Lesson One


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Welcome to our first class. This is going to be a simple, straightforward class.  Most of you have very active lives PLUS, if you are in the throes of grief, it is VERY exhausting. If you’re looking to write a master’s thesis from all the information I am sharing, you won’t find it here, this is a basic information for the average person. I hope that whatever your struggles are that you will gain some help in healing. Never be afraid to ask a question or make a suggestion. I look forward to your constructive feedback.

Grief 101
by Peggy Sweeney
The Sweeney Alliance
peggy@sweeneyalliance.org

Although most adults associate grief with the death of someone loved, this is not the only reason we grieve. It is important to note that grief follows any traumatic event; such as, a divorce, job loss, addiction, a life-threatening or debilitating illness or injury, retirement, relocating to a new city, an abusive relationship; the list of grief-generating experiences is endless.

Throughout this course, we will, for the most part, focus on the death of a loved one. However, the concepts we discuss and the suggestions we make for healing this grief, can apply to many of the events that we mentioned above. For example, finding out that they are downsizing your company and you will lose your job is a LOSS issue and you will GRIEVE. You can experience some of the same feelings and emotions as you do when someone you love has died.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a world-renowned expert and author in the field of death and dying, is credited with the development of the Five Stages of Grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Her work was dedicated to helping those who were dying. It was a linear progression to help them live whatever life they had left on earth to the fullest.

  denial → anger → bargaining → depression → acceptance

Many people believe that Kübler-Ross’s stages, if followed in succession, will resolve the grief we experience following the death of someone loved. Unfortunately, for those of us who have experienced a loss or emotional trauma, this is not necessarily true. Grief is not just the emotions and feelings we have during or immediately following a loss. Grief has no set time pattern nor does it ever go away completely. It can, however, be an instrument of learning about love, life, and living. Grief can have a positive or negative impact on our lives. Grief is choices. We can choose to journey through our grief and at the end of our journey emerge a better person for having experienced grief (positive). Or, we can stuff it within are very being, try to ignore it, and fail to receive its rewards (negative).

We must also keep in mind that everyone responds to grief differently. No two people will react to a shared grief experience in the same way. Although we may share similar feelings and emotions with other family members, friends, and co-workers, many factors will determine the end result of our personal reactions to trauma and grief; namely, how the loss occurred, our emotional involvement with the person or event, our previous loss experiences, and what lessons we learned as children for coping with emotions and feelings. Remember that your individual responses to grief are both normal and natural and not a sign of weakness or the inability to carry out your daily responsibilities.

The grieving process is very necessary to heal the mind and spirit. Grief involves the whole person; the physical, mental, emotional as well as the spiritual self. It is not governed by a set of rules that, if followed consecutively, will erase the grief. In other words, you do not deal with one emotion or feeling and move on to the next. You do not deal with anger or sorrow for a few days and check it off your list. Rather, you flow back and forth between some of the same—or previously unacknowledged—emotions and feelings until, after many months or even years, you come to the end of your grief journey. The intensity and duration of your individual grieving process is comparative to the loss. This means that the more emotionally involved you are with the person or event, the deeper the emotional trauma and grief.

In future lessons, we are going to study the many facets of grief, the reasons that we grieve, our reactions to loss and trauma as well as healing our grief. We will discuss a wide range of topics and issues that can debilitate the human spirit and prevent us from enjoying life to the fullest. Eventually, you should come to the realization that unpleasant events can and often do have a very negative effect on your emotional health and physical well-being. However, as your teacher for understanding grief, I will offer positive coping skills and resources to help you resolve many of these issues. I hope that you will use these lessons as a reference to help you cope with your personal grief and loss issues.

Copyright Peggy Sweeney. All rights reserved.

Ideas for Helping You Cope with Grief
~ Keep a Journal – It can be as simple as jotting down a few words every day, writing simple sentences about your thoughts and feelings, or writing, writing, writing to cope with whatever you are feeling at the moment. You can write letters to your loved one who has died. Over time, you will be able to look back on what you have written and see that, even though you “think” you are not beginning to heal, in fact you are. You can use a plain tablet of paper and a pencil or, better yet, treat yourself to a beautiful blank, hard-bound journal and a fancy pen. It will be your private thoughts; you do not need to share it with anyone. It will be a journal of your personal journey through grief.

Consider Reading from Our Archives
Elizabeth Ann Roger’s article on journaling: Healing, in My Own Words
Another slant on grief information: Grief, A Natural Response to Loss

Read a Good Book – With each lesson, I will recommend a good book or two that you may find of interest. If you have read something that you found helpful, please share it with us. I will add it to our Library section. Also, there are links on that page where you can purchase books. Don’t forget your local library!

Check These Out
Don’t Take My Grief Away by Doug Manning – general grief info
When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner – general grief info

No Homework, Homework ~ Time to Write in Your Journal
+ What losses have you experienced in your life and how did they affect you?

+ Make a list of:
1. three people you can talk to about your grief
2. three things you can do to help yourself feel better; such as, listen to music, take a walk
3. three places you can go where you feel at ease; such as, your bedroom, church, nearby park

+ Spend at least 15 minutes every day meditating,  however you define meditation.

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