Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What DO You Say to a Griever?

There are a lot of myths about grief and a lot of misunderstanding about what grievers need during the early periods of grief.  Naturally, those who don't have a recent loss are confused about what to say to someone in the depths of grief.  So, what do you say?  What do grievers really need?  What comfort can friends and family provide that communicates love and care for the griever?

The Grief Recovery Institute has done a great job of explaining what things unintentionally hurt grievers.  Appeals to intellect are not what the person needs.  In grief, the person is swimming in emotions, many times deeply conflicting.  Occasionally they have to "surface" and operate in the intellectual world for short periods of time to deal with funeral details or financial things, but this is a deeply emotional time for the griever.

In the TV cop shows we hear them say "I'm sorry for your loss."  Having lost my son almost four years ago, I learned to hate this statement.  It communicated a lack of concern to me, a lack of forethought for what I needed.  I didn't judge the person that said it.  Frankly, it was said by so many people, I cannot tell you exactly who said it.  I was in a fog.  This statement hurt.

Things like, "they're in a better place" or "they are watching from heaven"  all seemed quite bizarre to me.  How did they know?  These statements while intellectually interesting were also not helpful.

I'm watching the OJ Simpson miniseries on my DVR.  I'm a little behind.  Last night there was a scene where Marcia Clark is talking to Ron Goldman's father and she said, "I know how you feel."  As the words poured from her mouth, I was already objecting.  Mr. Goldman handled it the way most grievers would with pure anger and doubt.  It was quite a good example of what not to say to a griever.

So, what do you say?  Well, my first thought is, if you know the person that you are talking to is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.  Reach out your arms, hold them, cry with them.  It is emotional, so be emotional (that includes men also).  Nothing made me feel better than the love exhibited through those lovely hugs, caring tear filled eyes, knowing looks, and no words.

Since being certified with GRI, I also learned that words that appeal to the emotions are best.  One such statement is "I have no idea what you are feeling."  This statement is almost always followed by a description of the griever about how they are feeling.  It is also very true.  Every relationship is uniquely unique.  My relationship with my mother is different than that of my brother, therefore our reactions to that loss will be different.  So when you say this, you are telling the truth, explaining your feelings, and giving an opening to the person to talk, cry, hug, etc. etc. etc.

"I don't know what to say," can also be a nice start to a conversation.  I would always hug the person, because frankly, it is another truth.  It is not a contrived response.

In our family, when we wanted to sum up the volume of emotions in the whole situation, we said, "This sucks!" which was code for "I feel so bad I can't even express it, and I need some hugs right now!"  For us, this worked, albeit a little crude.

One final idea is instead of saying something, do something.  Grievers are not good at eating, sleeping, cooking, shopping, functioning, etc.  You might simply ask if you can mow the lawn for them on Tuesday (be specific on the day) or come to the house and clean the bathrooms the day after the funeral (usually the family is heading out and the griever is left with laundry and a bit of a mess).  Tell them that you plan to go to the grocery store today or tomorrow and can pick up what they need or invite them to go with you.  By all of this, I do not mean that you should plant a tree or do something symbolic.  Do something of service for the person.

All in all, grief is emotional, so communications need to appeal to emotion.  Not your emotions necessarily, but theirs.  They need to be heard without judgment or criticism.  There are no quick fixes for grief, so don't try to fix them.  Be emotional, be genuine, be loving.  Hugs speak volumes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fear of Feeling Better

In grief, especially long term grief, I think that perhaps people may feel fear and apprehension of feeling better.  That tension in your chest, that empty feeling in your heart, or that loss of power seems to become a place of comfort rather than a move to action.

In my limited time of working with grieving people, I tend to find those that desperately want to get better and those that don't.  It makes me wonder why.

In my own grief struggle, I was searching for answers.  I wanted to know why I felt so bad for so long.  I was aggressively seeking a solution.  When I found the Grief Recovery Institute, the program spoke to me.  The book spoke to me.  I felt deep within me that I had finally found an answer to lifting my soul up from the hurt.  When I went through the course, I poured myself thoroughly into it with every ounce of energy.  When completed with the loss of my son, I felt oddly different.  It took a few hours to sink in.  I noticed that I viewed other situations and difficulties that were adjacent to my loss much differently.  I noticed a missing feeling in my chest.  I searched for it, but I couldn't find it.  It was a familiar feeling of pain, not terrible pain, just a consistent reminder of the loss I had experienced.  Now, that was missing and I felt quite odd for a few weeks.

So, why delay stepping on the path to being you again?

I would like to know your thoughts.

Is it possible that familiar feeling of pain is something associated to the memory of the loved one?

Is there fear that the loss of the pain will cause us to forget our lost loved one?

Is there a fear to enter the depth of the pain and stir up those really deep painful feelings and relive that terrible day?

Is the person's identity so entangled with the loss that they fear losing who they really are?

Please give me your thoughts.


Monday, March 21, 2016

New Grief Recovery Group starts April 10th in Tomball

Do you want to join the next Grief Recovery Group?

We are planning to start a new group on April 10th at the Spring Creek Church of Christ at 14847 Brown Rd, Tomball, TX 77377 from 4 - 6PM.

We will meet each Sunday for two hours.

If you want to feel better, please go to and send me your information.

I'm looking forward to meeting you!

Lance Decker
Certified Grief Recovery Specialist


Grief Recovery

I have had the most amazing experience over the past few months and it has come because of my training and certification with the Grief Recovery Institute.  If you are a reader of my blog, you know that my wife and I lost our 29 year old son over three and a half years ago.  Since then, I have been trying to learn more about grief and how to help others.  Really, I just wanted to feel better and help others to feel better.

After a lot of research and questions, I signed up and attended training to be able to deliver the Grief Recovery Method training and recovery groups.  What an amazing course!  What a great instructor (Laura Jack - see  And best of all, I really feel so much better.  It is impossible to explain, but I will try.  Since Lance Jr. died, I have had a tightness in my chest, a heaviness of heart, a drain of my being.  After the class, frankly, I wondered where it went and I searched for that familiar feeling, but it was gone.  I also had an ability to look at other instances around my son's death with new light and forgiveness.

I've made it known to a few of my friends and my local church that I have this training.  This past weekend we held a balloon event I planned several months ago which helped to launch the training class at my church.  As word spreads, I have more and more people coming to me with questions and interest in being in a grief recovery group.

I bought a domain and made a website ( and have ordered some business cards.  I'm trying to figure out how much time I can spend on this and keep my regular job.  I've started teaching a dear friend of mine the material and, I plan to start a recovery group in April at the Spring Creek church of Christ in Tomball. (

I find grievers are very interested in getting better, they just don't know how.  Conventional wisdom is to not do anything about grief and to live with the pain.  Some develop bad habits or illnesses.  Some turn to substances for relief.  Like a broken leg requires a familiar, sometimes painful, series of steps, so does grief recovery.

I feel like Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:16 - "For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!"  In my case, I want people to know that there is relief from the pain of grief, that recovery is possible, and that you can be yourself again.  None of this means that we forget our loved one or that, at times, we are sad about what happened.  It does mean the incomplete business of our losses can be completed and the pain associated with them can stop.

I am excited what the next few months and years hold for me and this work.  I am finally free of the pain and look forward to helping others do the same.

Lance Decker
Certified Grief Recovery Specialist

Friday, March 18, 2016

Grief in the Workplace

Grief in the Workplace

By Lance Decker, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist

Lately, I have noticed some interesting behaviors at my workplace.  Let me first set the stage for you with the conditions surrounding this.  I live and work in the Houston, TX area and my company has been adversely affected by the recent drop in oil prices.  We realize most of our income through the supply of steel products directly to drillers.  When the drilling slows or stops, so does our business.  To illustrate this, when I started with this company back in December of 2014, there were approximately 1920 drilling rigs working in North America.  Today there are less than 500.  As you can imagine the business has suffered greatly.  Fortunately, the company has good cash reserves and does not seem to be in any financial difficulty. That said, however, the company is smart about manpower and costs during an “oil bust” time period and has started a series of mill closures and reduced capacity to match the current demand.  As this occurs, the company also is reducing overhead employees, many with seniority.

So, you may ask, “Why would you be bothered? You still have a job.”  This is exactly the question in my mind as I feel my morale, and that of the other employees left behind, decline.  First, inside even large companies, there is a building of community.  It is natural for people to get to know others and invest feeling and emotions in others within the workplace.  There’s a funny description of men and women within the workplace that become close called an “office wife” or “office husband.”  While quite odd, I have had this odd relationship occur within my own work experience.  Regardless, people build bonds within the workplace.  Unfortunately, in difficult times, companies reassess the usefulness of every position and every person filling them. People (real people, not numbers) are laid off and relationships are lost or reduced by those leaving as well as those left behind.  The familiarity of the workplace changes.  There’s an empty desk.  Familiar patterns of coffee or water cooler talk are disrupted.  This is nearly the text book definition of grief.  “The conflicting feelings cause by the end of (or change of) a familiar pattern of behavior.”  It is conflicting because, well, I retained my job, but my friend lost his or hers. 

I see symptoms of grief everywhere.  People are distracted for days following a layoff.  There is a fear, a discomfort, that perhaps this round of layoffs are not quite over.  People gather in small groups and compare the lists of who was let go.  In addition others take on the work of those no longer employed and try to figure out what they were doing and what priorities were most important for that departed person.  There is a fear of what the future holds and a bit of paralysis before work begins slowly to return to a new normal.

In addition to the lost relationships of a layoff, as the company continues to evaluate the future, there is an expectation of new layoffs.  Tensions grow and production decreases.  Having been distracted by the stress of the situation, employees are more prone to accidents.  The hopes and dreams of people are jeopardized.  The expectations of raises and promotions are vanishing.  The security for which we all work is undermined.  In response, people who are still working are distracted, cannot sleep, and have steeper highs and lows of activity.  I observe demoralization in some and scrambling in others.  I see political rivals pressing for position and recognition.

So, what can we do in the workplace to relieve this stress, to recover from loss, and get back on task?  Perhaps the first step is to recognize that there is grief for those still working.  Managers have to allow employees to move through grief by being a listening ear, by being human beings, and by giving accurate information.  It is my experience that managers feel the same way during these periods.  If a manager can relate his own feelings of loss and fear about the future, then the employee can see his or her manager in a new light.  Managers naturally receive more detail about the business and future plans, so, when appropriate, a manager can give hints of safety or the lack thereof so employees can plan for the immediate future.  Understanding where we stand can help us find a level of understanding of our individual situation and give new hope either within the current job or in searching for a new one.

Grief does in fact expand in businesses that are shrinking.  It is vital to companies in this position to recognize the symptoms and humanize the experience that all too often is a numbers game.  Employees that remain need not only time and space to process the loss of friends and security, but they need caring managers that open up with their own feelings and listen to those of their employees left behind after a layoff.