We celebrated Father’s Day this month. It is lovely for most Dads, a day of tribute. But for some, it is very difficult. Some of their children are no longer here with them to celebrate. One of the most difficult things in the world is for a father, whose role it is to protect his family, to deal with the fact that he can no longer help or protect his son or daughter.
I would like to share the story of John James, bereaved father and sibling — founder of the Grief Recovery Institute, and the Grief Recovery Method, one of the most effective tools which I have encountered for grief. (Excerpt from the GRI Blog follows.)
How the Grief Recovery Method Started: Loss of a Child
You know the overwhelming despair you feel after your heart has been broken? That’s how The Grief Recovery Method started. It was launched into existence after our founder, John W. James’, newborn son died. He tried to cope with the loss the best he could. He tried using the tools he had been taught as a child, and read every self help book he could get his hands on, but realized those tools didn’t help his broken heart.Here’s his story reprinted from The Grief Recovery Handbook*:
“In 1977 my son died. Two years earlier my wife and I had a daughter. Her arrival was the highpoint of my life. When my wife became pregnant again, I was looking forward to another such experience. About five months into the pregnancy, complications set in. When my wife went into premature labor, we raced to the hospital, where every possible medical technique was employed to slow or stop the process. She was hooked up to monitoring devices, and for two days we had to listen to a perfectly healthy heartbeat while knowing there was little chance the child would live.
All of my life I had been taught to believe certain things about what my job was as a man, a husband, and a father. I had been taught to believe that it was my job to identify problems and solve them. What I discovered right away was that it did not matter who I knew, what I knew, how much money I had, or how intelligent I was – there was nothing I could do. It was the most frustrating experience I had ever had.
Despite all the medical intervention, our son was born. For the first eight hours, it appeared that everything would be all right. Then things started to go wrong. Once again, identifying the problem was easy. I could see the problem: he weighed about two pounds, had black hair, and was encased in a glass box. But there was nothing I could do but stand and look at all the monitoring equipment and feel impotent.
This went on for two days. I was trying to help my wife because that was what I had been taught to do. There is nothing wrong with that except, in trying to help her, I was not acknowledging my own pain. At the end of the second day, my son just breathed out and never breathed in again. If you can believe this, it started to go downhill from there. The things people said and did were shocking. That my wife and I were unable to talk became apparent. Our relationship began to fall apart immediately. During the next eight months, I went everywhere, talked to everyone, and read everything that I could get my hands on to help ease the pain. This was the point where I discovered there was little or no help available to deal with the grief. That was the real despair.”
John assumed since loss is so common there’s be plenty of people to help him recover. He quickly learned that the majority of material available to grievers focused on the intellect. John’s heart was broken, not his head. Over the next 8 months he read everything he could on grief and loss. He discovered a process that helped him feel better.It’s hard to believe you will ever feel better when your heart is broken. Yes your life is forever changed after a loss, but it doesn’t have to be painful forever. A man founded the Grief Recovery Method after the death of his son. He couldn’t find the help he needed. But today there is help.I am a Grief Recovery Specialist, certified in the Grief Recovery Method, offering group or 1-on-1 classes. In these classes, you will learn myths about grief and be given valuable tools to help you recover from loss.*
Reprinted with permission from The Grief Recovery Handbook, by John W James and Russell Friedman, 1998, Harper Collins, New York, NY. 2009
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