Grief recovery as I have experienced it and teach it attends to the emotional process.
I like the Kubler-Ross model because my grieving has followed a similar trajectory, but I teach it to my clients as a model to guide them, not an arbitrary outline. The key I believe is to research the issue, and each individual will find salient points for themselves from many different models, and experiences.
Grief recovery is a lifetime process, I believe, because I still note the anniversary of my father's death, my mother's death, my brother's death, and when I think of their loss, I am reminded of how sad I was as a boy when we had to give away my beloved German Shepherd, because he barked too much, and disturbed the sick man living next door. (Now with noisy kids, and cats, I can sympathize, and the little boy inside me still questions that story about the neighbor.)
My father died in 1971, and my mother in 1976, and I make it a point to visit their graves when I return home so that I can touch both the pain and the love I have for them.
I believe that acknowledging grief with rituals is an important part of making peace with those losses.
When my father died, , when I was 23, I was not prepared, he still was the biggest, smartest father in the world, and I did not handle the loss very well, using alcohol as a self-medication, which almost killed me.
Later on in my life, as I began my own recovery, I had to deal with the pain of losing my father, my anger at him for leaving me, both in person, and to his own alcoholism, which took him from me earlier than his own physical death, and I also had to grieve the loss of my dream of truely being his son, of having a relationship that did not involve booze.
Luckily for me, I had found some people who were committed to building a circle where we could all heal and share, and it was there that I began to get in touch with and let go of the sorrow, by actually wailing and crying, and I believe that not only was I letting go of my feelings for my Dad's death, but all the losses and disappointments which happened over the course of our time together.
I lost my mom to alcoholism, also many years prior to her actual physical demise, and the grieving process for her was different. When using, she treated me with contempt, which is a different kind of wounding and involves a different grieving process.
Grief for my father was cued by my experience of the New Warrior Adventure weekend, and grief for my mom was cued by losing a relationship with a lover some years later. The more of my sorrow I was able to acknowledge, the less I had to use anger and rage as a tool to stay effective in my life.
When my brother died, in 2001, I was much more prepared to handle my responsibilities to him, my own family, my sister, and myself.
He was a biker, and lived outside the law for the most part, and also was an alcoholic, and did not belong to a church, so I did the funeral for him.
I went to the cemetary at dawn, and prepared the earth, and said the prayers, and my son, who was 2 at the time, helped me with healing artifacts to bury with my brother, and my sister and I and my wife Julie and Jerry, my sister's husband, and my brother's friend Dan, buried him while trying to celebrate and commemorate our moments of closeness. We returned to the cemetary at dusk to to cleanse again with sweet grass, which gave me a closure point for that ritual.
We used sweet grass and native traditions to make the space holy, and it is my fervent hope that we got his spirit sent over to the other side ok.
My brother had very few friends, and one attended our little ceremony, a friend who helped with a headstone too. Thankyou Dan.
Several years later, on one of my infrequent visits to Kansas, where they are all buried, I found two cans of Coors beer in the high grass around my brother's headstone.
They were left by one of his compatriots, on a visit to his grave. It is heartening to know that my brother is missed by others, who acknowledge who he was when they have the opportunity.
Writing this page has brought back many memories, and the one I want to end with is of myself as a little boy, of perhaps nine years old, pouring out mom's booze, or as much as I dared to pour out, to minimize her drinking. I was ashamed of her, but I wanted my mom, not the woman passed out on the couch.
He looks up to me and dares me to carry on his legacy.
Would You Share Something That You Are Grateful For?
When I was beginning my personal growth journey, a wise person told me that when I was feeling resentful or afraid or sad, that I should remember the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was ready to feel better. That phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.
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