Broken Hearts

Exploring myths and truths about grief, loss, and recovery.

Hammer, Saw, or Tissues?

Tissues—always needed in your emotional tool kit.

Most trades-people have tool kits to accomplish their tasks. Hammers, saws, screwdrivers and the like for construction; wrenches, pliers, vise grips for plumbing; duct tape for everything else.

Not wanting to be different, we in Grief Recovery also have a tool kit for our trade. We usually carry it wherever we go. We are also fortunate that most homes and businesses usually have one element of our tool kits on their premises, just in case we forget ours or run out.

No, we don't hammer the emotional truth out of people. No, we don't try to wrench them back into the flow of life. And no, we don't carry glue to put relationship back together.

A major tool in our kit is just a box of tissues. Yes facial tissues, generic or brand name. Maybe since tears come out of tear ducts, tissues are a kind of tear-duct tape.

When we help people sometimes their faces leak. Grief usually produces strong emotions which are often accompanied by tears. We carry the tissues to help mop up.

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On the other hand, grieving people often try to hide their feelings. Why? Good question. The answer isn't simple. In part it's because our society has inadvertently carried forward an idea that suggests that we are only allowed to have sad or painful feelings for a short time following a loss. Even then, that allowance is usually reserved for deaths or divorces, and doesn't include the 40 other losses that produce painful emotions.

The net result is that an awful lot of folks are walking around with the emotional equivalent of an arrow in their hearts. They are hemorrhaging emotions, often demonstrated by those tears we see all the time. That's why we need the tissues in our tool kit. But those people are sometimes afraid to let others see the arrows or their tears. They are afraid they will be judged as "not being strong," or "breaking down."

If only we could all see those invisible arrows, we might be more compassionate to those whose hearts are heavy. After all, it's almost impossible to get past the age of five and not have had some losses. Some losses are major with the death of a family member or friend, or a divorce within the child's immediate or extended family. Other losses may seem minor, but will still affect the child.

Children are smart. They cry when they're sad. They sometimes even forget to use tissues, when a sleeve or the back of their hand can wipe away their tears. As adults we're equally subjected to the pain of loss, but we aren't always as open and forthcoming with our emotions and tears as we were when we were young. But we still get arrows stuck in our hearts and need tools to help remove them.

Fortunately, tissues are not the only tools in our kit. We employ some very powerful action tools to lead people to recovery from the pain caused by major losses. The AARAM Formula, which we've taught for 30 years, along with the principles and actions of grief recovery are the mainstays in our emotional tool kit and are available to everyone in our books, The Grief Recovery Handbook and When Children Grieve, and Moving On.

Since you probably already have tissues in your home, you only need our three books to complete your emotional tool kit.

 

Russell Friedman is Executive Director of The Grief Recovery Institute, and co-author of The Grief Recovery Handbook, When Children Grieve, and Moving On.

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