The best information I've ever heard on the topic of grieving and what happens when we don't do it comes from a retired cop turned public speaker and therapist for police officers, Bobby Smith, PhD. Bobby knows more about grief than perhaps anyone, having learned about it intimately, far sooner than one should have to.
As a toddler, Bobby watched his mother suffer a horrible illness that eventually took her life on his tenth birthday. As a Louisiana state trooper — a job he adored for eleven years — he was shot in the face and blinded in both eyes by a drugged-out, wannabe cop killer at a highway checkpoint. In the hospital, blinded for life and overwhelmed with depression, he learned that his wife was having an affair and had taken most of his belongings. Later, while living alone and forced into early retirement (which, by the way, didn't cover all of his bills, forcing him to move), Bobby learned that his only child at the time, his beautiful teenage daughter, had been killed in a car accident.
I could go on from there, but it's not my intention to cause you stress. It's interesting to note, however, that as easy as it is to get into victim mode and feel sorry for yourself, when you think you've got it bad, someone else always has it worse.
You Can Get Over Loss
I'm about to share Bobby's philosophy on getting over loss with you because of how well it works. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Bobby laughs more than anyone you'll ever meet — the kind of contagious laughter that comes from deep down in his core. He met and married a beautiful woman, and they have a very successful life despite the hardships he's endured.
As the most popular law-enforcement speaker in the world, his stories move countless people every year. Bobby takes a room filled with hundreds of big, strong police officers and, in the span of ninety minutes, has them bawling like babies and then gut laughing, often with happy tears rolling down their faces. The experience is not to be missed.
Having a Good Cry: You Cannot Heal until You Feel
I don't know where we got so off track as a society when it comes to expressing our emotions. In the book Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears, by Tom Lutz, the author writes that it was common for both men and women to cry openly prior to the Industrial Revolution. (That makes sense, doesn't it — that we all had to toughen up to handle the hours of working like dogs all day long in factories, miles away from our families. I admit I don't cry much at the office either.)
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Lutz writes, "Heroic epics from Greek times through the Middle Ages are soggy with weeping of all sorts." He says that when Roland, the most famous warrior of medieval France died, twenty thousand knights supposedly wept so profusely they fainted and fell from their horses.
Learning to Cry Before Getting Back to Being Happy
Bobby Smith loves a good cry, as do I, and believes it acts like good medicine. In his bestselling book, The Will to Survive: A Mental and Emotional Guide for Law Enforcement Professionals and the People Who Love Them, he tells a story about sitting in a hotel room preparing for an eight thirty a.m. lecture. Having turned on the TV to occupy his mind before going to speak, he realized he'd turned to a show he'd seen many times prior to his shooting — a show about family, character, integrity, and the importance of loyalty.
It was Little House on the Prairie. You might remember Michael Landon's character, Charles Ingalls, or Pa, the lovable husband and father, but you may not remember his sidekick, Mr. Edwards. Mr. Edwards was a rough mountain man — loud, obnoxious, and Charles's best friend. The dialogue between the two characters caught Bobby's attention as he walked back and forth getting dressed, and he sat down on the edge of the bed. He listened intently as Laura Ingalls talked lovingly with Mr. Edwards about why he had just called off his engagement with a woman many years his junior, with whom he was very much in love. Their conversation went something like this:
"Mr. Edwards, why have you called off your engagement when you love her so much and she is so much in love with you?" Laura asked.
"Well, I'm just an old man, and it's not fair to her because she's so young and beautiful. I'll probably be dead before she even reaches the prime of her life, so it just wouldn't be fair to her."
"Mr. Edwards, are you sad?"
"Yes, I'm very sad," he said.
"Do you want to cry?" she asked.
"No. I don't want to cry," he said. "I want to laugh. But I know before I can ever laugh again, I must first learn to cry."
You Can't Heal Until You Feel
"I rose to my feet," Bobby writes, "pointing at the TV with my right hand, damn near spilling my coffee. 'Mr. Edwards,' I shouted, 'that's what I've been trying to tell them for ten years! That's what I'm about to lecture on to a room full of police officers! That's what I'm always trying to say!'"
Somewhere on some studio lot decades ago, a writer knew the perfect thing for Mr. Edwards to tell Laura, showing Bobby that the writer understood a thing or two about dealing with loss.
"You cannot heal until you feel," says Bobby now. "No one can."
I couldn't have said it better. I suggest writing Bobby's quote on a Post-it note and sticking it on your mirror, putting it in your wallet, or making it the screen shot on your iPhone. If you place it somewhere handy, you'll have a visual reminder of the power of letting out your emotions — one of the key ingredients to a healthy life.
This excerpt was reprinted with permission of
the publisher, Hampton Roads Publishing.
(subtitles by InnerSelf)
Closer Than You Think: The Easy Guide to Connecting with Loved Ones on the Other Side
by Deborah Heneghan.
About the Author
Deborah Heneghan is a working mother who has been communicating with her deceased sister for over 25 years. She is the founder of Closer Than You Think, a national resource for after-death communications, grief management and learning how to live a more spiritually fulfilled life. She teaches teleseminars, holds retreats/workshops, does speaking engagements, has her own weekly radio show, and has appeared on Lifetime TV, and programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. Her passion and life mission is to help others find the blessings and gifts from all of life's experiences. Visit her website at www.closerthanyouthinkthebook.com