Exploring The "F" words - part 3 - Familiar and its role in grief 

by Russell Friedman & John W. James of The Grief Recovery Institute 
What you practice is what you get good at! The Grief Recovery Handbook makes constant reference to the fact that you must grieve and complete your relationship to your pain. Lacking Grief Recovery skills, grievers often begin to identify themselves by the pain they have experienced. In a relatively short time, the griever becomes familiar with that pained identity. The griever may also develop a very strong loyalty to the now familiar pain. No one wants to give up things they own or feel very familiar with. 
What you practice is what you get good at! 
In a society that does not encourage or support effective grief recovery actions, it is typical for grievers to find themselves isolating from friends, family and co-workers. In an attempt to escape the very real sense of being judged or criticized for having the normal feelings caused by loss, the griever may begin to avoid all people or events that might lead to having to defend their feelings or to act as if they were recovered. The griever becomes very familiar with and loyal to the isolation that seems to protect them. 
What you practice is what you get good at! 
We have been taught, incorrectly, that grievers want and need to be alone. We have been taught, incorrectly, that grievers do not want to talk about the losses they have experienced. The griever, caught between the treatment they receive from well intentioned friends and their own fears, begins to become very familiar with being alone. 
What you practice is what you get good at! 
So far we have identified Pain, Isolation, and Loneliness as highly probable areas of familiarity for grieving people. It is tragic when a griever, already struggling with the normal and natural emotions caused by loss, is further limited by some habits that do not enhance or encourage completion and recovery from significant emotional loss. 
Familiar is not necessarily good, it is only familiar. Comfortable is not necessarily good, it is often just familiar. The old clich√©, "better the devil I know then the devil I don't know," almost explains our loyalty to the familiarity of Pain, Isolation and Loneliness. Change can be difficult and awkward at the best of times, and it is clearly difficult for grieving people for whom the whole universe may seem upside down. 
It is essential that we begin to become familiar with actions, skills and behaviours that will lead to successful recovery from significant emotional losses. It does not require any more energy to practice helpful things than unhelpful ones. The Grief Recovery Handbook is an excellent source of appropriate and effective Grief Recovery tools that can lead to completion of familiar behaviours or beliefs that are not helping us improve our lives. In a prior article of this series we said, "Familiarity can create a powerful illusion that change is not necessary, that growth is not possible." You must fight off the illusion of comfort caused by familiarity. It is not your nature to live a life of Pain, Isolation and Loneliness. It is your nature to be loving and lovable, trusting and trustable. Practicing the principles of grief recovery will help you become familiar with your natural ability to be happy. 
What you practice is what you get good at! 
¬© 2002 Russell P. Friedman, 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 Editor@grief.net or by phone USA (818) 907-9600 Canada (519) 586-8825 
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