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
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 people express their grief. Especially the idea that many people will communicate tremendous depth of emotion and never shed a tear, while others cry all the time but don’t seem to complete the pain, nor derive any long term benefit from crying. In Part Two, we are going to address issues of gender and the uniqueness of individuals and relationships; and discuss exactly what function crying serves, and for whom.
We are aware of the research that indicates that tears of sadness differ in chemical makeup from tears of joy. We are also aware that tears perform the valuable function of washing the eyes. From time to time, we have even alluded to the published studies that indicate that women cry, on average, five times more than men. In attempting to discover if there is any physiological basis for that five to one ratio, we ran into a stone wall.
Failing to find any valid studies on crying that would support a physical distinction by gender, we did a little of our own research. While anecdotal, we believe that it represents the truth. We called some nurse friends whose life experience is working with infants. Without exception, they indicated to us, that the circumstances and frequency with which very young infants cry, is NOT dictated by gender. Little baby boys and little baby girls cry co-equally. There are clear personality differences between individual babies. Some cry more than others, not by gender, rather by individual uniqueness. We did not limit our search to those who worked only with newborns. We got the same responses from experts who work with children up to the age of five. From age five onwards, distinction by gender, and the resultant attitudes and beliefs begin to appear. The logical extension of our informal study led to the inescapable conclusion that socialization, not gender, was the key to later differences of attitude and expression regarding crying.
Although there may be no innate physiological difference between males and females when it comes to crying, we must still ask, what purpose or value, if any, does crying have in recovery from loss. Let us say that crying can represent a physical demonstration of emotional energy attached to a reminder of someone or something that has some significance for you. In fact, during our grief recovery seminars, when someone starts crying, we gently urge them to "talk while you cry."
The emotions are contained in the words the griever speaks, not in the tears they cry. What is fascinating to observe, is as the thoughts and feelings are spoken, the tears usually disappear, and the depth of feeling communicated seems much more powerful than mere tears. In Crying—Part One, we talked with an adult child whose Mom had died. The caller was worried about their Dad’s reaction to Mom’s death, and the fact that Dad had not cried "yet." We asked the caller if they thought that their Dad’s heart was broken. They said yes. We believe that their response, based on their observation of Dad’s body language, tone, and other factors, showed them that he had been massively affected by the death of his wife. It would be unusual, uncommon, and probably uncomfortable for him to cry. And, frankly, it might not have any real benefit for him.
On the other hand, do not be fooled by those who cry frequently. In the strangest of all paradoxes, people can actually use crying as a way to stop feeling rather than to experience great depths of emotion. The tears become a distraction from the real pain caused by the loss.
The key to recovery from the incredible pain caused by death, divorce, and all other losses, is contained in a simple statement: Each of us is unique and each of our relationships is unique. Therefore, we must discover and complete what is emotionally unfinished for us in all of our relationships. Our personal belief systems about the display of emotions are also unique and individual. We may not even have a conscious awareness of what our own beliefs are. An alert to everyone, young or old: "Don’t let anyone else dictate what is emotionally correct for you - not even your children - or your parents. Only you get to determine what is correct for you."
If you need some help in discovering or determining what might help you deal with a broken heart caused by a death or a divorce, get thee to a library or a bookstore, and get a copy of The Grief Recovery Handbook. It contains the kind of information that will lead you to your truth, which in turn will help you complete the pain in your heart.
Please do not interpret this article to mean that we are in any way against crying. What we do provokes tears all the time. At the restaurant across the street where we take our friends to lunch, they don’t understand why everyone who dines with us seems to cry. And if you visited our office, you would have to giggle when you see the gigantic stack of cases of Kleenex piled in a corner of the room. We are neither for nor against crying. We are for recovery from emotional pain. We are for fond memories not turning painful. We are for you having a life of meaning and value even though a loss or losses may have made your life massively different than you had hoped or dreamed.
© 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 »
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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
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Am I Paranoid, Or Are People Really Avoiding Me?
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Valentine’s Day—For Many, The Most Painful Holiday
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Stages of Grief: Are There Actual Stages Of Grief?
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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?
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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?
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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!!!
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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