John W. James
Founder of The Grief Recovery Institute®
Co-Author of The Grief Recovery
Handbook & When Children Grieve
Co-Author of The Grief Recovery
Handbook & When Children Grieve
Where were you when I needed you?
The saddest question we ever hear is, "Where were you when I needed you?"
That's what people ask when they find out what we do in helping grievers. We're presenting helpful and accurate information on this site, at the time you need it most, with the hope that you'll never need to ask that question.
It's an honor and a sad privilege to be addressing you, knowing that each of you has recently experienced the death of someone important to you. We also know some of you are reading this because of your care and concern for someone who is confronted by the death of someone important in their life.
We bring our personal experience in dealing with the deaths of people who were important to us, and our professional know-how in helping grievers for more than 30 years. We'll help you distinguish between the "raw grief" that is your normal and natural reaction to the death, and the equally normal "unresolved grief" that relates to the unfinished emotions that are part of the physical ending of all relationships.
A basic reality for most grieving people is difficulty concentrating or focusing. With that in mind, we asked Tributes.com to print our articles in a large type font to make them easier to read. Sharing our concern for grieving people, they agreed.
From our hearts to yours,
John & Russell
Articles & Media
Am I Going Crazy?—An all-too frequent question from grievers.
“Since my mother’s death, I’ve had the experience of being in one room, deciding to go to another room to do something, and when I get there, I don’t have a clue what I’m there for. Am I going crazy?”
No, you’re not crazy. For most people, the immediate response to the awareness of the death of someone important to them is a sense of numbness. After that initial numbness wears off, the most common physiological reaction is a reduced ability to concentrate. The rest of the world goes out of focus. Nothing else is important. It is normal and natural that your entire being is centered on what happened and your relationship with the person who died.
The length of time that the reduced ability to concentrate lasts is individual and can vary from a few days to several months, and even longer. It is not a sign that there’s something wrong with you. Realistically, the fact that the emotional impact of the death of that person has altered your day-to-day routines indicates something very healthy. It would make no sense for you not to be affected by the death.
It is normal to drift out of focus in response to conscious or unconscious memories of the person who died. Please be gentle with yourself in allowing that your focus is not on the actions of life, but on your reactions to a death. If you’re at work, you can take little “grief breaks” as needed. It’s a good idea to establish a safe person at work whom you can talk to when and if you get overwhelmed. It’s also smart to have a phone pal you can call when the emotions keep you from concentrating. The breaks and chats will make you able to do the work you need to do.
Please keep in mind that it’s important to focus while driving a car. It’s not safe to drive with tears in your eyes. If need be, pull over. Allow yourself to have whatever emotions come up, and maybe call someone and talk for a while before you get back on the road.
When Your Heart Is Broken, Your Head Doesn’t Work Right
Along with not being able to concentrate, your thinking ability and judgment may be limited. That’s why grieving people are advised to be careful about making major life decisions in the aftermath of the death of someone important to them. To put it in simple terms, when your heart is broken, your head doesn’t work right. You must take care either not to make big decisions until you regain your ability to focus, or make sure you have people you trust to help you understand your choices and the consequences of what you decide.
There are other common physiological reactions to grief. Sleeping habits are often disrupted for an extended period of time. You may find yourself unable to sleep, or you may not be able to get out of bed. You can even go back and forth between those extremes. Eating patterns are also subject to confusion. You may not be able to eat at all, or you may not be able to stop. You can also ping-pong between those extremes. Sleeping and eating disruptions aren’t as common as the reduced ability to concentrate, but they can be really uncomfortable. If they happen, it also doesn’t mean you’re going crazy. It just means that your routines and habits are out of sync.
Another common grief reaction is best described as a roller coaster of emotions. It can be a wild ride, with tremendous emotional shifts. But, like concentration and the eating and sleeping issues, that roller coaster is one of the typical responses to the death of someone important to you. Don’t fight it, just go along for the ride, no matter how bumpy it might be. When it happens, it’s a good idea to call a friend, and talk about what you’re feeling. Talking about what you’re experiencing helps make sure you don’t trap your feelings inside.
Normal and Natural—Not Crazy
One of the most important things we can tell you is that the reduced ability to concentrate, the disruption of sleeping and eating patterns’ and the roller coaster of emotions are all normal and natural reactions to death. There is nothing crazy about them or you.
Those reactions usually diminish within time as you adapt to life without the person who died. But time doesn’t heal emotional wounds, nor does it complete anything that may have been left emotionally unfinished when the person died. Sometimes it’s just the feeling of wanting to have said one more “I love you and goodbye.” Sometimes it is a more complex set of communications that would include apologies, forgiveness, and significant emotional statements.
It is always helpful to take action to help you discover and complete anything that was left unfinished. Doing so will allow you to have fond memories not turn painful. It will also help you remember your person the way you knew them in life. And it will help you continue a life of meaning and value, even though it is altered by the absence of the person who died.
Above all, allow yourself to be out of rhythm. As we said, be careful when you’re driving and be cautious when making major decisions. Be gentle with yourself as you make your re-entry back into the flow of your life. But don’t judge yourself harshly because you are having any or all of the reactions we mentioned.
© 2014 Russell P. Friedman, John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute®. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this and other articles please contact The Grief Recovery Institute at email@example.com or by phone, 800-334-7606.
The Boston Marathon Bombing, The Aftermath: Loss of Life, Loss of Safety, Loss of Trust, and Loss of Innocence
April 15, 2013, the date of the Boston Marathon bombing, joins the list of dates we’d rather not remember, but we can’t forget. It takes its sad Read More »
Post-Holiday, Grief-Related Blues!
Logically, for many grieving people, the holidays are difficult enough, especially the first season after someone important to them has died. But Read More »
Not following impulses leads to unfinished emotional business—aka Unresolved Grief!
Today I feel compelled to write about a personal loss, that just happens to be one of the national obituaries currently featured on the home page of Read More »
Newtown, Connecticut—Our Grief, Because We Are The Family Of Humankind
Certain events have the power to propel us into an emotional numbness, as if a hidden thermostat inside our hearts shuts us off. The pain is too much Read More »
Veterans Day—Lest We Forget
In its day, World War One was called "The War to End All Wars." Sadly, it wasn't. WW I officially ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day Read More »
Dealing with Grief During the Holidays
Dealing with Grief During the Holidays While there are other critical dates and times that affect grieving people, the holiday season is the biggest Read More »
We Never Forget The Important People In Our Lives.
We recently received a note from a woman named Linda, who had a child die, and who interacts with other parents who’ve also experienced the death Read More »
On Crying—Part Two
In Crying—Part One, we focused on the idea that it can be dangerous and counterproductive to attach our personal ideas and beliefs to how other Read More »
On Crying—Part One
Almost everyone has some questions and confusion about crying. How much crying is enough? If I start crying, will I be able to stop? Do I have to Read More »
9/11: The Aftermath, Loss of Life, Loss of Safety, Loss of Trust, and Loss of Innocence
By Russell FriedmanSeptember 11, 2001 now lives in our language in the same emotional way as December 7, 1941 and November 22, 1963. Nearly everyone Read More »
Am I Going Crazy?—An all-too frequent question from grievers.
“Since my mother’s death, I’ve had the experience of being in one room, deciding to go to another room to do something, and when I get there, I Read More »
Father’s Day 2013 - My Dad, Babe Ruth, and the Ball That’s Still in Orbit
In the kind of emotional reviews our minds and hearts make on chronicling days like Father’s Day, we often discover a level of appreciation that Read More »
What a Difference a Day Makes—Lest We Forget!
Memorial Day as we know it today began as Decoration Day in 1866, in upstate New York, after the cessation of the Civil War. First conceived as an Read More »
Mother’s Day! Remind Me—Remind Me Not—Remind Me
In mid-April there are two things you can count on in the United States. One is the due date for filing your tax return. The other is the arrival of Read More »
BECAUSE WE ARE THE FAMILY OF HUMANKIND
BECAUSE WE ARE THE FAMILY OF HUMANKIND [March 11, 2011]At 11:15 PM on March 10th, 2011, my heart was burning and my stomach was churning. I was Read More »
Am I Paranoid, Or Are People Really Avoiding Me?
The simple answer to the question posed in the title of this article is, “No, you’re not paranoid, people really may be avoiding you.” Even Read More »
Valentine’s Day—For Many, The Most Painful Holiday
The traditional Holiday Season begins around Halloween, continues through Thanksgiving, crests with Christmas and Hanukkah, and ends with New Read More »
Our Reaction to The Tucson Tragedy – Because We Are the Family of Humankind!
Within a two year span, from February 1, 2003 to December 26, 2004, we used the title “Because We Are the Family of Humankind!” for articles we Read More »
Uh-oh, it’s that time again. Grief and the holidays
Many Grievers Wish They Could Skip The Holidays And Jump From Late October To Mid-January The holidays are approaching. A joyous time. A festive time Read More »
Stages of Grief: Are There Actual Stages Of Grief?
Is there any truth behind the idea that grief and loss recovery comes in stages?We are often asked if there are actual stages of grief or grieving. Read More »
Is It Ever Too Soon To Recover?
Conflicting opinions from a wide variety of sources confuse the question of when to begin a process of completing what was left emotionally Read More »
Why Won’t Anyone Let Me Feel Sad?
If we were forced to quantify the problems grieving people encounter, there’s no doubt the number one offense they must confront is being told that Read More »
Six Major Myths – The Short Version
There are six major myths about grief that are so close to universal that nearly everyone can relate to them. This is true not only for those of us Read More »
Do I Have to Cry To Grieve?
"My father died recently. I have been very sad, but I have not cried. Do I have to cry to grieve?"That is a question we get all the time from people Read More »
When Your Heart Is Broken, Your Head Doesn’t Work Right And Your Spirit May Not Soar
For most people, the immediate response to the death of someone important to them is a sense of numbness. After that initial numbness wears off, the Read More »
If I Start Crying Will I Be Able To Stop?
Grieving people sometimes hold back their tears based on the fear that if they start crying, they won’t be able to stop. To the best of our Read More »
Time Doesn't Heal - Actions Do
I have heard that it takes two years to get over the death of a loved one, five years to get over the death of a parent, and you never get over the Read More »
I’m Fine And Other Lies!!!
Approximately 20% of your ability to communicate is verbal, leaving about 80% as non-verbal. Non-verbal communication includes tone of voice as well Read More »
Normal and Natural reactions to the death of someone important to you.
Grief is the wide range of normal and natural reactions to the death of someone important to you. The seven most common reactions are: Read More »
If you or someone important to you wants help with grief: Look for a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist℠ in your community. The Grief Recovery Institute ® trains and mentors Certified Grief Recovery Specialists℠ throughout the United States & Canada.
Workshops & Training Schedule
The Grief Recovery Institute ® offers Certification Training programs for those who wish to help grievers.
December 2013Houston, TX - December 6 - 9, 2013
Louisville, KY - December 6 - 9, 2013
Tampa, FL - December 6 - 9, 2013
Toronto, ON - December 6 - 9, 2013
January 2014Phoenix, AZ - January 17 - 20, 2014
Los Angeles, CA - January 24 - 27, 2014
Vancouver, BC - January 24 - 27, 2014
Columbus, OH - January 24 - 27, 2014