Though mourning the many losses (broken bonds) across our years is a natural (instinctive) reflex, it can be slowed or blocked. Incomplete or "complicated" grief can promote serious mental, emotional, physical, and relationship problems. Our feelgood, warp-speed society ("Don't Worry - Be Happy!") doesn't teach us how and why to grieve well or encourage us to do so.

One result is that incomplete grief is often mis-diagnosed and medicated as "depression." Another is that average lay and many human-service professionals don't know how to assess for unfinished mourning. Can you name the common symptoms of it? See the summary at http://sfhelp.org/grief/symptoms.htm.

Requisites

Requirements for healthy three-level grieving include:

+ your true Self guiding your other personality subselves,

+ awareness of your losses and their impacts on you and others,

+ awareness of people that can hinder healthy mourning,

+ internal and external *permissions* to grieve,

+ time, opportunity, and motivation to mourn without distractions,

+ confidence in the grief process ("things WILL get better"), and...

+ appropriate grief supports.

The fewer of these a "loser" (one who has losses) has, the more likely she or he will (a) be slowed or blocked in grieving important losses well, and (b) suffer negative consequences.

INTERNAL PERMISSION TO GRIEVE

Premise - every family forms an unpoken "Good Grief policy" - rules about how, what, and when to grieve "correctly." If family adults are wounded and unaware of healthy bonding and grieving basics, they can inadvertantly create an "anti-grief" policy. That teaches young children to repress and/or feel ashamed of normal grief thoughts, feelings, and behaviors - particularly excessive or repeated anger and sadness.

When this happens, a child is apt to deny themselves *internal* permission and encouragement to feel and/or express grief feelings, and block it. Without intervention, the child is apt to unconsciously bring this grieving inhibition into adult settings and relationships.

In "pro-grief" families, all tangible and invisible losses are respectfully validated, and infants, kids, teens and adults are empathically *encouraged* to grieve well at their own pace, in their own way. These kids grow into adults with intenal permission (values and attitudes) to grieve well even if it makes other people uncomfortable.

EXTERNAL PERMISSIONS TO GRIEVE

Wounded, unaware people who came from anti-grief homes may be signifiantly uncomfortable around adults or kids who are grieving major losses. They may not know how to respond, and scorn, guilt-trip, control, or manipulate active mourners into repressing or muting their emotions and loss-stories for their own comfort.

Inhibiting reactions can come from kids, teachers, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, church-mates, media hero/ines, and some hiuman-service professionals. Usually such people are unaware of withholding permission to grieve well, and the significant impacts of doing so. Do you know any people who discourage healthy mourning overtly or covertly? Do YOU?

Healthy adults can learn to spot and avoid "anti-grief" (wounded, unaware) people, and to choose "pro-grief" supporters, as they heal their broken bonds. Typical kids can't do this as well, and need sensitive, informed adult modeling and guidance to find nurturing, "pro grief" environments.

Pause, breathe, and reflect - were you raised in a "pro-grief" environment? Did you grow stable internal permission to grieve well? Are you intentionally providing external permissions to the mourners in your home and life? What would people who know you say? What will your grown kids say?

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For more detail and perspective on permissions to grieve, see this self-study lesson: http://sfhelp.org/grief/guide3.htm

Author's Bio: 

I have studied and taught interpersonal relationship skills and dynamics - including effective communication and grieving - professionally since 1979. I maintained a private family-systems therapy practice in the Chicago area for 28 years. Among other affiliations, I was on the Board of the nonprofit Stepfamily Association of America (SAA) for a number of years. I maintain a free educational Web site "Break the Cycle!" at sfhelp.org/.