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7 Habits Of Highly Effective Grievers

7 Habits Of Highly Effective Grievers

Posted by CentralAB on Oct 6, 2020 2:45 am

7 Habits of Highly Effective Grievers
by Dr Bill Webster

These seven habits gave me a whole new insight on the concept of “making the best of it”.

Kyle learned six weeks before her wedding that her fiancé was cheating on her. When she found out about it, she called off the 180-guest wedding and the four-year relationship. She and her mother cancelled the band, the photographer and the florist, but they learned they would not be reimbursed for the reception and block of rooms they had reserved.

So Kyle decided to turn her would-be reception into a charity benefit for the Children’s Aid Society and CARE, an international relief organization that aims to combat poverty by empowering women.

They sent out invitations to 125 women for drinks and a gourmet four-course dinner. In exchange, they invited the guests to make donations to the charities.

“I’m really just trying to turn it around and make something positive out of the situation,” said Kyle.

We can all admire the resilience of someone like Kyle after a betrayal that must have seemed like one of life’s harshest blows. The loss of our hopes and dreams and of our expectations about the way things were supposed to be can be a devastating loss, a “little death” if you like. Whether it is a death or a betrayal, the sense of bereavement (which means being ‘ripped apart’) that emerges from such an experience can generate loneliness, fear, guilt, regret, rage, depression and even despair.

Stephen Covey wrote a wonderful book based on the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People“  which is a must read for everyone. With great respect to Dr Covey, who died tragically last year, may I deferentially suggest “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Grievers. ”

Habit 1: Take your time.

We define so many things on a timeline. “How long is it going to take?” is the common cry. Like kids in the back seat of a car, we constantly enquire, “Are we there yet?” Sadly there are many people who get frustrated with grieving people when they are not “there yet” after just a few months.

But grief is not on a timeline. An illness can be understood in the context of time. You get sick, you feel rotten and miserable, you take your medicine, and you gradually get better. You get over it. But grief doesn’t work like that. It comes and goes. We re-experience it on birthdays, anniversaries, special days, as well as at all the reminders of how our life and our world has changed … and there are lots of those.

Grief always seems to take longer than people who haven’t been through it seem to think. Those who overcome loss never go it alone because they know that going it alone is going nowhere. Nor do they pretend they are doing fine and not in need of support. Those who heal allow friends to reach out and help.

Habit 2: Give Yourself Permission to Grieve.

Effective grievers disregard completely the erroneous advice to “keep a stiff upper lip,” “be brave,” “don’t cry,” “move on,” and all the other “fix it” sentiments. They refuse to be stoic. They allow themselves to grieve even though it means experiencing unpleasant and unfamiliar emotions, such as shock, disbelief, depression, anger, guilt, fear, loneliness, regret, anxiety, frustration and confusion.

Effective grievers understand the importance of paying close attention to “grief work,” and allow themselves to go through it. It is the necessary psychological and spiritual energy you must expend to integrate the loss into the story of your life. It focuses on a simple question, Now What? Or to restate, “What do I do with the life I have left to live?” Or again, “How do I live meaningfully without that person and the relationship I have lost.”

Habit 3: Seek information.

For most people, the death of a loved one throws them into completely new territory. Very few individuals know much, if anything, about the grief process before they experience a loss. There are lots of people who THINK they know how others feel, but when it happens to YOU, with one of your own, it is DIFFERENT.

A healthy bereavement is usually grounded in good and helpful information from books, articles or videos.

One father writes: “After my 15 year old son died from cancer, I had to know more about grief because it had completely taken over my life. All of these new and upsetting emotions seemed to overwhelm me at times. So, I spent a lot of time in our local library researching out books on bereavement and grief recovery. I learned so much. The information I gleaned made my grief far less frightening. Today, my advice to others who are grieving is: Read all about it. Information is empowering.”

Habit 4: Avoid hasty decisions.

When Dr. Joyce Brothers’ husband of over 30 years died, she wrote the book Widowed. In that book she advised grievers: “If you can possibly avoid it – do not sell your house, do not move, do not make a major purchase, do not make a major change in your way of life. Put everything on hold for a year.”

Good advice! The reason professionals advise the bereaved to avoid making major changes is because grief clouds the mind. Grieving people are in danger of making decisions based on emotion rather than sense, and later may regret the action that was made in the heat of the moment. After one year, many emotions begin to settle down, freeing the mind to think more clearly and make wiser decisions.

Of course, there are times when financial or other considerations can force the bereaved to make decisions shortly after a loss. In that case, on a major decision like selling a house, buying a condo, investing the life insurance money, selling stocks, and so on, it is always good to seek the best advice possible from professionals as well as trusted friends and family.

Habit 5: Join a grief support group.

Rabbi Earl Grollman, an author and highly respected counselor on death and grief issues, explains the power of grief support groups in his book What Helped Me When My Loved One Died.

“At some point you may be disappointed in the reactions of your acquaintances, maybe even your close friends. You just don’t hear from them so often anymore. They seem awkward and uneasy in your presence. They may avoid your company… That’s why self-help groups have been successful in providing necessary emotional intervention through the crisis of death. People in these groups understand your fears and frustrations; they have been there before. Allow them to help you out of your isolation with a meaningful support network… They share with you the time of your grief and help you to walk on your sorrowing paths. You are no longer alone.”

Habit 6: Take care of yourself physically.

Effective grievers seem to understand instinctively that a grieving body’s immune system is suppressed by the stress of bereavement and therefore susceptible to illness. For that reason, they work to take care of themselves physically by exercising, which reduces stress, strengthens the body and improves their overall sense of well-being. It also means trying to eat balanced meals, even when (and maybe especially when) you don’t feel like it. Fight the tendency to consume junk foods. Eat healthy food which will provide the body with the nourishment and energy it needs. Try to get adequate rest, even when sleep is difficult. Grief taxes both body and emotions, while rest regenerates body and spirit.

Effective grievers stay away from drugs and alcohol. Numbing the pain of grief only postpones it. Occasionally, a mild sedative or anti-anxiety medication prescribed by a physician can help, but effective grievers never use them as a way to bury the pain. There is no pill to take away grief.

Habit 7: Seek professional help when necessary.

Most people who lose a loved one to death might not need the aid of a professional therapist. There are times, however, when bereavement is so intense and so unrelenting, that the assistance of a skilled counselor will be most helpful in managing grief. This may be particularly true when the death has been traumatic, the result of an accident or violence, or where something about the situation or the relationship has complicated the process.

Effective grievers know there is nothing wrong with obtaining help from a psychologist, a mental health clinic, a psychiatrist or a member of the clergy, or even from a community support group. Seeking professional aid is not an admission of weakness but a demonstration of your determination to successfully complete the journey through grief.

People can and do heal from the grief of their loss. “Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of overcoming of it,” observed Helen Keller. Many have experienced the deep wound of grief but emerged from it to live satisfying, fulfilling lives.

Follow Dr Bill Webster’s “Thought for the Day” on Twitter @drbillwebster.
________________ "there is always a little Light"

Re: 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Grievers

Posted by Brighty on Oct 6, 2020 7:42 am

This is awsome CentralAB‍ . I will comment on this during  my lunch or this evening! !!!!thank you for sharing. 
Help is out there. All you have to do is reach out.

Re: 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Grievers

Posted by Brighty on Oct 6, 2020 9:13 pm

Thank you for posting this earlier CentralAB‍ .    As I promised earlier, I'm going to comment on it, because I do relate to a lot of what it said.      Number one, take your time........ya, well, it's been over 2 years for me and I still miss him, still don't look at any other guys, still long for him to come back.     Others are very frustrated with me and have been for a while because they think I should LONG be over it.     I refrain from discussing Dan with anyone now, except on the site.       It just leads to arguments, and anger on my part because others don't understand it why I'm still sad over him.       
     "Be brave, don't cry" Is what his dad used to say to me all the time.   He would tell me "you had a year to prepare for this, why are you crying?"      How do you prepare for the death of someone you planned to spend your life with?         I've had people say to me "you dodged a bullet" WHAT???????  What kind of horrible thing is that to say?      and then my favourite........"why are you grieving, it's not like you were married to the guy."   I felt guilty for even grieving him because no, we didn't make it to the alter.    This didn't make the pain any less.     I learned in grief group that this is called "disenfranchised grief."     When you are not actually married to the person you feel you don't have the right to grieve them.     When the people in grief group were mourning their spouses of many years, I felt so guilty for my grief because we were "only " together 4 years and we weren't married.       But my pain was still so bad, married or not.  I loved him with my whole heart.      My grief group taught me that the pain wasn't any less valid than anyone else's.       
     I went through all the emotions described.  I let myself feel them and work through them.    I was the only one in Dan's family who went for councelling.   Everyone else seemed to be able to cope, while I just couldn't.       I was in group therapy, had one on one with both a grief councellor and a social worker as well as a grief support group.    I let myself cry and feel everything.  I think if you don't do that, the pain eventually catches up with you.   You either deal now, or you deal later.       
     The "now what?"   We have talked about that not long ago in a post and I still have not figured that out.    Life totally did not go as planned.     This is the guy I planned to spend my life with, we had plans to grow old together in Niagara Falls.     So now what?    I don't know.  I was crushed when I lost him and feel and still do feel lost.     I basically am just back to the way things were before.   In my condo, but now I have my sweet little fat cat with me.      And Dan won't be coming down in the evenings to be with me.   
     Seeking information is hard, because each individual has a different way of coping.    To me, it seemed that everyone was coping better than I was.   His dad was back to golfing and travelling, his daughter was with her friends doing her thing.........his brothers were doing their thing, while I was in therapy like 5 days per week.   I learned a lot in my grief support group. .....   How to deal with the different and torturous emotions that were eating me alive.        It didn't seem to me that anyone else was going through that, and I felt so alone with the pain.     It was only the people in my grief support group that truly got it.       
     Avoiding big decisions is easy for me.   I hate changes.   I still have my 1000 year old computer as you know.............and it was only Dan who forced me to get rid of my 1970's tube tv when he couldn't stand the buzzing noises any more.       I abhore decision making and changes.   I wish everything could always remain the same.       
     Self care is something we as caregivers talk a lot about on the site.      It's so vital.   But it was only when I went to therapy that I learned to do this.      I do exercise several times per week.   But my diet is horrible.  I eat Kraft dinner for almost every meal.    Sometimes I throw things in the Kraft dinner to beef it up a bit, but generally my diet sucks.  I love junk food too.    My sleep also sucks and I take zopiclone to help with that.      
     Seeking help........I always advocate for that.     I know it's not for everyone, but I would not have gotten through any of it without intensive therapy .    If you find the right therapist and get some great coping strategies, it can be a life safer.   I know it was for me.     My other life saver was this site, and of course my sweet kitty cat named Vinnie who is currently in the bathtub waiting for me to turn the water on.     
Help is out there. All you have to do is reach out.

Re: 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Grievers

Posted by MCoaster on Oct 6, 2020 11:15 pm

Brighty‍   Thank you so much for sharing.   You write so eloquently about grieving Dan and your lost future together.   Sharing the good and the sad with others is so important and I am sure I am not alone here in valuing hearing your story.

Vinnie looks like my Tigger.   Somewhere they both have some Bengal in them I think?

Take care.

Big hugs.


Re: 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Grievers

Posted by Widower57 on Oct 7, 2020 1:06 am

Gladys passed May 30th and I have been bouncing back and forth between Habit 5 and 7.
This weekend was our anniversary and I fulfilled her last wishes by spreading her ashes in Northern Ontario on Mon. Oct 5.
5 weeks between diagnosis and calling the funeral home, my biopsy, COVID and everything else has pushed me almost to the limit.
I had a shingles outbreak 2 weeks ago.
I want to scream, but no one will hear me.,
I have broad shoulders,, and recently a friend has used them to cry on, but they are starting to weaken and wear thin.
I try to give as much as I can, but this time I am reaching out.
Help me please.


Re: 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Grievers

Posted by supersu on Oct 7, 2020 7:46 am


my sincere condolences on the loss of your beloved so quickly.  all that you have been thru, I am totally NOT surprised of your shingles outbreak.

that you have reached out for help here in this forum and with some professionals is awesome!  this is a safe place to be vulnerable and ask for help like you have.  good stuff man!

sounds like you are a great friend but now its your turn!!!  lean on your friends as they have leaned on you --  they can be YOUR shoulder to cry on, and help you thru these rough waters.

I really hope things look brighter for you soon
cheers & hugs

Re: 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Grievers

Posted by Whitelilies on Oct 7, 2020 11:20 am

Brighty‍ Hello
It took courage, to share all your feelings, here, and I thank you....and I am glad you did share.
There is NO timeline.....just be you!  Which is one terrific, kind, patient and caring lady!
You Rock!!


Miss Lilly

ps my boys call me "OLD"  urgh......

Re: 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Grievers

Posted by Brighty on Oct 7, 2020 12:23 pm

Hahsha  Whitelilies‍ you are not old!!!! You are one awsome lady too!!!!!! Hugs Miss Lilly!
Help is out there. All you have to do is reach out.

Re: 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Grievers

Posted by Cynthia Mac on Oct 8, 2020 9:47 am

CentralAB‍ , I, too, thank you for sharing this. Couldn’t have come at a better time... well. You know. 

My responses are:

1. - yes, there is no timeline, and yes, it isn’t something we can do alone. I’m so grateful for the help that has come to me here on this site, and for the friends in my life who have helped me get clarity about this process.
2. I’ve learned that, particularly after the loss of our last parent, we DO question what we want to do with the rest of our life, and I remember having those thoughts after my marriage ended many years ago, too. Allowing ourselves the “down time” to have a good cry, or journal our feelings, or seek the solace of nature is so important.
3. Seeking information is important, too, and it’s one of the first things many cancer patients and their caregivers do as soon as a diagnosis is communicated!
4. Avoiding hasty decisions is more easily said than done sometimes, as you and I both know! 😉 Many, many times I’ve questioned myself this summer whether my plan is the right thing to do - Am I doing it out of emotion, or nostalgia, or actual, rational thought? The good news is that almost every single person I’ve talked to about it feels that, despite my grief, I am acting rationally, and that a year from now, I’ll look back and wonder why I put myself through such angst.
5. Support groups work for many, many people, but so far I’ve been doing well with one-on-one help (I suppose a group can be just 2, eh.)
6. Again, easier said than done - I’ve poured my physical exertions into work, and I’ve started taking vitamin supplements when I know I’m not eating well. I’ve really only had one “bad for me binge” and that was just a couple weeks ago. 
7. Done. As I said, because of # 4, I was really questioning my path forward, and one hour with a qualified professional gave me an opinion that was “arm’s length” from my friends’ helpful, encouraging, but possibly more subjective opinions. As it happened, her observations echoed theirs as far as having “thought things through,” so despite the short time frame of just over 3 months, I’ve decided to proceed with my plan.

Thank you for posting this list and allowing me the opportunity to consider and share my thoughts.

PS to Brighty‍ : I made “Mexican chicken” the other night - boneless, skinless chicken breasts smothered in salsa, baked and topped with cheddar at the end. I chopped one of them into some KD last night and added a spoonful or two of salsa. The added protein and tomatoes are good for you!
“When the root is deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.” - Japanese saying

Re: 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Grievers

Posted by CentralAB on Oct 10, 2020 11:57 am

Brighty‍ Thank you for sharing your experience with grieving here. I agree, it can be a real battle to deal with other people and how they insist on the ways  we "should be grieving."

For me, number two was big. I actually decided to do that before my wife died. I planned, for the most part, my grieving process. I also grieved before she died. But I did not set specific time limits on that process of grieving. It was, for me, very empowering to do it this way. I think it enabled me to enjoy my new-found "wings of freedom" a little quicker than what some would expect. I wasn't able to anticipate how bad that first month had turned out to be. But after that, I felt that these seven habits were really helpful.

Thank you to all who have posted here, in this topic. Its a great learning experience for me. We all process our grief in different ways. And thats a good thing.😀
________________ "there is always a little Light"

Re: 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Grievers

Posted by Lianne_Moderator on Oct 15, 2020 6:58 pm


Just checking in to see how you are doing? Have your shoulders had any reprieve of late?

Thinking of you