Grief/Loss and Life Transition Recovery

by Michael Yeager         

My purpose for writing this article is to encourage therapists, clients, clergy, sponsors, parents, people in general to learn about grief recovery and aid in healing the planet.

Let me define types of loss to help broaden your understanding. Losses include any type of lifestyle change, like the changes on September 11, 2001, loss of safety, security, family, friends, and uniformity, sense of freedom of movement, safety in our airways, in our places of business. If we look at addiction and losses associated with all types of addiction i.e. alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual addiction, eating disorders, work addiction, compulsive spending or gambling, nicotine addiction, excessive exercise any behavior that runs the persons life, these losses may include, freedom of choice, will power, friends, family, career, personal freedom, body parts etc.

The affected family members losses may include, loss of freedom and choice resulting from the addict's behavior and/or their recovery, sense of safety, security, home, family, religious or spiritual convictions etc. Other losses include going to jail or getting out of jail. Then there are the losses associated with (trauma, abuse, incest, rape, war and its aftermath), relapse, death, separation, divorce, loss of innocence due to abuse/trauma, loss of sense of self, loss of hope, trust, safety, loss of self-respect, self-esteem, job changes for the better or worse, moves, amputations, onset of terminal disease, (natural loss of children because they grow up, move out, get married, divorce, become addicted, separate from family), death of a pet, loss of a dream or dreams, going to school, graduation from school, completion of a goal or not completing the goal the list goes on and on.

Many of my clients come to me after having had been in therapy for a long time, with other therapists or in some type of 12 step program, but these therapists and programs did not seem to have a handle on assisting them in releasing and letting go of the pain in their past. I began studying this powerful natural process for releasing pain when I was working with incest survivors, survivors of other trauma, addiction, and people in 12 step programs. My clients were reporting that they did not seem to have an effective method of resolving their issues. They had uncovered the painful memories and seemed to be stuck in the anger or depression over the events. They were still in relationship with their historical reaction to the event. Albert Ellis in his Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy approach states that life events have specific meaning to the one the event happened to but by themselves the events have no meaning. So when dealing with grievers I maintain I have no idea how they internalized the event and attempt to create a safe space for them to explore their own meaning. This process opens up the possibility for them to find out who they are now in relationship to the event. Healing allows them to change this relationship to the past event. I've adopted for my purposes what Terry Kellogg says in his book Broken Toys Broken Dreams the following "We acknowledge that a loss or painful event has occurred, We acknowledge that we have feelings about the event, We then embrace these feelings, We then share these feelings, We now move to acceptance and forgiveness, We are now free to decide what type of relationship we are going to have with the event and the people involved in the event."

I'll begin with a definition I got from John James in the Grief Recovery Handbook. "Grief is the conflicting mass of human emotions that occurs when you reach out to someone or something that has been there for you and you reach out one last time and they or it are no longer there."

Friends, ministers, counselors etc. will be most helpful if they support the griever's reality and not try to excuse it or make it go away. Grievers are not broken they just need a safe environment to tell their truth without judgment. Some helpful communication skills that give the griever freedom to express their feelings are statements like "I have no idea how it feels, Could you tell me about it", "What happened", "I can't imagine how painful it must be", "What was your relationship with ________ like". Open-ended questions allow the griever to express their feelings. Hurtful or unhelpful comments like, "Get a hold of your self" "You can't fall apart", "Keep a stiff upper lip", You're on your pity pot", "Be strong for the children", "At least you had them this long" or if a child died "be grateful that you can have other children" create many problems and need to be avoided at all costs.

In order for there to be a successful recovery the griever needs to be aware of some of their core beliefs that block their recovery. These blocks tend to be established in childhood and persist into adulthood. Myths like grieve alone, just give it time (nothing heals in time, time does not heal the wound, it's what is done with time that produces the healing.) don't trust your feelings, wanting things to be different, better or more, stop the grief process and need to be recognized, confronted and changed before the griever can move through their healing process.

The healing process involves the following steps:

  • Awareness of ones learned blocks to expressing feelings associated with loss

  • Acceptance of at least partial responsibility for any undelivered Communications

  • Noticing, identifying, and expressing any undelivered communications i.e.: anger, sadness, hurt, what you want the person or event to take with them or it etc.

  • Noticing, identifying, expressing any undelivered recovery communications i.e.: apology, amends, thank you, ask the person or event what characteristics or personality traits that belonged to them you want to keep with you etc.

  • Saying goodbye to the pain associated with the memory of the lost

Then acknowledging the gifts of life or strengths you have today because the event or relationship happened just the way it did (the other side of the coin), remember you only get to this side as a result of going through the above steps.

Recovery means choosing a new path. The first thing needed is a commitment to recover. As the griever moves to resolve their losses it's helpful that they do not involve themselves in any short term energy releasing behaviors i.e.: sleep, addictive behaviors, isolation, excessive work, illness, accidents etc. These STERBS block the feeling associated with the loss. Feelings are necessary for healing. The griever can then become aware of any undelivered communications and express them. The final step is saying goodbye to the pain associated with the remembrance of the loss. Grievers, their friends and loved ones need to realize that grief is a normal natural reaction to loss. Grief is pain with a purpose.

The work I've done with Thought Field Therapy, Healing Touch and Mind/Body Therapy has helped me to assist clients to heal at an energy level as well as at a cognitive level. By utilizing these energy based concepts I've been able to assist clients release pain at a core level. Working with the Chakra's and Meridian Points, discovered thousands of years ago, helps clients experience a total completion of the pain. This enables them to decide for themselves, in light of the new freedom experienced as a result of this process, who they are now in relationship to the pain. It's not about forgetting, the griever is empowered to put the memory of the loss relationship in a special place in their heart to revisit whenever they want and gain from the relationship all the gifts it holds for them.

Healing means letting go of the pain associated with memories of the past, with how we interpreted the events, so we can truly give up survivor skills and incorporate vibrant living skills instead.

I encourage people interested in this process to learn more. Visit my website for information on the Grief Recovery Certification course offered to health care professionals.

Michael Yeager B.A., LCDC, CGRC, C.Ht, RMT, CAS has been assisting people grieve their losses since 1973. He is a Certified Grief Recovery Counselor, Hypnotherapist, AcuDetox Specialist, Reiki Master/Teacher, Healing Touch, Touch for Health, Thought Field Therapy, Mind/Body Therapy Practitioner, Silva Graduate, Registered Massage Therapist, Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, Certified Chemical Dependency Counselor, Compulsive Gambling Counselor, Certified Prevention Specialists, in private practice at Whole Person Healing Center, P.O. Box 980214, Houston, Texas 77098 - 800-365-5950 and



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