GRIEVING CAN GIVE YOU LIFE!
If we do not face up to our losses and grief, we can turn to alcohol and drugs as a mistaken way out. To aid recovery, we give a 10-point system for healing from grief, created by Fr Jack McGinnis.
This article was published in Addiction Today in 1994; it remains 100% relevant today.
In Grief gives you freedom, I discussed the importance of grieving and how it frees me up to have much of my life restored. Now let me share with you some of what I have learned about grieving.
If we have internal systems – the immune system, the cardiovascular system, the autonomic nervous sytem – which help us sustain life, should we not also have a system which processes one of our most constant experiences, loss?
Perhaps the “system” for grieving is the combination of all our systems. If we experience severe loss in childhood, our grieving sytem becomes overloaded and impaired. It ceases to work effectively for us. Thus we find it hard sometimes to complete grieving. Part of our task is to heal the grieving sytem so that it will work better for us.
HOW DO WE HEAL THE GRIEVING SYSTEM?
First, we do it by feeling, and expressing our feelings. Feelings give energy to the grieving system. When we freely feel, we energise our system to do its work.
Secondly, we do it by sharing the pain of our lives with other people. When you share your pain with me, I begin to care about you in a deeper way. This care carries with it healing energy, healing love, which has a positive effect on the energy of your grieving sytem.
Thirdly, we do it by identifying as clearly as possible exactly what we lost in the broken experiences of our childhood. For the system to work, it nees to know exactly what it is working on.
Fourthly, we do it by openly grieving with the help of a trusted friend. When we allow ourselves to grieve openly, identifying losses, having our feelings, coming to forgiveness or closure, we exercise the grieving sytem in a way which gives it energy and helps it to work better.
THE MOST HELPFUL APPROACH
I discovered that I could not grieve at one time all the losses I sustained. I had to break them down into one event and one loss at a time.
By taking them one at a time, I discovered that I did not have to go to every event or loss. When I complete the grieving of one event and one loss, it affects many like it.
To complete grieving a loss, I must forgive the person I hold responsible for the loss. Some authors and therapists believe that it is not healthy to forgive because that can take away a person’s power. I believe that resentment grows out of unforgiveness, and resentment is a false boundary I can mistakenly use to ‘protect’ me from further harm. Forgiveness comes at the end of grieving, as a gift. Often people are urged to forgive prematurely, before completing the process.
What changes through grieving is the way I ‘carry’ the event or the person inside me. Likewise, it is important to process one loss at a time, becaue it is possible to forgive the same person for one event or loss, but not to forgive them for other events or losses.
1 Write in as much detail as possible an event/ circumstance which caused you to experience a loss in your childhood. Try to make clear for yourself just what happened to cause a loss. The clearer the event is, the more fully you can grieve the loss you experienced from it. If you cannot remember one event, you can start to identify a loss by remembering a situation in general terms and write what you can about it.
2 What were your feelings during the event/ circumstance? If you cannot remember the feelings, write what you might have wanted to feel or what would be appropriate.
3 How did you cope with/deny your feelings after the event happened or circumstances changed?
4 Clearly identify what you lost when the event happened or in the circumstance you were experiencing.
5 What are your feelings now about the loss from the event/ circumstance?
6 If you denied the event, circumstance or your feelings for a long time, what have been the consequences of your denial?
7 Who do you consider, in your perception, responsible or accountable for your loss? Yourself? Another person? A group? God?
8 Where to you think you are in a process of forgiving whoever you consider accountable for your loss?
9 Are you aware of any risk you take by finally forgiving the person who seemed accountable for your loss? If so, what is the risk for you?
10 Are you willing, with the help of friends and a ‘higher power’, to take the risk of forgiving the person you perceive to be responsible for your loss? Take the time you need to become willing to forgive. Premature forgiveness short-circuits the grieving process. Use whatever helps you need to arrive at forgiveness.
May your grieving give you freedom from addictions – and give you life!