We both know that there are lots of grief coaches and therapists and others who claim they can help you. So why would you think I can do a better job than they? How am I special? Why would you trust me?
Who I Am and Why I Became a Grief Therapist
My Daddy died in 1959, when I was only 12 years old. Nobody in the family would tell me and my siblings the cause of death, and to this day, we are still not certain. My Mom and her family didn’t even let me or my sister and brother go to the funeral. I think they tried to protect us from the pain they themselves were feeling, but it did them—and us—no good.
Daddy’s death affected me so much and hurt me so badly that I simply shut down my emotions, refusing to deal with it or even talk about it. It took me thirty years to say the word “Daddy” again. I never want any kid or adult to go through what I went through. Death is a normal part of life, and we need to learn to talk about it so we can deal with it. Death is sad, but it doesn’t have to be scary.
I realized much later in my life that people were not being taught how to recover from grief, or that recovery was even possible. We were only being taught how to attempt to cope with our loss, and that most of the time those coping attempts failed.
How come we never learned the right way to deal with death?
Because nobody really understands anything about death. Oh, we know what the doctors tell us about the human body and what happens when illness strikes. But we have no idea what happens to that part of us that makes us who we are. I call that part of us the soul, and where that soul goes after we die is a total mystery. When people don’t know, they create all kinds of answers. But the mystery of death and loss is still there, so we need to talk more about it.
Unbeknownst to me, the day my Daddy died was the day I became a grief therapist. Of course I didn’t know it at the time, but you could call me a poster boy for grief and grieving. I have personally “been there,” so to speak, and being there has helped me help you with your own grief and grieving.
My Grief and Grieving Coaching
I have been a grief therapist for over thirty five years, and yet I treat each client as if s/he were my first. I teach people how to heal from the pain of loss (this is called grieving), how to move forward in their lives to create joy and happiness when they thought that was no longer possible.
Other Systems for Coping with Loss
Different therapists see grief and grieving differently. In her groundbreaking 1969 book On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross created what she called “the five stages of grief” which have become the mantra for nearly all grief therapists: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
I disagree with her list, for several reasons. First, as the author Ruth Davis Konigsberg claims in her recently-published (2011) book The Truth About Grief, some grievers go through no stages at all, they just get better without any type of grief counseling. Most grievers, she adds, are resilient enough to get through their grief on their own. So perhaps the notion of stages of grief no longer applies.
In addition, Kubler-Ross’ book covers only up to dealing with our own death, not the impending death of those we love. So they are lacking and unhelpful in helping us deal with the loss of others.
Lastly, Kubler-Ross’ stages do not go far enough for me. Even assuming we apply those stages to the loss of others in our lives, she ends with the calm acceptance of the death, but goes no further. I believe that there is much to learn after her stage of acceptance, including joy, growth and wisdom, legacy and a new life.
My System for Coping with Loss
As I see the grief and grieving process, there are three steps (you may call them grief-tasks if that will make it easier):
- Accepting Your Loss: The loss itself and the natural response of physical and emotional pain, shock, anger and fear, that follows. I call this stage “Laying Them Gently Down.”
- Coping With Your Loss: This includes ritual, wandering, forgiveness and faith. I call this stage “And God Created Hope.”
- Embracing Your New Life: Letting go of grief and moving forward to a life filled with joy and celebration. I call this stage “From Mourning to Morning.”
Each stage has its own identity, each stage has its own particularity, and each stage is part of the natural response to loss. I will teach you about all these stages/tasks, so that at the end of the process, you will feel better than you ever thought you could. You will need to move through all three stages in order to properly heal from your loss. By the end of the process, I will restore your hope, so that you may live the rest of your life with happiness.
Grief and Grieving Advice You Won’t Find Anywhere Else
Mel’s First Law
We only learn anything about ourselves by how we respond to the losses in our lives. And if we do not respond to those losses, that too is a response which will paralyze us for years to come. We only learn through loss. Loss triggers opportunity for personal growth and life lessons.
Mel’s Second Law
Loss triggers nearly every opportunity for personal growth and life lessons. Loss thus becomes our teacher.
Mel’s Third Law
Society does not teach us the proper ways to deal with, or recover from, loss. Society focuses on everything having to do with how to acquire things, including people. Unfortunately society comes up short when it comes to the messages it sends out regarding losing someone important.
Here are two examples of that…
- What is the worst thing others do when they find out someone has died? They act as if nothing has happened, pretend that we’re okay when we’re not, not talk about our feelings and refuse to get help.
- What are some of the worst things people say to you after they find out someone has died?
“I know just how you feel”
“It was for the best.”
“Don’t worry, there are more fish in the sea”
“God needed her more than you did”
“Just focus on the living”
“You have to be strong for everyone else”
“You’re the man of the house now”
“Don’t talk about it”
“Don’t cry about it”
“Aren’t you over that yet?”
No one says these to us because they want to hurt or upset us; on the contrary, they say these things because they want to comfort us. It’s not their fault, they just don’t know any better, no one has ever taught them how to truly be comforting.
What should you do when you find out about the death of a friend’s loved one?
Give them a hug and tell them us how sorry you are. Then you should tell a story about the one who died. Show your friend/relative that you care, and that you are someone who can listen to their stories and feelings without feeling embarrassed or anxious. Since everyone grieves differently, instead of telling them what you think they need, ask them what they need. They will tell you, then give them what they need. That is the sign of a true and caring friend. And most all, DO NOT say any of the phrases you read above.
Want a free 20-minute consultation? Contact me and we’ll see how I can help you move forward!