When Karen’s* mother died suddenly last year, the Westporter was shattered.
“She was 72,” Karen says. “That’s not old. She visited just 2 weeks earlier. We were so close. She was my best friend, my confidante, my cheerleader. I had amazing pain in my heart.”
Her friends offered condolences. But, Karen says, “nobody really talks about death or loss.”
Well, almost nobody. Julie Blitzer does.
She’s been trained by the Grief Recovery Institute to help people cope with loss (not just death — we can mourn the end of a marriage or even a job too).
“Our culture knows really well how to acquire things and relationships,” Julie notes. “But we aren’t equipped to deal with losing them.”
The Grief Recovery Method differs from traditional therapy because it occurs over a finite period. Group sessions take place for 8 weeks; individual meetings, for 7.
Each session is very guided. Blitzer helps clients focus on one specific topic or homework assignment each week. She assigns a short reading, and often requires some writing, to help each person “complete their relationship to the pain of their grief.”
Blitzer says she holds her clients “accountable, lovingly,” for their work. Time alone will not ease the pain of a loss, she notes. “One must do something within the time they are grieving if they expect the pain to weaken.”
Karen was skeptical about a group meeting. However, because she already knew Blitzer — their husbands are friends — she agreed to try.
The group consisted of one other member. The readings and written assignments were helpful. “I realized I wasn’t the only person dealing with this,” Karen says.
She took the homework seriously. “I spent all week preparing for a session,” she says. “I really wanted to understand myself, and my relationship with my mom, better.”
She hoped that after 8 weeks, her heart would feel lighter. After the final meeting — when she wrote a “completion letter” to her mother, and said goodbye to her — Karen did feel good.
However, a couple of weeks later she felt even more depressed than before. “I put so much time and effort into this!” she thought in despair.
But, she realizes, “like everything in life, there is no perfect answer. I expected to feel wonderful. That was wrong.
“I definitely learned more about myself than I’d ever known. I’m grateful for that.”
Today Karen has a clearer picture of her mother, and their relationship.
“After I lost her, I only thought of the good times,” the daughter says. “She was like a goddess to me.
“Now I realize she wasn’t perfect. Our relationship wasn’t perfect. My mother had flaws.
“But I can see that through the good and bad times, we pushed through together. I reflected on the mistakes she made, and I’m thinking about how I am, as a parent.”
Karen says that although the Grief Recovery Method sessions were difficult — and the heart-lifting moment she hoped for did not come — she is grateful for the process.
Blitzer understands. “This method equips people with a simple set of tools they can use to process future losses,” she says.
Loss and grief are parts of life. Her job is to help people help themselves through it.
(For more information on the Grief Recovery Method, click here. To contact Julie Blitzer, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
*Karen is not her real name. She requested anonymity to speak about this very personal issue.