Broken Hearts

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

Marauding Do-Gooders Attack Middle America

The Jones family had a delightful day and nobody cares.


Breaking News - Hometown, USA: The Jones family of Main Street, in our little city, want the rest of the community to know that they had a delightful day today and they wish a fond goodnight to all their friends and acquaintances.

Of course, your local news never begins with that story, and most probably never will - even on a slow news day.

If you're like most people, we'd bet that once in a while you turn to your spouse—as the agonizing litany of daily bedlam bleats out of your TV, infecting your last wakeful moments—and say, "when will we stop hearing so much terrible news?"

Ever wonder why the news is always bad? And why there's so much of it?

Ever wonder why the local news doesn't begin with an uplifting story of happiness and joy in the Jones household?

Why do we tolerate and even encourage this daily barrage of bad news? Though the answer might surprise you, it's really very simple - Survival.

Yes, survival is the reason that you will never hear sweetness and light as the opening story on the news - local, state, national, or worldwide.

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Your brain has a primary function, that being the safety and protection of the organism it serves. Therefore it is in constant "search" mode for anything that it can perceive as a threat to its continued well-being. Bad news is a danger, and the more information your brain can acquire about that danger, the more it thinks it's helping you.

Perhaps this will help you understand some of those people you know, who always seem to have a problem, and if not, they create one. We'll bet you have friends whom you might label as drama queens or adrenaline junkies, those folks who seem to be unable to exist in anything other than mayhem. Listening to them is like tuning into the nightly news.

Wait, there's more bad news. Our brains are NOT interested in good news. Good news requires no action to protect us from outside invaders.

Here's a naughty question. Ever wonder why you don't refuse to watch the news right before you close your eyes to sleep, perchance to dream? After all, we teach our children better than we treat ourselves. We usually won't let them watch scary movies or even eat certain kinds of food before bedtime, lest either disrupt the restful sleep encouraged by that cute phrase, "sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite."

Now here's the puzzle. We live in a world that is constantly giving us bad news as a way of alerting us to ratchet up our survival defenses. And, at the same time, whenever anything sad or bad happens we are told, "don't feel bad," as in, "don't feel bad, she's in a better place," when a loved one dies; or, "don't feel bad, you'll do better next time," after a divorce.

So our brains are hard-wired to be ever-vigilant for bad news, and then our world socializes us to try not to feel bad when we get that bad news.

Is it any wonder we're a bit confused about the emotions attached to loss?

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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