This lesson will focus on the elements of childhood that effect the way we cope with loss and grief as adults. Also, do men and women really grieve differently? I hope the article, Remember When, sheds some light on why you react to certain events as you do. In some cases, you have had to work on changing your personality, how you react to stress, or do some reading on anger management.
If you are a new student, I would encourage you to start the program with Lesson One.
What Causes Grief?
The everyday person, for the most part, thinks you experience grief when someone dies. Are they right? Yes… and a resounding NO! I am pretty sure that most of you taking this class know full well there are many, many other causes and reasons that make us grieve. Take the following for example:
- marital problems/divorce – for some couples, this may be more challenging than it is for someone whose spouse had died.
- care of elderly parents/terminally ill family member
- we grieve because, like me, you always thought your parents would live forever and now you are watching them “wither” away. You know the inevitable will happen, they WILL die.
- if they have Alzheimer’s, you grieve when they struggle with the stress of doing simple things or they no longer recognize you.
- we grieve when a once vibrant, healthy loved one is slowly dying due to cancer, heart disease, and so on. It is painful to watch and feel so helpless.
- troubling youth in the home/unhealthy child
- I have a troubled child whom I love so very much. I grieve on many levels, but mainly because I am not able to “fix” the problem. He must be willing to do this himself.
- I cannot imagine what it must be like for a parent who struggles with a child that has recurring medical problems. Or, worse yet, has a terminal illness. No matter how old the child is, the parents grieve.
- financial problems
- due to circumstances beyond their control or living beyond their means, many people find themselves in a place where “climbing out” of financial debt seems impossible. They grieve over the seemingly endless struggle and believe gaining financial freedom is impossible.
- promotions, retirement
- you may grieve when you retire because you think your job “defined” who you were as a person. Promotions may cause grief because we may have to relocate away from family and friends, leave an easier job for a more challenging one, are somewhat fearful of the unknown, we may just be someone who hates change.
- day-to-day job stress
- some have this more than others. The grass allows looks greener on the other side until we jump the fence and find out that we were wrong.
- dissolving a long-term relationship with a friend.
- disabling injuries – grieving the life you once enjoyed.
- addiction recovery
- making the choice to quit an addiction, no matter what it is, causes much grief. It’s like giving up the best friend you’ve ever had. The alcohol or your drug of choice made you feel good, never talked back to you, and gave you the allusion that you could conquer the world, be a stronger person, and solve all your problems.
- loss of innocence – child abuse.
- long-term grief abounds with this issue.
- domestic violence
- feelings of low self-worth, physical pain, verbal name calling. The list is never-ending. Grief walks everyday with a victim of domestic violence.
- post traumatic stress – a one time terrifying ordeal or repeated incidents of horrific events.
In future lessons, we will go into depth about these and other topics that cause grief. The information you learn about healing grief can be applied to your personal loss and grief events.
by Peggy Sweeney
During our childhood, we learned lessons for dealing with many issues in life. The knowledge we acquired then has played a major role in shaping the adult we are today. Our current beliefs, personality traits, and relationships have been influenced by the rules and attitudes of our parents, teachers, mentors, and classmates from years past. Significant events that occurred in our childhood laid the groundwork for some of the beliefs and fears we currently have. There are times when all of us wish we could change the past or undue events that happened in order that our life today would be more pleasant or less painful.
Some people were fortunate to be raised in a loving, caring family. Others were not that privileged. For example, some of you may have been victims of abuse or divorce. One or both of your parents may have been substance abusers. You may have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or friend. Someone you loved very much may have abandoned you. Each of us has our own personal stories of childhood. At a young age, we developed coping mechanisms for dealing with loss and grief. Whether happy memories or sad, the child within us never forgets.
This child awakens when we feel threatened or sad. If a situation occurs that stimulates painful feelings or memories from our childhood, we may instinctively resort to the coping mechanisms we formed at a young age. For example, we may hide our feelings from others and try to ignore their existence. We seem to build a wall around ourselves that prevents caring people from helping us. We have been conditioned to protect ourselves from being hurt, and we will go to any length to accomplish this goal.
My first lesson with grief came when I was eleven. My grandfather died following a very long and painful battle with cancer. It was very difficult for me to watch him wither in pain and waste away physically. I often prayed that God would end his suffering. When the news came that he had died, I felt sad and very guilty. I wanted to take back my prayer to end his suffering. Having my grandpa alive and sick was better than having him dead and feeling what I was feeling. I was afraid to talk to anyone, including my parents, about my emotional pain, the sadness, and the guilt. His wake and funeral were new experiences for me as well. I didn’t like it. To cope with all these new feelings, I buried them inside my heart and went on with life.
In 1960, my mother was pregnant with my third sibling. The baby was born prematurely. My little brother, Timmy, died less than 24 hours after birth. I was thirteen at the time and very concerned for my mother’s health. We had no funeral for Timmy. I never saw him. Neither my mother nor my father discussed Timmy’s death. I would see mom crying, but I never talked with her about our feelings. As a young teenager, I once again hid my feelings and hoped they would go away. They did. At least, I thought they did. It wasn’t until years later that I learned how to deal with my childhood traumas.
Although I grew up in a loving, caring environment, my parents were unable to help me cope with grief. Grief wasn’t openly discussed years ago. I’m sure that mom and dad felt as many parents did at the time. They needed to protect me from the unpleasant events in life. They tried to shield me from pain, yet in retrospect, this only caused more confusion for me. If I had been given the opportunity to ask questions, and we had openly shared our feelings, I know it would have made me feel better. They were not wrong in handling the situations as they did. Society had not yet learned the value of openly discussing tragedy and grief.
Our childhood experiences and the manner in which we were taught to cope with them can have either a positive or negative effect on our life as adults. For example, if you were allowed to express your thoughts and feelings candidly as a child you probably are comfortable sharing your emotions and feelings with others as an adult. If your parents and siblings encouraged you to talk openly about emotionally charged or controversial issues without fear of reprimand or criticism, your chances of coping with trauma and grief are good. You understand the value of taking unpleasant events, dealing with them, and reinvesting in life. However, if your mother or father felt that children should be seen and not heard, it is likely that you are reluctant to voice your opinions and concerns now. This may be one reason many adults deny the need for counseling or participation in grief support programs.
Society has set the standard that big boys don’t cry. Boys and men must hide their feelings for fear of being viewed as weak or unable to handle stressful or painful situations. This is absurd! When it comes to feelings, men are no different than women. They feel pain, sadness, loneliness, and grief. They may have had to cope with traumatic events both personally as well as professionally. We should not force them to resort to stuffing their feelings and suffering the consequences of emotional turmoil or physical illness as the result of stress.
None of us have a protective covering that wards off the pain of grief. We must not only resolve the traumas from days gone by, but nurture the child within. We cannot relive the past, but we can learn to change the future.
Copyright Peggy Sweeney. All rights reserved.
Do men and women grieve differently? Do you find that in your personal relationships, be they husband and wife, brother and sister, and so on, you seen to frequently get into a squabble when it comes to talking about your “style” of grieving versus that of the other gender. Am I right?
Here is a very good video about how men and women grieve differently. I think there is much information contained in this short clip that may give you an “ah ha” moment.
Read a good book
When a Man Faces Grief by James E. Miller & Thomas Golden
When Parents Die: A Guide for Adults by Edward Myers – adult child grief
Recovering from the Death of a Sibling by Katherine Donnelly – adult sibling grief
Growing Through Divorce by Jim Smoke
Violence Among Us: Ministry to Families in Crises by Brenda Brandson and Paula J. Silva
No Homework Homework ~ Time to Write in Your Journal
~ What type of childhood did you have?
~ What were some of your coping mechanisms for dealing with traumatic events, painful losses, and grief?
~ Do you use these same learned reactions to cope today?
~ How do you process grief? After watching the video, How Men and Women Grieve, what did you learn about the way you grieve? Are you intuitive, instrumental, or a little of both? In what ways did the information help you process your grief in more positive ways?
Remember to continue spending at least 15 minutes every day meditating, however you define meditating