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Excerpted from Healing Grief by James Van Praagh. Copyright 2000 by James Van Praagh. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"It is so important to face negative emotions and experience them because by doing so, we build trust and confidence within ourselves."

James Van Praagh
Healing Grief
, Part 1

No matter where we live or what language we speak, we share a common experience with everyone else on the planet - the loss of someone or something close to us. Loss can be sudden, without warning, or predictable, and still we are unable to prevent it from happening. All loss brings up feelings and memories, and for some these experiences may seem uneventful, while for others such loss changes the course of their lives forever. When someone or something is gone from our lives, we experience an array of physical, emotional, and spiritual sensations known as grief. Webster's Dictionary defines grief as "a deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement; a cause of such suffering; a mishap, misadventure, trouble, annoyance; an unfortunate outcome: disaster."

Why is there grief and why do we have to go through it? Grief serves a very important purpose. It is a reaction to our loss. It represents our underlying sense of insecurity. Our fears of abandonment and feelings of vulnerability rise to the surface, forcing us to face them. The world upon which we predicated our belief systems, goals, and our lives in general is suddenly out of control. We feel scared and exposed. Most of us don't want to deal with or feel these negative emotions, and yet they are just as relevant and as important to our well-being as our positive feelings. We need both positive and negative to be fully human. It has been said that one would never appreciate the positive emotions if he never knew of the negative ones. That is why it is so important to face negative emotions and experience them because by doing so, we build trust and confidence within ourselves. The worst thing we can do is to deny and repress them altogether. This only delays our spiritual growth.

Another factor to keep in mind is that grief is not an illness from which we recover. It is not merely one thing, but a process of feelings and physical conditions, and one cannot judge how much grief is enough grief. You should never feel pressured as to how you are supposed to grieve, for there is no right or wrong way. It is important to remember that there are healthy and constructive ways to go through the grieving process, as well as destructive and unhealthy ones, which can lead to more suffering.

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