Excerpt from The Grief Recovery Handbook

A step-by-step Program for Moving Beyond Loss
By John W. James & Frank Cherry

Introduction to the Grieving Process

Grieving is the most misunderstood and neglected growth process a person can go through. While we commonly think of education and relationship-building as growth processes, and we’ve all heard that we should ”learn from our mistakes,” when we hear the words “grieving” and “growth” in the same sentence, we are likely to be surprised. For many, seeing the title of this book is the first time they have ever seen the terms “grief” and “recovery” used together. Religious and spiritual leaders of centuries have pointed out that we should look at loss as an opportunity for personal spiritual development. Yet in modern life the process of moving through intense emotional pain ahs become so private and misunderstood that most of us have very little idea of what the process is or how to deal with it.

The Concept of Grief

Simply put, grief is a normal and natural response to loss. The circumstance that comes most readily to mind when we speak of grief is the death of a loved one. Grief is the feeling of reaching out for someone who has always been there, only to find that when we need them one last time, they are no longer there. Yet death is not all we grieve for Grief is a conflicting mass of human emotion that we experience following any major change in a familiar pattern of behavior.

We grieve for the loss of all relationships that could be held as significant and therefore emotional: moving from one house to another in early childhood can be such an event. Leaving the routine of the home to start school can cause grief for many children. Divorce can cause enormous conflict and confusion. Even marriage can cause feelings of loss for a familiar lifestyle. Dealing with addictions to alcohol, drugs, food, and so on can lead to monumental grief. Retirement, that so many look forward to, can create intense conflicting emotions. Often, these common life experiences are not seen as grieving events.

The following pages will introduce some of the definitions and stages of grief-the final selections address recovery. For more information or assistance call the Whale Foundation helpline 1-877-44-WHALE