Reflections On A Life-Changing Journey

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I first encountered Grief Recovery when my mentor D took the class about three years ago.  D had survived some of the most heartbreaking things a person can experience and was determined to heal and finally move forward, no matter what the cost.   As you can imagine, working through her heartbreak was quite hard for her.  One day, I remember her calling and telling me that she was headed to the hospital because she thought she was having a heart attack!  That’s how devastating her grief was.  However, in spite of the pain, D finished the class courageously.

Before Grief Recovery, I remember D being a woman tortured by nightmares, painful memories, and bipolar-like mania and depression.  After Grief Recovery, it was obvious that the storm inside her had subsided.  In the years since, D has continued to face more devastating losses and hardship.  Amazingly though, despite her ongoing struggles, she has continued to morph into a more grounded, fearless, loving, confident, and resilient woman.  She truly is a warrior and diamond in the rough!

Shortly after D finished her class, a few of our mutual friends decided to take it too.  They started Grief Recovery filled with fear and despair, and right before my eyes, changed into people full of confidence and hope.  It was, and still is, amazing!  Oddly enough though, even after witnessing such change in my friends, I didn’t think Grief Recovery was something that could, or would apply to me and my struggles.  I finally decided to take a class myself about a year later, but it took some really crappy circumstances to get me there.  In hindsight, I’m sure it was all part of a greater, divinely-orchestrated purpose.

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In February 2014, I was hit by a car riding my bicycle and rushed to the ER.  A few weeks later, I was cleared to go back to work, and the same day I returned, my boss decided to cut my hours from full-time to part-time.  I was barely making ends meet as it was, and not only had I just painfully injured my leg and missed more than two full weeks of work, but I ended up receiving only one day’s worth of disability pay because I hadn’t been employed long enough to receive any more.  Needless to say, I felt cripplingly overwhelmed.

Once I was cleared to work again, I also started seeing a chiropractor for my leg.  At the end of one of my chiropractic visits, I found a flyer for a Grief Recovery class.  The class was going to start a few weeks later and take place at the office!  Talk about divine timing!  I was so desperate for help and relief that I decided to check it out, even though I had some reservations.  I didn’t think I could achieve the results I had seen in my friends, but I decided to commit to attending every class and doing the work.

As the final class concluded, my teacher informed the other students and I that we were going to celebrate our achievement the following week with a group dinner.  During the dinner, my classmates, teacher, invited guests, and I all ate good food and enjoyed each others’ company.  Once everyone was finished with their meals, my teacher stood up and recognized us with certificates for completing the class.  Then, she invited us to share a bit about our experience.  I walked into that dinner still skeptical, because I had not yet had any huge revelations or experienced a radical transformation, but when my turn came to share, I stood up, and burst into tears.  I felt free and relieved in an indescribable way.  It seemed as though, all at once, the profundity of what Grief Recovery had done for me manifested in front of my eyes.

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Before becoming equipped with the correct information and tools needed to successfully overcome my grief, I saw myself through the lens of my pain and devastation.  Seeing myself through that lens led me to believe that I was a broken, lesser, person who deserved to suffer, and that I had to pretend to be normal in order to receive love and care.  Grief Recovery, however, taught me that I was, in fact, truly a normal person having normal and natural reactions to my losses.  So, when I stood up to share, I felt like a real and unpretentious human being for the first time.

Once the anger, sadness, and fear left my heart, a greater hope and love than I’d ever experienced filled the empty space.  I realized that Grief Recovery had given my heart a voice and helped me know how to communicate what was most important to me.  As my heart began to speak, I started uncovering the truth about myself.  That night at the dinner, the pieces I’d discovered fell into place, and I found a game-changing truth.  All that critical judgment, isolation, and pain that had been distorting my internal lens finally cleared away, and what I saw was a strong, loving, smart, and beautiful woman.

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There was no way I could have predicted or prepared for what happened to me during that first celebration dinner.  It was like my eyes, ears, and heart opened after being shut for years.  Nothing in my life has been the same since.  Just over a week ago, I hosted a celebration dinner for the students of my pilot Grief Recovery class.  I was excited to hear them share their experiences, and hopeful that they might have had life-changing transformations similar to mine.  What happened instead was that I, once again, left changed.

The Grief Recovery Method® teaches that the only person who knows exactly how you feel after your loss is you!  Everyone grieves differently, because every person is unique and individual.  If you are to discover and become complete with your emotional losses, it is essential that you understand and accept this about yourself and others.  In fact, this truth is so essential to Grief Recovery, that at the beginning of each class, all students and the teacher make a commitment to be their unique, individual selves.

Well, this fact of life couldn’t have been made any clearer to me than during my celebration dinner last week.  While I was hoping, and somewhat expecting, my students to be completely changed like I was, they ended up having their own unique and individual transformations.  One of my students shared that Grief Recovery revealed to him the origins of some of his behaviors and thought patterns.  Another student shared that he now better understands how to help others and give them the dignity and respect they deserve.  One of my female students shared that she had been blind to the amount of strong, painful emotion she was keeping stored inside her, and that Grief Recovery helped her to clear it out.

None of my students burst into sobs of relief, and none of them expressed sentiments similar to mine.  Their experiences, and what they took away were unique to them.  Looking back, I am thankful they didn’t come away with the same results I did.  I’m glad they stayed true to the unique individuals they are, because, in doing so, I found out a bit more about myself!  I realized that my job as a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® and teacher of the Grief Recovery Method® is to listen to and learn about my students so that I can better guide them towards finding their emotional truths.  I realized that I need to sit back and relax in awe and wonder, because being a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® entrusts me with the great privilege of hearing a person’s heart speak, possibly for the first time, and then honoring it for being brave.

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I am so, so thankful for the opportunity to walk alongside others on their Grief Recovery journeys.  This is the greatest job in the world, and one I hope to never take lightly.  As much as Grief Recovery has the power to transform and heal those who participate in the class, it also transforms and heals the teachers just as much.  If you are interested in receiving the life-changing tools Grief Recovery has to offer, I welcome and encourage you to attend an informational meeting being held at Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral on August 31st at 7pm.  You can also enroll in my upcoming 8-week class here.  Come and experience the greatness of Grief Recovery.  I guarantee you will be glad you did!

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The Pain and Harmfulness of Judgment

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Whether we are having a great experience, or a really painful one, our first instinct is to usually go talk to someone about it.  We form our beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world around us through our relational experiences.  We are meant to be in relationship with others.  Unfortunately, for many of us, including myself, there was a time, or many times, when our honesty and vulnerability was met with painful judgment.

Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario involving a girl named Theresa.  Her story is an example of how judgment can make the grieving experience more painful, and in turn, harm the griever.  Some of you may relate to this, others may not, and either way is ok!

Theresa had a hard decision to make.  On the one hand, she really loved her boyfriend Sean.  She connected with him deeply.  He had experienced many hardships and struggles growing up, and she felt immense compassion and understanding for him as a result.  She herself had experienced similar heartbreak and loss.  However, Sean couldn’t seem to take responsibility for his actions.  He was drinking too much, skipping out on his work shifts, and being irresponsible with his money.  There were even a few times Sean was unable to pay his part of the bills, because he had spent all his money drinking at bars.

Theresa worked full-time and was barely able to make ends meet as it was.  She could no longer afford to cover Sean’s part of the bills, and no matter how many times she talked to him about how his irresponsibility was hurting her, and how she loved him and wanted to help him make good decisions, his behavior wouldn’t change.  If anything, he just ended up drinking more.

One day, Theresa decided that she could no longer continue being Sean’s girlfriend.  She was being treated unfairly and felt taken advantage of.  While she had great compassion and understanding for Sean, she realized that it was not good for either of them to continue enabling his bad behavior by covering his part of the bills.  When she told Sean that she was leaving him, he lashed out at her in anger and rage.  He told her that she didn’t really love him, and tried to make her feel guilty about leaving him to deal with his life and pain alone.

As you might imagine, Theresa was devastated.  She felt relief and pride that she had stood up for herself and done the right thing by both of them, but she also felt immense fear, humiliation, and sadness.  Theresa really loved Sean, and knew that underneath all his pain, there was a loving, generous, strong, funny, smart man.  She was worried for his well-being, and a bit humiliated that she had allowed herself to be treated poorly for so long.  Her friends weren’t entirely helpful either.  For a while now, they had told her that she needed to “dump that loser”.  They didn’t seem to understand or respect how much Theresa loved him and was feeling conflicted.

After the breakup, Theresa went to her friends to talk about how she was feeling.  She was met with comments like, “I can’t believe you stayed with that loser for so long”, “I don’t feel bad for you, you did this to yourself”, and “Don’t worry, there are plenty more fish in the sea.”  As you can imagine, Theresa felt like she had  been kicked when she was down.  She felt like her friends didn’t really care about her.  They didn’t really listen to what she was saying, and instead, they passed judgment on her with comments that made her feel even worse about herself and her situation.

From that point forward, Theresa stopped talking to her friends when she was struggling and in pain.  She didn’t want to open herself up to be judged again by people she thought she could trust and be comforted by.  Out of self-protection, Theresa learned that it wasn’t safe for her to talk honestly and vulnerably about her pain and struggles.  Her relationship with her friends became strained after her breakup, and she was left feeling more alone and down than ever.

Theresa’s friends certainly did not give Theresa what she needed to heal from her loss.  While they may have meant well, the comments they made to Theresa while she was grieving her breakup were not helpful.  Instead, they left Theresa feeling unheard and more humiliated about herself.


How many of you can relate to how Theresa felt?  Have you ever tried to share honestly about how you were feeling only to be met with unhelpful comments that left you feeling judged and alone?


The Grief Recovery Handbook® teaches us that grief is the most powerful of all the emotions, because it is a mass of conflicting feelings happening all at once resulting from a significant emotional loss.  Just experiencing grief alone can be overwhelming, so experiencing judgment from loved ones on top of the grief can be incredibly devastating.

In my Uprooting Grief classes, where I teach The Grief Recovery Method®, all of my participants and I make four commitments to each other at the beginning of each class.  These commitments are:

  1. Total honesty
  2. Individuality and Uniqueness
  3. Absolute Confidentiality
  4. NO judging, minimizing, comparing, or fixing

Those of us who have been trained as Certified Grief Recovery Specialists® by The Grief Recovery Institute®, myself included, understand and honor the fragility of grievers’ hearts.  We do not take lightly the fact that we are trusted to help hurting people walk through some of the most painful and sensitive experiences of their lives.  We want you to be free from the pain, isolation, and loneliness that came from your significant emotional loss(es), and that is why we commit to fiercely protecting you, and ourselves, by agreeing to honor the four commitments listed above.

It takes a great deal of courage to vulnerably open up to another person and share our deepest hurts.  Every single person grieves differently, and for a hurting griever to achieve emotional completeness and healing, they must be able to trust that their truth will be kept confidential and free from judgment, minimizing, comparison, or fixing;  and, as relational beings, it is crucial that our truths be received and heard by someone who will respect our need for confidentiality and affirm us for the unique grievers we are.  In fact, it is necessary that we be listened to with dignity and respect.

I don’t know about you, but I want to heal from the pain of my losses.  I want to be able to share freely and honestly, knowing that what I share will not be broadcast to the world through gossip, and that I will not be judged, compared, minimized, or fixed by the person with whom I share the most sensitive parts of my heart.  Isn’t this what we all want and need?


If you have a friend, family member, or anyone else come to you looking to talk about their pain and loss, PLEASE DO NOT judge them.  Try to picture a heart with ears, and listen to them with the dignity and respect they deserve without analysis or comment.

Some of the most helpful comments to make to someone who is hurting are:

“I can’t imagine what this is like for you.” – Because you can’t!  You are NOT them.

“I don’t know what to say.” – Often times, it is better to say nothing at all than to say something that may judge, minimize, compare, analyze, or be perceived as “fixing”.

Some of the most UNHELPFUL comments to make to someone who is hurting are:

“I know how you feel.” – No, you most certainly do not.  You are NOT them!

“Just get over it.” – Telling someone how to deal with their emotions is not only insensitive, but completely invalidating.  How would you feel if someone said this to you while you were hurting?  How would you feel if they told you what to do?  This comment in particular has an undertone of judgment to it.  It sends a message to the griever that their emotions are wrong and invalid.


I hope that this blog has opened your eyes to how judgment can be incredibly harmful to a grieving person.  If you have experienced judgment yourself, I encourage you to speak some kind words to yourself, and to allow yourself to experience your feelings, because they are normal and natural.  Do not judge yourself for your feelings, because that is very harmful too.  The last person you need judging you for being a normal and natural person is yourself!  It only adds to your pain, and you don’t deserve that.  You are beautiful and wonderful exactly as you are, a unique individual full of value and possibility.

Finally, if you are hurting, and need someone to talk to about your loss and grief, please reach out to a safe person and talk to them.  If you don’t feel like you have any safe people in your life, please feel free to reach out to me, and I promise to honor your truth and listen with dignity and respect.  Together, we can help each other heal from our grief.  Together, we can sow seeds of honesty, respect, and love.

I love you all!  I hope you have a wonderful day FREE of any painful and harmful judgment!  ❤ ❤ ❤

-Jennifer

The Struggle Is Real

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Went to get in my car this morning, when I realized…BAM!  I locked my keys in my apartment. 😱😩

It has been an emotional few days.  Little things here and there have triggered old feelings and memories.  Now, this seems likes it wouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary for daily life, but when lot of little things trigger strong emotions in me, I tend to get flooded, and then I lose focus during the present moment.

How can I best describe this “flooded” experience?  I think I finally explained it best to my boyfriend last night.  Each little trigger I experience produces conflicting feelings in me.  I drove past an ex-boyfriend’s house a couple days ago while I was working, and immediately felt a flood of conflicting emotions–or what we in the Grief Recovery world like to call grief!  That, in and of itself, took some effort to try to sort through.  I was angry, I was sad, and there were definitely feelings of fondness that arose too.

On top of that, a friend asked me to reach out to someone who was really hurting and considering doing something drastic and permanent.  I was immediately full of compassion and wanted to help, but felt very conflicted.  Should I reach out and try to help?  The person didn’t even know me.  I was very familiar with their situation, for I had gone through something similar myself.  I was really hoping they would be open to my offer of compassion and care.  As of now, I still have not heard back from this person.  I am scared, angry, sad, and feel a bit humiliated.  It’s hard to put yourself out there to help someone, and then feel like they don’t want what you’re offering.  It’s especially hard when you believe that you could save them a great deal of heartache if they were only open to hearing you out.  Unfortunately, I have no control over their decisions, only my actions and reactions.

A few other things happened that triggered emotional reactions in me.  Altogether, I became “flooded” when I had numerous triggers occurring with conflicting emotions for each one.  I lost my focus in the present moment because all my emotions were blending together.  Too many conflicting emotions from too many significant events were happening at the same time, and I was really struggling to figure out which emotion properly belonged to each trigger.  This is the best way I can describe what my “flooded” experiences are like.  I find myself yawning uncontrollably when this happens. 😂😩

I feel incredibly fortunate though, to have the clarity of knowing exactly what is going on in my mind and my heart when I get “flooded” like this.  I feel even more fortunate to have the tools to help me properly find and express these unsaid things that are filling my head and heart with conflicting emotions (unresolved grief).  I am not perfect, but everyday I get better and better at sorting through and completing each trigger when it happens.

Have you ever found yourself standing in front of the fridge, forgetting why you were there? Ever found yourself misplacing everyday important things?

Unresolved grief, or undelivered communications of an emotional nature, can cause us to lose present-moment focus.  It’s hard for our minds and bodies to be connected in the moment when our minds are off remembering the past or worrying about the future.

Week 3 of Grief Recovery happened last night.  The discussions were so honest and potent.  I’m so proud of everyone taking my class.  It is not easy work for them, nor me.  Sometimes things they say and do, trigger emotions in me, and I really want to be as present as possible for them.  They are applying themselves fully to each task, sharing truthfully from their hearts, and listening to each other with dignity and respect.  My heart wants nothing more than to help them get the most out of the work they are doing.  I really want to be able to fully listen and understand what their hearts are saying, and I want them to trust that I will lead them safely to healing and completion.  When I get flooded, like I have been the last few days, I get scared that I won’t be able to give them that present and focused leader they need and hope for.  I guess I need to be better at laughing at my own humanity, and more accepting of the truth that I too have more work to do.

I can’t wait to see what future weeks of our Grief Recovery classes will bring and produce…but to start, I should really get my keys back first! 😂

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Uprooting Grief Pilot Class

Tonight’s the night!  My first Grief Recovery class begins tonight at 7pm!!!

I am so thankful. I am so hopeful. The anticipation is killing me. A number of my friends have decided to take the class with me, for the sake of gaining these tools, the hope of experiencing some relief and lightness in their lives, and because they love me and want to help me become the best Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® I can be.

This is the best thing ever. We all experience grief, and we all have some unresolved grief. The fact that I get to teach people about what grief REALLY is–one of the LEAST acknowledged and talked about subjects in society–AND empower them with the correct tools to complete their grief, is just ridiculously amazing. I feel so giddy, so fortunate, so full of hope and purpose.

We are our most powerful selves when we are in the present moment. Unresolved grief takes us out of the present and into the past and/or future. How incredible that I get to steward the tools that will give people a greater capacity for love and joy, a greater appreciation and understanding of their fellow man, and more power to make decisions and live the life they truly dream of.

I am going to give this my whole heart and life. It TRANSFORMS lives, and our world needs the enlightenment and tools Grief Recovery has to offer. Gosh! I feel like the most blessed person. I can’t contain my hope and excitement!!!!

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With love,

 

Jennifer