John W. James
Founder of The Grief Recovery Institute®
Co-Author of The Grief Recovery
Handbook & When Children Grieve
Co-Author of The Grief Recovery
Handbook & When Children Grieve
Where were you when I needed you?
The saddest question we ever hear is, "Where were you when I needed you?"
That's what people ask when they find out what we do in helping grievers. We're presenting helpful and accurate information on this site, at the time you need it most, with the hope that you'll never need to ask that question.
It's an honor and a sad privilege to be addressing you, knowing that each of you has recently experienced the death of someone important to you. We also know some of you are reading this because of your care and concern for someone who is confronted by the death of someone important in their life.
We bring our personal experience in dealing with the deaths of people who were important to us, and our professional know-how in helping grievers for more than 30 years. We'll help you distinguish between the "raw grief" that is your normal and natural reaction to the death, and the equally normal "unresolved grief" that relates to the unfinished emotions that are part of the physical ending of all relationships.
A basic reality for most grieving people is difficulty concentrating or focusing. With that in mind, we asked Tributes.com to print our articles in a large type font to make them easier to read. Sharing our concern for grieving people, they agreed.
From our hearts to yours,
John & Russell
Articles & Media
Valentine’s Day—For Many, The Most Painful Holiday
The traditional Holiday Season begins around Halloween, continues through Thanksgiving, crests with Christmas and Hanukkah, and ends with New Year’s Eve. While the Season can be wonderful for many, it can be a very difficult time for those who are grieving the recent death of someone important to them.
You might erroneously think that once the new year has passed, those grievers will have some relief from the constant reminders that someone they love is no longer alive. But by early January, the marketing machine revs up for the next cycle of cards and gifts—to usher in Valentine’s Day.
Every flower shop, card store, jewelry store, candy store, drug store, and supermarket decorates its shelves and aisles with the traditional pink and red hearts and clever Cupid images to compel us to celebrate our romantic love with our mates.
For new widows and widowers, this can be one of the most painful of all holidays. The romantic arrows from Cupid’s bow, now become painful darts that hit us in our emotional center.
It all starts in pre-school, when we begin making Valentine’s cards for friends and family. As we get older, we shift our focus from family and friends to romantic attachments. By the time we are courting, dating, and creating long-term relationships, Valentine’s Day becomes the day we use to declare or reaffirm our bond.
As our relationships blossom and grow, the annual celebration of Valentine’s day—along with our anniversary date—becomes the most personal and special loving tradition. And as with the cards, flowers and candies, the image of the heart is always used to symbolize that love.
And Then Our Heart Gets Broken!
When someone we love dies, our emotional heart is broken. The heart—the very symbol of the Valentine’s Day celebration—is the aspect of our being that is most damaged by the death of a spouse.
Compounding the heartache is the fact that there is very little societal awareness of the pain being experienced by widows and widowers that first Valentine’s Day after their spouse of many years has died. Even surrounded by family and friends, they may feel isolated, alone, and as if no one understands. And those feelings can extend long past the first year.
“Grief is the feeling of reaching out for someone who has always been there, only to discover when you need them one more time, they are no longer there.” That poignant sentiment, from The Grief Recovery Handbook, is one we overheard a grieving husband say a few weeks after his wife had died.
Grief Is Normal And Natural – Not Defective!
Grief is the normal and natural immediate reaction when your spouse dies. The range of emotions that encompass grief is very wide, and is not limited to sadness. The feelings are a reflection of the many different aspects of your relationship with your spouse.
That range of feelings is also the normal and natural reaction when you are reminded that someone who has been such a big part of your life is gone, even if the reminder is months or years after their death.
Some special days and some events are powerful reminders of the fact that someone very important is missing from our life. Valentine’s Day, like birthdays and anniversaries, is one of those very special days, which can create an immense amount of painful emotional energy.
Unfortunately, when a grieving spouse talks about their sadness and other feelings, they are often met with comments like, “Don’t feel sad, you should feel grateful you had them so long.” It is probably accurate to say that one of the feelings a grieving spouse might have is gratitude. But gratitude is unlikely to be the most dominant feeling at holiday events. Sadness, loneliness, and confusion are more likely to be the emotions that well up in a grieving person on special occasion holidays, especially the first of each of those events following the death.
Grieving spouses also hear the incorrect idea that we all learn from an early age, that “Time heals all wounds,” or “Grief just takes time.” Believing that to be true, the griever waits to feel better. But time is neutral. Time, of itself, doesn’t do anything except pass and many grievers tell us that over time their pain seems to get worse.
From Grief to Recovery
It is accurate to say that grieving people are not broken, and do not need to be fixed. To a great extent, what they need is for someone to listen to them, without judgment, analysis, or criticism.
But it is also realistic to say that grieving people are left with some unfinished emotional business. Even when the best of romantic relationships is ended by death of one of the partners, the surviving spouses discover things they wish had been different, better, or more; and are painfully aware of unrealized hopes, dreams, and expectations about the future.
It is important to deal effectively with those discoveries of what was left emotionally incomplete. Recovery, or completion, is achieved by a series of small and correct choices and actions made by the griever.
Earlier in this article we mentioned The Grief Recovery Handbook. The book is dedicated to guiding you in making the choices and taking the actions that will help you achieve a sense of emotional completion. It will help diminish the sense of pain and isolation you may be feeling as the result of the death of your spouse. And it will help you be able to have fond memories and talk about the person you loved, without fear of more pain.
From our hearts to yours,
John W. James
© 2017 Russell P. Friedman, John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute®. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this and other articles please contact The Grief Recovery Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone, 800-334-7606.
Two First Ladies — No Feelings, Please!)
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Deaths of Celine Dion’s Husband and Brother Open Questions on Grief
The recent death of Celine Dion’s husband, followed a few days later by the death of her brother, opens questions about how grievers cope. By Read More »
Two Year Tragiversary of the Boston Marathon Bombings
Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 marks the second “tragiversary” of the Boston Marathon Bombings which killed three innocent people and injured 254 Read More »
The Art of Condolence
When an acquaintance has lost a loved one, it can be difficult to know what to say or do. Here’s some guidance on offering sympathy with grace. Read More »
The 4th of July—Another Reminder of Those Who Are No Longer Here
The common bond that connects all holiday celebrations is that they tend to be family-oriented events. Whether the holiday commemorates religious Read More »
The Boston Marathon Bombing, The Aftermath: Loss of Life, Loss of Safety, Loss of Trust, and Loss of Innocence
April 15, 2013, the date of the Boston Marathon bombing, joins the list of dates we’d rather not remember, but we can’t forget. It takes its sad Read More »
Post-Holiday, Grief-Related Blues!
Many people are rightfully concerned about the powerful impact the end-of-year Holidays can have on their friends who've recently experienced the Read More »
In the wake of the recent deaths of Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, this preiviously published article has good advice for all.
Today I feel compelled to write about a personal loss, that just happens to be one of the national obituaries currently featured on the home page of Read More »
Newtown, Connecticut—Our Grief, Because We Are The Family Of Humankind
Certain events have the power to propel us into an emotional numbness, as if a hidden thermostat inside our hearts shuts us off. The pain is too much Read More »
Veterans Day—Lest We Forget
In its day, World War One was called "The War to End All Wars." Sadly, it wasn't. WW I officially ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day Read More »
Dealing with Grief During the Holidays
Dealing with Grief During the Holidays While there are other critical dates and times that affect grieving people, the holiday season is the biggest Read More »
We Never Forget The Important People In Our Lives.
We recently received a note from a woman named Linda, who had a child die, and who interacts with other parents who’ve also experienced the death Read More »
On Crying—Part Two
In Crying—Part One, we focused on the idea that it can be dangerous and counterproductive to attach our personal ideas and beliefs to how other Read More »
On Crying—Part One
Almost everyone has some questions and confusion about crying. How much crying is enough? If I start crying, will I be able to stop? Do I have to Read More »
9/11: The Aftermath, Loss of Life, Loss of Safety, Loss of Trust, and Loss of Innocence
By Russell FriedmanSeptember 11, 2001 now lives in our language in the same emotional way as December 7, 1941 and November 22, 1963. Nearly everyone Read More »
Am I Going Crazy?—An all-too frequent question from grievers.
“Since my mother’s death, I’ve had the experience of being in one room, deciding to go to another room to do something, and when I get there, I Read More »
Father’s Day 2016 - My Dad, Babe Ruth, and the Ball That’s Still in Orbit
In the kind of emotional reviews our minds and hearts make on chronicling days like Father’s Day, we often discover a level of appreciation that Read More »
Memorial Day, 150 Years Later. Lest We Forget!
Memorial Day as we know it today began as Decoration Day in 1866, in upstate New York, after the cessation of the Civil War. First conceived as an Read More »
Mother’s Day! Remind Me—Remind Me Not—Remind Me
In mid-April there are two things you can count on in the United States. One is the due date for filing your tax return. The other is the arrival of Read More »
BECAUSE WE ARE THE FAMILY OF HUMANKIND
BECAUSE WE ARE THE FAMILY OF HUMANKIND [March 11, 2011]At 11:15 PM on March 10th, 2011, my heart was burning and my stomach was churning. I was Read More »
Am I Paranoid, Or Are People Really Avoiding Me?
The simple answer to the question posed in the title of this article is, “No, you’re not paranoid, people really may be avoiding you.” Even Read More »
Valentine’s Day—For Many, The Most Painful Holiday
The traditional Holiday Season begins around Halloween, continues through Thanksgiving, crests with Christmas and Hanukkah, and ends with New Read More »
Our Reaction to The Tucson Tragedy – Because We Are the Family of Humankind!
Within a two year span, from February 1, 2003 to December 26, 2004, we used the title “Because We Are the Family of Humankind!” for articles we Read More »
Uh-oh, it’s that time again. Grief and the holidays
Many Grievers Wish They Could Skip The Holidays And Jump From Late October To Mid-January The holidays are approaching. A joyous time. A festive time Read More »
Stages of Grief: Are There Actual Stages Of Grief?
Is there any truth behind the idea that grief and loss recovery comes in stages?We are often asked if there are actual stages of grief or grieving. Read More »
Is It Ever Too Soon To Recover?
Conflicting opinions from a wide variety of sources confuse the question of when to begin a process of completing what was left emotionally Read More »
Why Won’t Anyone Let Me Feel Sad?
If we were forced to quantify the problems grieving people encounter, there’s no doubt the number one offense they must confront is being told that Read More »
Six Major Myths – The Short Version
There are six major myths about grief that are so close to universal that nearly everyone can relate to them. This is true not only for those of us Read More »
Do I Have to Cry To Grieve?
"My father died recently. I have been very sad, but I have not cried. Do I have to cry to grieve?"That is a question we get all the time from people Read More »
When Your Heart Is Broken, Your Head Doesn’t Work Right And Your Spirit May Not Soar
For most people, the immediate response to the death of someone important to them is a sense of numbness. After that initial numbness wears off, the Read More »
If I Start Crying Will I Be Able To Stop?
Grieving people sometimes hold back their tears based on the fear that if they start crying, they won’t be able to stop. To the best of our Read More »
Time Doesn't Heal - Actions Do
I have heard that it takes two years to get over the death of a loved one, five years to get over the death of a parent, and you never get over the Read More »
I’m Fine And Other Lies!!!
Approximately 20% of your ability to communicate is verbal, leaving about 80% as non-verbal. Non-verbal communication includes tone of voice as well Read More »
Normal and Natural reactions to the death of someone important to you.
Grief is the wide range of normal and natural reactions to the death of someone important to you. The seven most common reactions are: Read More »
If you or someone important to you wants help with grief: Look for a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist℠ in your community. The Grief Recovery Institute ® trains and mentors Certified Grief Recovery Specialists℠ throughout the United States & Canada.
Workshops & Training Schedule
The Grief Recovery Institute ® offers Certification Training programs for those who wish to help grievers.
April 2017Indianapolis, IN - April 7-10, 2017
Princeton, NJ - April 7-10, 2017
Reading, Berkshire, England - April 21-24, '17
Denver, CO - April 21-24, 2017
Vancouver, BC, Canada - Apr 28-May 1,'17
San Francisco, CA - Apr 28-May 1,'17
May 2017Seattle, WA - May 5-8, 2017
Dallas, TX - May 5-8, 2017
Milwaukee, WI - May 19-22, 2017
Torquay, Devon, England - May 19-22, '17
Regina, SK, Canada - May 19-22,'17
Los Angeles, CA - May 19-22, 2017