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John James, founder of The Grief Recovery Institute

John W. James

Founder of The Grief Recovery Institute®
Co-Author of The Grief Recovery
Handbook & When Children Grieve

Russell Friedman, Executive Director of The Grief Recovery Institute

Russell Friedman

Executive Director
Co-Author of The Grief Recovery
Handbook & When Children Grieve

Featured Article

Six Major Myths – The Short Version

There are six major myths about grief that are so close to universal that nearly everyone can relate to them. This is true not only for those of us raised and socialized here in America, but for people from different cultures and different languages around the world. Here are the Six Myths of Grief as they appear in The Grief Recovery Handbook and When Children Grieve.

  • Don't Feel Bad
  • Replace the Loss
  • Grieve Alone
  • Grief Just Takes Time
  • Be Strong - Be Strong For Others
  • Keep Busy
When these myths are exposed, most people realize that they’ve been influenced by them most of their lives, but have never taken a critical look at them to see if they are accurate or helpful. While our parents and others may have inadvertently passed on life-limiting rather than life-enhancing information to us on the topic of grief and what to do about, we know that there was no intent to harm us. Over time we will present full-scale articles on each of the six myths. But for now, we want you to have at least an awareness of the six myths so when you see references to them in our other articles, you’ll understand what they mean. The Six Major Myths Are Learned Early In Life A great deal of the information and misinformation we learn in childhood stays with us for the rest of our lives. Nowhere is this more evident—and more unhelpful—than in the area of grief and what to do about it. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss, but nearly everything we learn about dealing with grief is not normal, not natural, and not helpful. Here are the six most common, unhelpful myths about dealing with loss. We want you to look at them and see if you need to discard them and learn better ways of dealing with your emotions when you are affected by the death of someone meaningful to you. Myth #1 - Don't Feel Bad! [also, Don't Feel Sad! & Don't Be Scared!]

Even though grief and all of the feelings associated with it are normal and natural, children are constantly told not to feel the way they feel. This automatically puts them in conflict with the truth, in conflict with their own nature, and indeed, in conflict with the parents and guardians who are supposed to help them.

To illustrate, we use the story of a child who comes home from pre-school with tears in her eyes. Her mom or dad asks what happened?, and the child responds, “The other little girls were mean to me.” To which the parent says, “Don’t Feel Bad, here have a cookie, you’ll feel better.” In reality, the cookie doesn’t make the child feel better, it makes her feel different. She has merely been distracted from her hurt feelings. And, she has been told by her parents whom she trusts, not to feel bad. She has also been taught that when she feels bad she should medicate herself with a substance, in this case, sugar.

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Ask John & Russell – Punishing yourself for something you didn't cause, and lack the power to undo, is unfair to you. (Published 10/18/16)


I wrote a tribute to my best friend who just died. The truth is, we were friends for many years, lived about 2 feet away from each other for about 15 years, but this friend often treated me very badly. She stopped talking to me when HER DOG BIT MY CHILD because she was paranoid that I reported her to the Health Dept. I didn't; the hospital does. She didn't speak to me for 15 years, reappeared over the phone, and we spoke daily for two years. Then, one terrible thing after the other happened to her, and she became very nasty to me. But I continued to listen because I knew she was grieving over her husband. One day, when my life was also in jeopardy, I told her to stop calling me. She had lost it, and everyone else told me to do it, and they were right. But she continued to not eat, drink instead, and she died. I know this is not my fault, but I can't forgive myself. I wrote her a letter in my journal, saying, "I am so sorry." I have had many losses, but I am having a lot of trouble forgiving myself for telling her off.

Russell Friedman Replies:

Dear Irene,

Thanks for your note. Although you didn’t ask a direct question, we can sense the area that you’d like us to respond to.

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Find Local Support

If you or someone important to you wants help with grief: Look for a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist℠ in your community. The Grief Recovery Institute ® trains and mentors Certified Grief Recovery Specialists℠ throughout the United States & Canada.

See Russell and John's blog at Psychology Today

Workshops & Training Schedule

The Grief Recovery Institute ® offers Certification Training programs for those who wish to help grievers.

    October 2016
    Atlanta, GA -October 7-10, 2016
    Bend, OR - October 7-10, 2016
    Rochester, NY - October 7-10, 2016
    Toronto, ON, Canada - October 14-17, 2016
    Scottsdale, AZ - October 14-17, 2016
    Sydney, NSW, Australia - October 15-18, 2016
    Kansas City, KS - October 28-31, 2016
    November 2016
    Reading, England - November 4-7, 2016
    San Diego, CA - November 11-14, 2016
    Nashville, TN - November 11-14, 2016
    Denver, CO - November 11-14, 2016
    Edmonton, AB, Canada - Nov 18-21, 2016
    Los Angeles, CA - November 18-21, 2016
    Princeton, NJ - November 18-21, 2016

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