“Killer Clichés” About Loss
By Russell Friedman & John W. James of the Grief Recovery Institute
We have all been educated on how to acquire things. We have been taught how to get an education, get a job, buy a house, etc. There are colleges, universities, trade schools, and technical schools. You can take courses in virtually anything that might interest you.
What education do we receive about dealing with loss? What school do you go to learn to deal with the conflicting feelings caused by significant emotional loss? Loss is so much more predictable and inevitable than gain, and yet we are woefully ill prepared to deal with loss.
One of the most damaging killer clichés about loss is “time heals all wounds.” When we present open lectures on the subject o Grief Recovery, we often ask if anyone is still feeling in pain, isolation, or loneliness as the result of the death of a loved one 20 or more years ago. There are always several hands raised in response to that question. Then we gently ask “if time is going to heal, then 20 years still isn’t enough?”
While recovery from loss does take some time, it need not take as much time as you have been led to believe. Recovery is totally individual, there is no absolute time frame. Sometimes in an attempt to conform to other people’s time frames we do ourselves great harm. This idea leads us to another of the killer clichés, “you should be over it by now.”
It is bad enough that well-meaning, well intentioned friends attack us with killer clichés, but then we start picking on ourselves. We start believing that we are defective or somehow deficient because we haven’t recovered yet.
If we take just two killer clichés we’ve mentioned so far, we can see that they have something in common. They both imply that a non-action will have some therapeutic or recovery value That by waiting, and letting some time pass, we will heal. Let’s add a third cliché to the batch, “you have to keep busy.” Many grievers follow this incorrect advice and work two or three jobs. They fill their time with endless tasks and chores. At the end of any given day, asked how they feel, invariably they report that their heart still feels broken; that all they accomplished by staying busy was to get exhausted.
Now, with only three basic killer clichés we can severely limit out ability to participate in effective recovery. It is not only that people around use tell us these clichés, in an attempt to help, but we ourselves learned and practiced these false beliefs for most of our lives. It is time for us to learn some new and helpful beliefs to assist us in grieving and completing relationships that have ended or changed.
© 2002 Russell P. Friedman, John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute.
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