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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.

"We have never been properly taught how to grieve."

James Van PraaghHealing Grief, Part 2

Every time a loved one dies, we lose a little hope of a better future. A human being has been torn from our lives. A relationship is cut off in one swift blow. We feel frustrated, angry, sad, and confused. We feel regret for things undone and words unsaid. We wonder why the innocent or good die young, and the good-for-nothings live too long. Grieving for our loved ones is not an intellectual process. We have to learn to understand our own feelings and come to peace with the situation. 

Even when a personality or a celebrity dies, we go through a grieving process. It all depends on how much vested interest we had in such a person. We may experience his or her death as a personal loss. When John Kennedy Jr. died, many people who didn't know him cried on his behalf. His death brought up memories of his father, uncle, mother, and an era that seemed simpler. At times like these we mourn the loss of what might have been, especially if we feel that life is passing us by too quickly. We also feel our own fragility as humans because we don't know when our time will come. And because death is scary and unknown, we grieve our own mortality.

Communicate Your Grief

At the onset of any loss, our first reactions are usually shock or disbelief. After a while we come to the realization of our loss, and our feelings turn to sadness, anger, loneliness, guilt, despair, and a whole array of emotions, bodily ills, and other physical conditions. Sometimes our grief seems like an endless process, as if we were trapped in an abyss of darkness without the possibility of escape. Yet loss and grief are frequent occurrences, and most of us are ill prepared to handle them. First of all, we are not used to talking about our grief. Instead, we keep our thoughts and feelings to ourselves, or we rush to discard or ignore the pain we feel. Second, we often rationalize, "If I donít think about it, it will go away." As a society, we do little to help each other understand the effect of loss or even to allow individuals the time necessary to recognize the hurt, sadness, and confusion they feel.

Because we as a society would rather hide and deny death and loss, instead of embracing it and becoming educated about it, we have never been properly taught how to grieve. Therefore, when an event like a death or the onset of a terminal illness occurs, we don't have the necessary tools with which to deal with the situation. We feel that denying its existence is easier because the pain is too unbearable. However, if we possesses an awareness of grief and the emotions born of it, we will be that much better prepared to deal with it in a positive, constructive manner and to face it with less fear and anxiety.

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