Home VideosReflections Grief – It’s A Process

Grief – It’s A Process

by Craig F. Harrison

During this Reflections event at the Crystal Palace, I talked about grief and we remembered those we have died.

Presenter Notes



In one way or another, we all experience grief some of us many times over.  Usually, when we hear the word grief we automatically think of death.  Grief extends to far more areas than just the death of a loved one.

There is grief in:

  • Moving
  • Divorce
  • Retirement
  • Legal problems
  • Death of a pet
  • End of an addiction
  • Major health changes
  • Financial changes- positive or negative
  • Holidays
  • Empty nest
  • Graduation
  • New Job or leaving an old one
  • Oftentimes these life experiences can be moments of Grief

Grief can cause a loss of trust.  Loss of trust in friends, family, institutions, loss of trust in a relationship, loss of trust in God.

Grief is about a broken heart, not a broken brain.

This is the key to working through Grief, dealing with heart issues, and getting out of our brain. (TO MUCH THINKING AND NOT ENOUGH FEELING)

Recovery from loss is achieved by a series of small and correct choices made by the griever.

In all Grief, everyone suffers.  For example in a divorce, children grieve, parents, siblings, friends, and co-workers.  The sadness, change in circumstances, and negativity can overwhelm anyone.

Most of us have heard of Dr. Kubler-Ross and the  5 stages of Grief.  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. These are truly great measuring tools but I really agree with John James and Rusell Friedman in their book, THE GRIEF RECOVERY HANDBOOK”, that these should not be regarded as stages.  They are certainly credible for the dying process.  But Grief is different.  For example Denial.  My experience working with hundreds of people grieving is that most are not in denial.  They come in and say my wife died, or my child was killed or my husband left me.  There is no denying they know what happened.

Or Anger, watching my mom suffer from Pancreatic Cancer, and enjoying my time with her. I was not angry when she died, in fact, there was some relief she was not suffering.  I say this to you because in my experience there is no exact science as each relationship and person is different in how they experience grief.  But when a child dies of cancer, an addiction, or car accident, or a spouse cheats on them I would feel anger.

There are some common experiences and responses that people have when they grieve.  

Reduced concentration…you can end up walking in the kitchen and cannot remember why.  I do it all the time.  Sometimes the preoccupation with emotional loss keeps us from concentrating on what we are doing.

Some experience a sense of numbness.  They really don’t feel anything.  NO motivation, no joy…they are stuck emotionally.  It’s ok…that is normal for a while.  It’s when we don’t move forward we are in trouble.  Why I named my company Transition Ahead…I just want to help people transition.

Grief by definition is emotional and we are not good at dealing with our emotions.

When someone dies suddenly or from suicide, murder, or tragic circumstances.  People start asking what if?  What if I had responded to that call, or told them not to go out etc?  I always like to bring them back to the true story, not the one they are telling themselves.  I ask them did you love them?  It is always yes.  Did you wish them any harm no.  Then I ask them what would you tell them right now.  So words like denial and anger are not good for grievers and neither is closure.

The G word (Guilt)  always seems to come up with Grief.  We can all play the what if …I should have…but it does not lead to healing. Yes, we all grieve differently even with the same loss.  All relationships are unique; therefore all recovery is individual.

8 million people become grievers each year to death alone.  The divorce rate is 45% and that is just those who were in marriage others lived together and split up.  14 million pets die per year, retirement, loss of job, medical problems, and financial devastation. It is staggering the grief that is in the world.  And Grief can be contagious.  

So if we are not grieving we are connected to grief.  

There are a lot of crazy things people say to people when they are grieving.  When I went through my certification in Grief Counseling, I was shocked to hear things people say, meaning well, but not helpful.

  1. Don’t feel bad!
  2. They are in a better place!  No mother wants to hear that as true as it might be.
  3. Don’t Cry
  4. You have to move on
  5. You can have more children
  6. Go does not give you more than you can handle
  7. I know how hard it is to lose your child I lost a dog once.
  8. In time the pain will go away
  9. I know how you are feeling
  10. It is God’s will
  11.  Pet – get a new one-replace the loss and you replace the pain doesn’t quite work that way
  12. This is part of God’s plan…(give me your job then, or wait till your husband cheats on you)
  13. Keep busy -though I do feel doing service helps
  14. You will find someone else
  15. Be thankful you have other children.

My Friend Darle who lost her husband and both her children was talking to me the other day and that night she sent me this reflection.

I have trouble with Gratitude, it is not as easy as it used to be.  Don’t ask me to be grateful that I had them (my family). I want to be grateful that I still have them.

Don’t ask me to be grateful that they are with God in heaven, I want to be grateful they are here with me.  Don’t ask me to be grateful that they are always here with me, I want to be grateful to see them, hear them, and touch them.  I am grateful for old friends who held me tight through the toughest days.

Those new friends who have experienced similar losses and understand pain.  Those little things like birds singing, the ocean waves calling and the sun shining on a beautiful day.  But never ask me to be grateful that I lived and they died! We need to be careful of throwing God at people grieving.  The Word of God is powerful.  But not everyone is open…be patient.

The scripture says: Psalm 23:4

“Even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

When you are dealing with a family member or friend grieving, what they need is the ministry of presence not words.  Checking on them, having coffee, and letting them feel and express what they need to without judgment or comment.  Offering to accompany them out -it’s hard to get out there again.  Like bringing someone here tonight.

You cannot be afraid to get help.  When is a good time to start getting help as soon as you experience grief?  I run for help when Suffering hits me.

Men, I find are different in their ways of grieving.  They have always been told not to cry, have feelings, etc.  They usually just work or drink to grieve. Just think of the combination when a couple loses a child…one grieves one way and the other different it is hard to survive.

We don’t talk about death! (when I am at a party and someone asks me about my day and I mention death, I don’t want to hear it!) People think it is morbid.  It is part of my daily life.  I am blessed to deal with it on a daily basis and I am not numb to it. It is going to happen to you one way or another…you are going to die.  Might as well live, laugh, play, and enjoy what time you have.  I believe we should not be afraid to talk about death, we should laugh about it, we celebrate becoming a teenager, turning 21 party, 30, 40 50 60 then we start hiding 70 and 8- and terrified of the next stage….we need to keep celebrating our transition.  We have to search for joy and happiness instead of embracing fear. I really cannot wait to get on the other side.  

We numb the reality with words that soften the reality.

People say:

  1. She passed away
  2. He has gone to his eternal rest
  3. Dad’s gone
  4. He expired (like milk)
  5. We’ve lost mother
  6. Grandpa went to sleep
  7. God called him home

We are afraid to say they have died….it’s real!

Remember Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss.

Grief is not depression.

Grief can lead to depression but it is not the same.  We cannot take a pill and grief goes away, though many try.

Grief is painful.  It is supposed to be.  We have to face it, embrace it, and grow through it.

I struggle when people preach God through grief.

It is OK that people want to blame God.  Mary and her sister Martha said Lord if you would have been here our brother would not have died.

People have to work through their relationship with God. when in Grief.  Most are mad and God can handle it.  I never quote scriptures or say here is a book until I find someone who is open to the discussion.  I just sit and usually cry with them.

Faith and Feelings are two different things. 1) Your religious or spiritual faith may be shattered or shaken, or 2) regardless of the nature of the loss, your faith is undamaged

Share my story Faith “elevated” out of the box, new life no regret, miss things but amazed at what I was missing…living, joy, laughter, rest. I am not searching for my life I am life. Faith does not require reason.  It is spiritual, not emotional or intellectual.  I try to get people to work on their relationship with the person who has died before working on their relationship with God.  I have noticed when people are in the healing space they find and reconnect with God.  The old saying God helps those who help themselves.

Lots happen to people when they grieve.  James and Freidman discuss the Academy Award recovery.  I have to be strong for my family and put on a happy face.  You tell everyone you are OK and you know you are not.  Sometimes we get caught up in building enshrinements to those who have died.  We keep large amounts of their things, holding on tight  Friend Elaine).  Some only think of the good memories and positive things about the deceased and are afraid to talk about times they were hurt or angry at the person who died.  (Maybe share Mom and Nancy’s story)

“You must not speak ill of the dead.  When I would preach at a funeral I also wanted to know the dirt, we have enough saints in the church.  I want the humanness of the person.

You have to look at the entire relationship to heal.  The pain caused by death, divorce, or other significant emotional loss has to be looked at in full, not just the positive. For example, someone could say, “I loved my dad but he was an alcoholic…there were things about that you did not like …but you can still love the person. All relationships include both positive and negative interactions.  We know you can only heal if you are totally honest with yourself and others.

We like to bury our true feelings.

In the Academy Awards, recovery performances are so good that they convince themselves and others that all was right when it really was not.

How many times have you run into someone and they asked how are you when you are grieving and you say “Fine”.  

It is also not our place to tell them how they feel…

We have to be careful not to compare our losses to others.  I was talking to a friend (Rudy) the other day and he told me that a friend of his had recently gone through a trauma and she reached out to him.  He told me…I understand how you feel I went through a trauma some years ago.   Be careful we do not understand another’s trauma or grief, every circumstance and relationship is different.  Stay away from the “I know how you feel” statements.

You could listen and say something like.  I hear your pain.  I don’t know what that is like for you, but I experienced something in my life that took me to places I did not want to go and I felt scared, numb, alone.  How can I be there for you?

The recovery process and healing process are different for everyone.

  1. We have to acknowledge that a problem exists. I am not OK
  2. We have to identify that our problem is associated with our loss
  3. We have to acknowledge it is time to take action.

I asked my friend Jody Hudson to come tonight and bring copies of the book she wrote; My Promise to Alex; Through Pain Comes Purpose… She took her pain and suffering of losing her daughter on March 24, 2017, at 4:23 pm of Lyme disease at 22 years of age to writing a book about grief and the faith journey.  I invited her here tonight and she will have a table and her books.  It is a beautiful journey that continues to help us through grief.  She wrote, “My daughter inspired lives.  She taught me how to live even as she took her last breath.  Alex walked with grace, courage, and dignity.  She never once felt sorry for herself….she said when people ask how can I move on after losing my daughter  I tell them I moved on because Alex showed me how to be a light.  I refuse to walk in darkness, I choose light.  Thank you for coming tonight.

What really causes my grief—is the loss or my reaction to the loss (repeat)  We must take responsibility for our current reaction to what happened in the past.  Otherwise, we will forever feel like a victim.  We are not helpless…In fact, as Christians, we are wired to move outside of self and connect with our creator.

We do not have to do this alone.  There are groups, counselors, friends, and family that can walk with you but they cannot carry you.

When we grieve we have to be careful of short-term relievers.

We have more emotional energy than ever and often we try to fix them with unhealthy choices.

  1. Food
  2. Alcohol
  3. Drugs
  4. Anger
  5. Exercise
  6. Fantasy-TV
  7. Isolation
  8. Sex
  9. Shopping
  10. Workaholism

For me, it’s food (sugar) and Work

Short-term relief doesn’t work

We bottle up our feelings because we have been taught to do so.

Sleep is a major issue in healing.

Our minds and Body have to recover…get help so you can sleep.   I use homeopathic remedies to sleep.


One of the most profound realities that individuals have to face is the reality of suffering.

No matter how advanced one becomes on their spiritual path. Suffering is an inescapable part of the human experience. It’s a theme that interconnects all lives and yet it is often the aspect of existence that many of us fear, resist, or misunderstand the most, to embrace the full spectrum of life. Our trials and tribulations open us to the profound teachings that suffering can offer.  That is why Jesus’ suffering has meaning.  There is a value in suffering that is greater than we comprehend.

Suffering comes in many forms. Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

It can be as obvious as a physical injury or as subtle as the ache of the longing heart of a loved one who has passed.  Despite its universal nature, suffering is often seen as something to be avoided at all costs. Yet if we are to grow and mature on our spiritual path understanding and learning from suffering is crucial.

The spiritual approach to suffering is not about seeking it out or glorifying it in any way. Rather, it’s about recognizing its role in our evolution. When we experience suffering it has the potential to crack the surface of our ego, to reveal the deeper layers of our being, and to remind us of our shared vulnerability. We are not in control. Suffering can tear down the walls we’ve built around our hearts and open us up to a more profound sense of compassion and empathy for ourselves and others.  It can draw us into a deeper relationship with Christ!  Moreover, suffering is often a catalyst for transformation. It can shake us from complacency, prompting us to question our life’s direction, our values, and our purpose.

It encourages us to seek new perspectives and to find strength and resilience we may not have known we possessed. The wisdom traditions of the world teach us that the key to dealing with suffering is not to escape it but to go through it, and embrace it with awareness. This means acknowledging our pain, sitting with it, understanding its

roots, and learning what it has to teach us. It’s about finding the delicate balance between accepting suffering as a part of life and not becoming identified with it. In other words, we recognize that while we may experience suffering, we are not defined by it. To integrate suffering into our spiritual journey is to allow it to teach us the art of surrender, to let go of what we cannot control, and to focus our energy on what we can influence.

It teaches us to present with what is rather than what we wish would be. In that presence, we often find the seeds of healing and growth through acts of service, compassion, and kindness. We transform our suffering into collective healing which is a powerful step toward spiritual Maturity.

This is the way through Grief not around it.  To acknowledge our pain, and our suffering but know we are not alone.  Everyone here tonight suffers, some are just more loud or dramatic than others.  It is our human bond that connects us and what makes us authentic.

So, tonight we remember those who have died, those who loved us and taught us life lessons, we embrace the grief of transition and change, but not alone.  Together and through HIM, WITH HIM and IN him…who suffered for us. We don’t have to be afraid of suffering, death, or anything.  It is all helping us transcend, it is awakening us to what we believe.  

The book we are sharing with you tonight, be sure and pick one up on the way out “The Rocking Chair Prophet by Matthew Kelly can help you on the journey, (not tell you the story but the ending says as Daniel journeys through life and suffering and pain, that a gentle voice was speaking to him as clearly as ever.  Despite his questions, doubts, hesitancy, and restlessness, the consistent message was, “Something wonderful is about to happen! And as he laid down to rest he heard.

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun,

There is a time to sow and a time to reap.

A time to be born and a time to die.

A time to plant and a time to uproot

A time to kill and a time to heal

A time to tear down and a time to build up

A time to weep and a time to laugh

A time to mourn and a time to dance

A time to scatter and a time to gather

A time to keep and a time to give

A time to be silent and a time to speak

A time to love and a time to hate

A time for war and a time for peace.

Daniel wondered what it was time for in his life.  He smiled at the future, and the future smiled back.

So we walk hand in hand with our suffering, we don’t need to compare it to someone else’s, it’s not a competition.  I don’t need to judge someone else’s pain or grief and I have no business trying to take it away from them.  It is their journey and I am just there to love them through all of it as they do the same for me. We are just moving forward to the promise of a new life and a new earth.

Now it is time for me to say the end!

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1 comment

Denise Eyherabide November 18, 2023 - 7:01 pm

Too bad two waitresses were standing in front of me while the deceased names were being shown on the screen. I messed seeing the names I submitted to you for the event last Wednesday night!
I was a great program though!
Amen and GOD BLESS EVERYONE!!!!!!!


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