follow the death of a former spouse. Sociologists estimate that
average divorcing American adults re/marry within 7-10 years. which suggests
they, their ex mate, and any minor or grown kids may not have fully
grieved their respective losses when new partner say "I do - again."
if so, they risk (a)
adding new losses to old ones
and (b) some family members becoming
Even if they aren't, these compound losses may hinder or block
healthy bonding between some new stepfamily members - e.g. stepkids
and new stepparents, and/ or stepsiblings.
co-parents cohabiting cause major new losses for most
stepfamily members, including stepkids' "other bioparent," if living
and active in their lives.
The multi-year biofamily-merger process
in new stepfamilies requires all stepfamily members to make major
changes in up to
of family-system elements. Some or many of these changes may involve
significant concurrent broken bonds - i.e. losses.
My clinical research since 1981 suggests
that most US divorcing and stepfamily adults
survivors of low-nurturance childhoods.
They seem to be more prone to incomplete grieving than people
from higher-nurturance early years.
If a needy divorcing parent chooses a new partner before
s/he and all kids and their other bioparent have grieved
their losses well enough, adding a web of new stepfamily
losses (Q16 below) may overwhelm one or more kids or adults.
This is one of many reasons impatient courting co-parents
need to soberly evaluate "Is this the right
time to re/commit?"
Lessons in this Web site provide practical knowledge and options
for divorcing and new-stepfamily adults that can help assess and manage
healthy grief among all adults and kids.
clinical and classroom experience with hundreds
of typical US couples, few of them knew what you
just read. This leaves such couples and their kids vulnerable to significant
incomplete grief and three or
four other hazards.
Q16)What do typical
adults and kids lose from
stepfamily re/marriage and
from childhood to associate marriage and
"setting up housekeeping" with happiness, hope, new opportunities, and gains
Shifting your identity from "single" to
"committed / married," and "moving in together" causes some of those prizes
and a web of complex changes.
Many physical and invisiblechanges
cause minor to major losses - broken bonds. Our pleasure-seeking,
over-stimulating culture tends to minimize
or ignore these, which promotes slowed or blocked grief in homes and families
most adults and kids, new-stepfamily losses are
more numerous and complex than those they experienced from divorce or death
(Q4). Study this
summary to appreciate how many things new stepfamily co-parents and kids
must change and/or grieve as they merge their
summary as an adult, and then reread it as each child in your life;
thoughtfully review these checklists of
invisible things that kids
and adults of average divorcing-families and stepfamilies lose as
they slowly reorganize and stabilize their
family systems over