Good Grief?

There is so much pain in the world. I see it written in the eyes and on the faces of people everywhere I go. Perhaps I see more of it given my work with grief, but all kinds of emotional pain finds its way to my doorstep. I do not see emotional pain as a bad or negative thing, rather I see it for what it is, the opportunity to be one of our greatest guides. It is a process to knowing and experiencing the depths of who we really are. There are many different kinds of emotional pain. And in this week’s column, we will begin to explore the many aspects of grief and recovery. Healing our grief is vital if we desire to create health and lasting happiness, so let’s look at it a little deeper.

What is grief? Most would answer sadness. While sadness may be a part of grief, it’s not representative of the whole picture. Grief is actually all emotions one feels and experiences while moving through any kind of loss. It is also common to feel what would seem to be conflicting emotions while grieving, like sadness and happiness at the same time. For example, sad that a loved one died but happy that they are no longer suffering from the pain of a long illness.

There are major losses, like death and divorce; and minor ones, like breaking or losing a favorite pair of sunglasses. We all experience grief in every form, yet not all recover from it; major losses being especially challenging. Having recovery tools to move through this very natural human emotional process can make the difference between really living versus just existing. Embracing your grief is to embrace your life, for it is part of who you are. Living a life full of joy does not mean we live a grief-free life, it simply means we move through the tough times returning us to our natural state of being. Winston Churchill said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” I couldn’t agree more.

While I get having a conversation about grief isn’t usually in our “top ten” list, we might want to consider placing it there, for there is no one who escapes it.  And learning how to be with it, rather than avoiding that which is unavoidable, just makes sense.

When you look to see what it is you were taught about grief and how to deal with it, it becomes clear that we may have been given some less-than-helpful information around it, if we’re given any info at all. How many of us were taught things like “time heals all wounds” or “big boys don’t cry”? I am sure you could come up with many more of these well-intentioned but untrue statements.

Often there are things communicated that might even be intellectually true for us but aren’t really helpful when we are in the midst of dealing with a loss, things like “they are in a better place now” or “there are more fish in the sea.”  Far too often we approach grief with our intellect, which is the wrong tool for the job; grief is an emotional process. Intellectual comments, whether true or not, can leave us feeling empty and isolated. Going through loss alone makes it that much more painful and it’s never recommended. Suggestion number one in “When Everything Changes, Change Everything” is never go it alone.

Avoiding grief can lead us toward unhealthy behaviors which do nothing to help us resolve or heal our pain. The desire to feel different or to “fix” what we are feeling is quite common. Of course, in truth, there is nothing to fix because grieving (feeling) doesn’t make us broken. All of this born out of the idea that there is such a thing as a “bad feeling”; this thought leads us into more pain. Far to often people self-medicate, using all different sorts of substances or different forms of destructive behavior seeking an unneeded cure. Stuffing our feelings over time can create all sorts of health issues. Think about how often do you stuff laughter? Then why do we stuff our pain?

Feelings are created to be expressed and not repressed. When feelings are expressed, they are like waves…they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Once a wave passes, either a similar feeling begins with less intensity as the next wave or the feeling of being complete begins to set in. Completion is all our feelings desire, simply to be fully expressed, holding nothing back. This emotional process happens until it ends naturally; surrendering to it is the key.

When I became willing to move toward my pain, rather than avoiding or running from it, an interesting thing began to happen for me. Moving toward it, especially with the intention of healing it, revealed gifts my pain had to offer. Gifts you ask? Yes, underneath all emotional pain is buried treasure. It certainly may not look or feel like it when you are in the middle of it, and I do not say this lightly or without empathy for the many painful events we all move through, yet I am still humbled when I think of the many ways my pain has nudged me in directions I may never have taken without it. Here is where our spiritual nature reveals itself, always there, holding us together as we fall apart. I am certain that if you have been on the planet for awhile you have experienced this, probably many times. The question I ask myself these days is, why do I resist it? Especially knowing that perhaps all of my greatest insights and spiritual awakenings have come through some of the most painful events and greatest hardships in my life.

I am moving through such a challenge right now and once again have noticed that old familiar feeling of resistance coming up. Yet there is another voice present, one gently urging me to surrender to the process. This voice whispers: trust that nothing happens by accident and that everything that is happening right now has a reason and purpose behind it, which, as always, supports you and your greater good. Listening to this voice has provided some comfort and a willingness to move back into the process, moving within to heal with a new level of faith and trust. But perhaps more importantly, simply allowing the pain to be expressed rather than repressed; this is the message my soul wishes to remind you of today. There is something wonderful to be experienced within the authentic expression of our emotional process, and to deny yourself that which you created simply because it feels “bad” produces more of the thing you are attempting to avoid anyway. Remember “what you resist persists.”

Moving through emotional pain is a blessing as only moving through it can be. Allow others to not only witness your process but hold you through it. Know that help is available. Know that you are not alone. Reach out…I am here.

I will close this week’s column with this wonderful quote: “Beautiful pictures are developed from negatives in a darkroom…so if darkness has fallen upon you, rest assured that a beautiful picture is being prepared, waiting only for the right time to be revealed.”

The time has come because you are here. What is being revealed for you?

Holding you in my heart – JR

(J.R. Westen, D.D. is a Holistic Health & Spiritual Counselor who has worked and presented side-by-side with Neale Donald Walsch for over a decade. He is passionate about helping individuals move beyond their emotional and spiritual challenges, transforming breakdowns into breakthroughs. His coaching provides practical wisdom and guidance that can be immediately incorporated to shift ones experience of life. As is true for most impactful teachers, JR’s own struggles and triumphs inspired him to find powerful ways of helping others. Sober since June 1, 1986, JR’s passion for helping individuals move through intense life challenges drove him to also specialize in Addiction and Grief Recovery. J.R. currently shares his gift of counseling & coaching with individuals from around the world through the Wellness Center, Simply Vibrant, located on Long Island N.Y. . In addition, he works with Escondido Sobering Services and serves on the Board of Directors for the Conversations with God Foundation. He can be contacted at, or to book an appointment, write



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