Grief and Loneliness

LONELY MailboxA frequent byproduct of loss is loneliness. We all may need time by ourselves, but we also need the balance of time with others. When we hurt from a loss, we need to share our pain, or we may inflict it on others or ourselves. Many venues exist for sharing our pain healthily, and many guiding principles exist to help us in and through the process. One such principle comes from twelve-step programs which exhort participants to keep the H.A.L.T. principle. The H.A.L.T. principle encourages participants to not get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. That wise admonition also applies to people grieving a loss.

You are not alone.  At the very least, call me.  I’ll help you get connected to someone who cares.

Grieving Takes Time

timeC. S. Lewis (1996) said, “Grief is like a bomber circling round and dropping its bombs each time the circle brings it overhead” (p. 58). Lewis also said, “Grief is like a long, winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape” (pp. 76-77). I have experienced grief in similar ways. Years after my brother died, a memory of him popped into my mind and weeping surprisingly overcame me like a cloud floating between the earth and the sun. I thought I had concluded grieving Nick’s death. This episode of grief and the “shadow” which overcame me completely surprised me because it had been nine years since Nick died.

Fully grieving takes time and lots of it; it often takes many years. Perhaps one of the worst sayings we can use with someone suffering loss is the trite expression “get over it.”  Yet, our culture expects people to get over losses in a very few, short days. Asking ourselves a few questions demonstrates well this point: “How many days bereavement leave do most companies allow employees suffering from the death of a family member?  How many days off work do most companies allow employees suffering from the death of a close friend?  How many days personal leave do most companies allow employees for other major losses?”  Normally much more time is needed for healing to occur.

Over time, the intensity of the pain, shock, chaos and other feelings diminish. Meanwhile, hurting people hurt people. The family, friends, and colleagues of a grieving person may be among those hurt by the griever. The remedy includes allowing, even encouraging, people to fully grieve their losses.

The Grief Process

Grieving is a process which is frequently a chaotic one that may last many years. It almost always lasts many weeks, not the few days most people and employers in the U.S. culture allow for grieving. The process usually embraces several stages. This work incorporates a compilation of stages suggested by Deits (2004) and Kubler-Ross (1997). The compilation, however, is not comprehensive.

A numbness stage usually comes first. This merciful stage helps people endure the initial shock of the loss.

The denial stage often comes next. Many, if not most, of us who suffer a traumatic loss, at first deny that it really happened. This is not abnormal and may be a self-protecting psychological mechanism. Often well-meaning people attempt to force grieving people to accept reality; that is not usually helpful at the beginning of the grief process.  If the denial stage becomes unhealthily prolonged, some intervention may then be necessary and helpful. One aspect of the denial stage may be some form of bargaining.

The acceptance or acknowledgement stage commonly comes after the denial stage. Accepting the reality of the loss may hurt, but the truth eventually sets the person free from living a lie.

An anger stage commonly follows the acceptance stage. Frequently flowing from the hurting party’s lips are statements or questions of this nature: “Why did this have to happen to me?” “What are we doing here?” “This isn’t fair!” “Someone’s going to pay for this!” This normal stage can be expressed in a healthy way or a harmful way.

A depression stage frequently comes on the heels of the anger stage. This stage, like the other stages, can be brief or can last for an extended period.  When someone gets stuck in an extended period of depression, seeking competent help may be of significant importance.

A healing and renewal stage generally occurs after the previous stages.  However, probably all the stages above are part of a healing and renewal process.

Three key points exist which are useful to remember when utilizing these stages to discuss the process of grief. First, not all people go through each of these stages, and the stages do not always follow the order presented here. Second, people in our culture often get stuck –sometimes for many years or even a lifetime – in one or more stages. Third, somewhere amidst these stages many experience agony and severe pain.

Personal Unprocessed Grief

Although I have taught for a long time the need for grieving healthily, I discovered that personally I have not done it well. In fact, I realized that for some losses, I had not grieved at all.  For example, here is a partial list I recently compiled of my personal losses. Most of these losses have not been fully, healthily grieved.

Twenty-two to twenty-five years ago:

  • Glynn, my brother-in-law, died after a two-plus year bout with colon cancer
  • John, my father-in-law, died after a two-year bout with lung cancer
  • Nick, my younger brother, died suddenly from a heart attack
  • Travis, my buddy, died as a result of a heart attack

Seventeen years ago:

  • Divorce, after twenty years of marriage
  • Working class identity, when I earned my Ph.D.
  • Career, never had the opportunity to enjoy the career in academia that I anticipated while working on my doctorate. I decided not to pursue jobs open to me—all out of state—in order to stay geographically close to my children.

Twelve to Fourteen years ago:

  • Remarriage (a major gain but also some loss)
  • Texas (we moved away)

Recent losses (last eight years):

  • My dad died
  • My mother-in-law died
  • My father-in-law died

Most of these losses were never fully grieved.

Grief and Anger

grief and lossGrief is more than mourning the loss of human life.  Humans grieve other losses, too.  Change creates loss, and change occurs constantly and ever faster in the U. S.  We relentlessly change from current technology to new technology, from temporary stability to instability and back to stability, and from bust to boom and back to bust.  Change includes moving from, through, and to. “From” indicates not just leaving; it also indicates loss.  Humans need to grieve most losses.

Several years ago I discovered I had some major anger issues in my life. I suppressed anger for decades, but it finally began to come out, and not in healthy ways. I did not know how to properly express anger. So, I studied anger management for several years and worked on my anger issues. I began making some progress, but it has been painfully slow. I recently realized that much of the anger in my life comes from my unprocessed grief.

More to come…

Published in: on June 18, 2009 at 7:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Desirable Change

While many do fear change, most of us desire change from:

  • failure to success
  • debt to debt-free
  • broken relationship to reconciliation

Most of us want:

  • a better world
  • a better quality of life
  • a better government
  • a better boss or work environment
  • to be healthier

Some want to change from:

  • status quo to exciting
  • overweight to trim and fit
  • ho-hum to passionate
  • bored to energized
  • employee to business owner
  • single to married
  • boring job to exciting career
  • unhealthy home life to healthy family relationships

All of these changes are possible, especially with help.  Any of those changes interest you?  We can help you achieve them.


Great_debatersEven debate teams have coaches.  Great movie, by the way!  To do our very best, we all need good coaches.  Can you imagine a collegiate or professional tennis player without a coach?  What about an olympic athlete or team?  I employ a coach to help me be the best I can be at what I do.   I need encouragement, accountability, and someone who has a passion to help me succeed.  My coach, Jenni, is all that.  I believe we all need encouragement, accountability, and someone who has a passion to help us succeed. How about you?

Published in: on June 15, 2009 at 11:19 am  Leave a Comment  



How do you know your coach is listening to you?  Give examples from a coaching session.

Chuck reviews my concerns and asks for clarification when needed.  He also reviews our past session with specific points during each new session we have.  I always feel that he sincerely cares about my emotional and spiritual health.

How does your coach help you learn, explore, and discover without telling you what to do, giving you solutions, or interjecting their agenda?

He asks questions when I ask for solutions.  Obviously this drives me nuts as I just want a cookie recipe answer, but I know he wants me to think deeply and get below the surface.

What does your coach do to help you discover priority issues?

He ASKS…what is the most important thing NOW.  What can wait.  What is necessary to move closer to my emotional goals.

Share 2 or 3 questions that your coach has asked you that have helped your learning, thinking, or perspective as it relates to issues targeted in your coaching sessions.

1.  He’s asked me what my current (urgent) frustration is… and then helped me dissect it down to what is real and what is exaggerated.

2.  He’s asked me what I contributed to a current conflict I am involved in.  It helped me to see how my adversary is perceiving the same conflict from another position.

3.  He’s asked me to think back to a time when life seemed easier and to determine what I am doing now vs what I was doing then… so think about what steps I could take to regain that state of mind.

Published in: on June 14, 2009 at 2:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Change and Courage

Sue Monk Kidd, in her book When the Heart Waits, said “The opposite of courage is not only fear but security.”  Leaders must be strong and courageous.  Facing change and transition often takes courage, and leading others through change always requires courage.  Are you willing to get out of your comfort zone?

Are you:

  1. hardened soil, letting nothing new in?
  2. stony soil that leaves little room for roots to develop?
  3. covered with thorns that choke out the seed?
  4. fertile soil allowing the seed to germinate, grow, and produce fruit?
  5. willing to change?


Published in: on June 9, 2009 at 4:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

More Changes and Transitions

  1. Loss of dream
  2. Your business isn’t what you thought it would be
  3. Loss of passion
  4. New church
  5. New pastor
  6. New music/choir director
  7. New “worship style”
  8. Congregational split
  9. Evacuation due to a natural disaster
  10. Forced exodus due to political violence or “ethnic cleansing.”
  11. Milestone birthdays
  12. Puberty
  13. Graduations
  14. New job/promotion
  15. Different stages of parenting
  16. Loss of illusions about nation, church, people, God, self
  17. Loss of reputation, esteem; personal integrity, self-respect
  18. Losses associated with aging—body image, beauty, youth, strength
  19. Loss of mental abilities, memories—from dementia, depression, medication
  20. Loss of talents or abilities through accident, illness, neglect

Can you think or more?