Quick Ways to Feel Better in Grief

Listen to this obituary

Our society believes in instant gratification. Avoid the lines. Use the drive thru. Better yet, they have a new app that lets you order and pay online. We want what we want when we want it. And we want grief recovery right now! But it doesn’t often work that way.

As I was growing up, we had somebody over for pie and coffee right after church on Sunday night. I remember that homemade dessert habit was traded for Morton Cream Pie or a cake that I baked from a mix. Then, we discovered we might as well meet somewhere for dessert, and not have to clean the house. Then, we discovered a potluck at the church building in the newfangled introduction of a fellowship hall.

Beware the quick fix! In grief recovery, people turn to food, alcohol/drugs, exercise, fantasy in TV or books, isolation, workaholism, or retail therapy (Amazonaholics). We need to be aware of the tendency to excess. Consuming large quantities of food or becoming a drug addict causes more problems than it solves. Get with a good counselor and work through those issues of unfinished business. 

The other night my wife and I discussed our wishes concerning gravesite, gravestones, cremation or embalming, and budget for the entire process. We have our wills in order, our advanced directives, and life insurance policies handy in a fireproof box. It was a revelation to me as I realized that I am old enough to remember washing the body, “sitting up” with the dead, extended visitation with the family and a lengthy funeral service immediately preceded by more visitation before and followed by (you guessed it) pot luck for the family and close friends.

In these days of COVID, we have dispensed with lengthy funeral services and a good bit of visitation with the family. Often there is only a private burial.

My wife and I have elected to have a gravestone, though cremated remains are likely all that is there, and the cemetery is perpetual care because I don’t expect my family to often visit. One of my favorite places to go and things to do occurs in a local cemetery. But prolonged and frequent visiting of the grave can indicate that some people feel that their business with the deceased is incomplete. Unconsciously, these grievers are often seeking some relief from the pain caused by an incomplete relationship.

James and Friedman in their Grief Recovery Handbook refer to STERBs (short-term energy-relieving behaviors). They say there are three problems here: (1) STERBs appear to work by creating an illusion of recovery that causes you to bury or forget emotions. (2) The second problem with STERBs is that they are short-term, and not a lasting solution.                           (3) STERBs are like putting a cork in the spout of a boiling tea kettle. If that steam is not released in time, a gigantic explosion can occur as more major life loss events “turn up the heat” of the teapot. 

Identify the STERBs you have/are using and get the help that you need!

Picture of Doug Greenway

Doug Greenway

These blog articles are written by the retired minister and former educator and counselor, Doug Greenway. He'd love to hear from you with your comments, questions, or suggestions for future topics. You may reach Doug at doug_greenway@yahoo.com.

Leave a Comment