This Q and A is with Russell Friedman, executive director of The Grief recovery Institute and co-author of The Grief Recovery Handbook:
Q: When most people hear the word "grief," they automatically think of death. Yet in your literature and in your book, you seem to always present death and divorce as two of the primary grief or loss issues. How do you define grief so that it includes divorce and losses other than death?
Friedman: We define grief as the conflicting emotions caused by a change or an end in a familiar pattern of behavior. The death of a loved one creates an obvious change in the familiar. Someone who has always been here is no longer here. I was 50 years old when my mother died. The "habit" of my mom being there every day of my life was constant, even though for the prior 30 years we hadn't lived in the same geographic area.
By the same token, when my wife and I separated and divorced after 12 years of marriage, the habit and familiarity of being married
Q: What do you mean by "conflicting feelings?"
Friedman: Probably the best example of conflicting feelings is associated with the death of a loved one after a long-term illness. When someone you love has been ravaged by cancer over an extended period of time, and has suffered massively, one of the many feelings you might experience is "relief." It is legitimate to feel a sense of relief that your loved one is no longer in pain. At the same time, it is likely that your heart is broken because of the fact that they have died. The conflicting feelings are "relief" and "sadness." Here's another way that the same feelings can occur: My mother died suddenly. For me, whenever I think about it, I am glad that my mother did not suffer over a long period of time. But, at the same time, her death broke my heart.