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John James, founder of The Grief Recovery Institute

John W. James

Founder of The Grief Recovery Institute®
Co-Author of The Grief Recovery
Handbook & When Children Grieve

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We Never Forget The Important People In Our Lives.

We recently received a note from a woman named Linda, who had a child die, and who interacts with other parents who’ve also experienced the death of a child.

In her note Linda said that one of the mothers stated, “I’m done grieving,” which provoked Linda to ask us this two-part question: “Is it ever too soon to be done with grieving?” and “Are we ever really done grieving the death of our child?”

We believe those questions and our response will shed valuable light on a very misunderstood aspect of grief and recovery.

Dear Linda,

Thanks for your note and questions.

We’re going to break your first question into two parts.

Part one: “Is it ever too soon to be done with grieving?

Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss, and includes an incredibly wide array of human emotions. It’s also the most unique and individual of all human experiences based on our own personality, style, and information or misinformation about dealing with our feelings; and based on the one-of-a-kind relationship that we had with the person who died—or the person we were married to, in the case of a divorce.

And, as you will see below in our response to the second part, there are constant reminders of people who are no longer here, each of which may stimulate memories with emotions attached.

Grieving isn’t a time-based or even action-based event. It can get a little too intellectual to try to clearly define the words and ideas that relate to the emotions of grief. Our job is always to move people the critical 14 inches from their heads to their hearts. Incorrect or misstated language can keep people away from their emotional truths.

If we were talking to the lady who said, “I’m done grieving,” we’d probably determine in our conversation with her, that what she meant was that she was adapting to the painful unwanted reality of the death, and that the constant pain and tears, loss of focus, and other common reactions, had subsided. That adaptation though, wouldn’t necessarily mean that she was emotionally complete in her relationship with her child who died.

Part Two: “Are we ever really done grieving the death of our child?”

In order to answer your question, we have to modify it. In our Trainings and Workshops, we talk about the fact that we never use the phrase “get over” as it relates to someone important to us who has died, as that would imply that we could or would forget them.

Therefore we rephrase your question to ask, “Will you ever forget your child who died?” The obvious answer is NO!

Additionally we would ask, “Will you ever stop having feelings about your child who died and your relationship with her or him?” Again, NO!

Those last two points are obviously true when any important person to us dies, not just a child.

However, with the death of a child, there is a much greater awareness of the unrealized future that relates to what and who they would have become. Even years later, people who had a young child die will almost always be aware of children who are the age their child would have been now. When they see a group of kids that age they automatically remember their child and with that, often have some strong emotions. With the death of older children even when they are adults, we always have feelings about the things that never get to happen.

Some people erroneously believe that because they remember their child who died, and some of those memories come with sadness or other feelings attached, that indicates that maybe they are still emotionally incomplete. We don’t necessarily agree. We think you can miss someone and be sad just because they are no longer here, and because all that you had hoped would happen never came to pass.

From our hearts to yours,


© 2022 John W. James and The Grief Recovery Institute®. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this and other articles please contact The Grief Recovery Institute at info@griefrecoverymethod.com or by phone, 800-334-7606.

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    April 2017
    Indianapolis, IN - April 7-10, 2017
    Princeton, NJ - April 7-10, 2017
    Reading, Berkshire, England - April 21-24, '17
    Denver, CO - April 21-24, 2017
    Vancouver, BC, Canada - Apr 28-May 1,'17
    San Francisco, CA - Apr 28-May 1,'17
    May 2017
    Seattle, WA - May 5-8, 2017
    Dallas, TX - May 5-8, 2017
    Milwaukee, WI - May 19-22, 2017
    Torquay, Devon, England - May 19-22, '17
    Regina, SK, Canada - May 19-22,'17
    Los Angeles, CA - May 19-22, 2017

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