Jump to the following topics:
- What is grief?
constructive and destructive aspects of grief.
- Grief occurs in stages.
- Techniques for
What is grief? It is the process by
which we release something from our life. This is a healing process.
We usually associate grief with the death of a loved person, but
grief occurs to a lesser degree whenever there is an ending to any
experience; for example, there might be a breakup of a
relationship, a project which failed or which disappointed us, the
retirement or firing from a job, the loss of a hope for a
particular thing, the ending of a pleasant experience (e.g., a party
or a picnic), or even the ending of an unpleasant experience
(if we have become attached to an aspect of the experience).
constructive and destructive aspects of grief.
- The constructive aspects of grief.
The destructive aspects of grief.
- Grief allows us to release something which is no longer in
our life. Thus, we can move on to the next stage, with its new
- Grief forces us to confront the fact that we will die
someday. This awareness can add depth and meaning to our
everyday existence, and it can compel us to evaluate our values
so we are focused on significant activities in our short
- Grief is painful. The pain occurs because we have lost
something which was the recipient of our love. "Love" is our
subjective experience of the flow of spiritual substance from
one person to another person (i.e., one soul to another soul).
When the recipient disappears, the flow has nowhere to go;
therefore, we must shut off that flow (temporarily, until we
find another recipient). The shutting-off of this precious flow
causes the intense pain of grief (and of the related phenomenon
of "heartbreak" in a relationship).
- We might fail to complete the grief process. Thus, we have
unresolved archetypal-field elements (e.g., the emotional
energy of anger) which will linger within us, influencing us in
our future life; for example, the unresolved anger will cast
that anger into our general experience of life.
Grief occurs in stages.
- Withdrawal from the previous condition. Various authors have
said that these experiences occur in a particular order -- but the
authors' chronologies differ, so I am simply leaving them in a
list; indeed, each person might encounter these experiences in a
The end of the withdrawal. Eventually, the first stage comes
to an end; we begin to leave behind that which is truly behind us.
- Denial and disbelief. We cannot believe that the loss has
occurred. We deny that it has happened: "That can't be true!"
Even after we intellectually acknowledge the loss, we
might not accept it emotionally.
- Shock. This numbness helps us to survive the emotional
shock until we are ready to confront the reality of the loss.
- Anger. We might be angry at various things:
- The person. We might feel that the person has abandoned
- Ourselves. We might be angry at ourselves for not doing
more to help the person to survive.
- A deity. We might be angry at a deity (or at life
itself) for allowing (or causing) the loss to occur.
- Someone who might be responsible for the loss. For
example, we might be angry at the doctor who was unable to
sustain the person's life.
- Guilt. We might believe (correctly or incorrectly) that we
were partially responsible for the loss, or that we should have
been at the scene when the loss occurred (e.g., at the bedside
of the dying person), or that we should have acted differently
(e.g., friendlier) when the person was alive.
- Loneliness. If the person has been a significant part of
our social life, we feel loneliness.
- Sadness or depression.
Creating a new life for ourselves. The person stays with us
forever -- in our memories, and in the various ways in which or
she changed us and affected us in the past. But now we look to the
present and the future, to re-enter the mainstream of life, and to
find other people to fulfill our current needs. Our life goes on.
- Acceptance. We accept the fact that this part of our life
has gone. The loss is reality.
- Appreciation. Replacing the unpleasant emotions regarding
that which has departed, we experience pleasant emotions
and "energy tones," e.g., gratitude for having known the
person, and a savoring of the enjoyable memories.
- A belief that the person is in a pleasant circumstance
(e.g., a heaven). We can believe that life continues after
death, and that the person is happy now -- perhaps even
happier, particularly if the person was suffering with
an illness before death.
- A consideration of the deceased person's "best wishes" for
us. Many grievers say, "I know that he (or she) would want me
to be happy, and to carry on with my life." We realize that our
desire to be happy again is not a betrayal of the deceased
- A release of the social rewards. During grief, we receive
compassion and caring and extra attention. And we receive
flowers and greeting cards. But eventually, we are expected to
return to being a "regular person" who can both give and
- Hope. We believe that it is possible for us to be happy
again, and to have a full life (although nothing can replace
the particular gifts which were granted by the deceased
person). We might even hope that the rest of our life can be
better than the previous part of our life.
- Responsibility for generating a new life. We do not rely on
the departed person, or on people's sympathy. Instead, we
realize that we have to make an effort.
- Re-investment of ourselves. The departed person was the
recipient of our attention, our time, and our emotional energy
(including our love and affection). While still retaining our
memories, we search for new people and situations in which we
can give and receive the time, attention, and emotional energy.
- Our new identity. For example, a widow is no longer "Joe's
wife"; instead, she looks to her other identities, e.g.,
"businesswoman" or "craftsperson." And we know that the
grief process itself will change us into a different person.
- Our new lifestyle. In situations where the departed person
would have been involved, we create new habits, and new ways of
- Archetypal field-work.
Intuition. Intuition can tell us how to deal with every phase
of grief, with the appropriate thoughts, images, energy tones, and
actions. And we can intuit the ultimate benevolence of life which
gives to us and takes from us -- all for our growth and education.
We can deal with each of the emotional aspects of grief, e.g.,
anger, fear, guilt. Other chapters in this book deal with those
We can practice grieving in the small "deaths" of our life.
Moment by moment, there are changes in our life; each one is a
death. We are in a constant state of dying and birthing -- and
We can learn how to detach ourselves from the past. Refer to
the chapter regarding attachment.
We can learn about "cycles," including the cycles of life and
death. Refer to the chapter regarding cycles.
We can accept the situation. Refer to the chapter regarding
We can look for unresolved grief from our past. For example,
we might not have completed the grief process from the death of a
parent during our childhood. We can complete the various aspects
of that process now.
We can develop resources in our life, to prepare for future
losses. For example, if we have only one friend, our sense of loss
will be immense if that friend dies -- but if we have many
friends, we can turn to those other people to fulfill our need for
We can learn to assist people who are grieving. Sometimes
those people will need to be alone, but sometimes they might need
comfort and other types of support from their friends. Our
attentiveness, conversations, and intuition can help us to
discover ways in which we can assist the people during this
- Self-talk. "I can create a new life." "[The person] would
want me to be happy."
- Directed imagination. We can visualize ourselves being
happy in new circumstances, with new people.
- Energy toning. We can generate the energy tones of
peacefulness, happiness, etc.
- The "as if" principle. When we are ready to re-enter
regular life, we can act as if we are strong and confident.