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Jeff Zhorne: Learn skills to heal unresolved grief

Grief Counselor

Posted: July 15, 2010 5:42 p.m.
Updated: July 16, 2010 4:30 a.m.
 

“Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry ...” If you are like most people, you are conditioned to automatically respond “alone.” If you’ve suffered a devastating loss such as the death of a loved one, divorce, breakup or other grief experiences, you may be trying to cope with these and other unspoken rules.

Here’s another one: “The way to get through grief is to just keep ...” Did “busy” come to mind? These types of phrases are almost automatic responses. They are bits of information stored in our belief systems from childhood.

When we encounter life’s inevitable losses, such as moving, menopause, retirement, empty nest, loss of a pet or other life transitions, these are the rules from which we draw. These days, thoughts of recession can evoke even more feelings of fear, distrust and scarcity. Not pleasant topics and maybe ones we’d rather not share with other people.

Much of the information we received on coping with loss was not helpful. “Be grateful,” “Be strong” or “Get your mind off yourself” are statements that may be true, but do not help in matters of the heart.

When we were children, the adult authority figures in our lives — parents, teachers, ministers and others — gave us this misinformation in a sincere desire to be helpful. Trouble was, it wasn’t. Unfinished business and unmet needs were created, causing pain, isolation and loneliness. Some unfinished business we dragged into our new relationships — then wondered why those relationships kept ending up the same way.

This is not meant to denigrate parents or other caregivers about what they should or should not have done — most parents do the very best they can with what they’ve been given. But from our earliest ages, unresolved fear and distrust may have driven our lives unconsciously. Little wonder that unfinished business from unresolved loss issues shows up in areas of our lives. According to psychologist Jeffrey Auerbach, if we look at our closest relationships, the issues we fight about with our partners are the very ones that were never overcome with our parents, and those feelings run strong and deep. So we fight with our spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends because they are available.

The truth is, most of us were not taught or trained how to process loss or pain; so, it builds up into a snowball of hurt rolling downhill. This energy has to go somewhere, and that’s when you hear about someone who has a breakdown, has to go to anger management or is seeing someone for depression or illness.

Like a steam kettle with a cork in the top, people blow their tops or have blowups and blowouts. Someone cuts us off on the freeway and we overreact. Anger, sadness and depression can interfere with our thinking process. Circuits overload, and thought processes become distorted. Eventually, people shut themselves off from others.

More and more experts, including therapists, are seeing a real need for deep grief work — getting to root issues to cool down this steam kettle or clear out emotionally clogged arteries. Pick any metaphor you want.

Healing and recovery start by becoming aware that your reactions and feelings are OK but may signal you have unfinished
grief work to do. There is a step-by-step plan to grieve and complete incomplete relationships to get back to living from pure choice in the present moment, not from our wounds. We don’t have to carry around unresolved hurt and pain.

For more than a decade Jeff Zhorne, a grief counselor in Santa Clarita, has offered workshops, recovery courses and individualized counseling for those suffering the pain of loss. A free community presentation on the completion process and learning to risk in relationships again will be held at 7 p.m., Thursday, July 22, in the Education Center at Christ Lutheran Church, 25816 N. Tournament Road, Valencia. For more information call (661) 733-0692.

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