Grief Counseling Certification Program: Grief Supportand Attachment

Grief Support

Past psychological misconceptions on grief portrayed grief as an irregular element of human experience that needed to be avoided at all costs.In some cases, it was even classified as a pathology that needed cleansed from the system.  Freud insisted that energy devoted to what was lost, must be reinvested into new things or new relationships. This materialistic concept of the “now” and “here”, swept away the spiritual needs of the soul and attachment to the lost object or person.While complicated grief can become a pathology, it is dangerous within grief counseling, especially within Theistic theology, to quickly dismiss the grief process from regular mourning.   Grief, even from a non religious standpoint, is now beginning to be seen as an important element of human existence and an emotion that should not be surgically removed from the consciousness at first diagnosis. While from a theological standpoint, one can say grief is unnatural to man from an eschatological view, one cannot dismiss grief an integral part of the fallen state of historical man.  While the secular view would dismiss the fallen state, it would agree that historical man’s feelings of grief are integral to his overall existence and should not be spurned but properly utilized within the healing process.Most importantly, contemporary grief analysis would concur that attachment to the lost should never be swept into the abyss of the subconscious, but should be reshaped and reformulated to fit the new meaning of the person’s life.

     In analyzing the new ways grief is properly seen within the light of psychology, two things are apparent. First, grief is a natural element in the life of historical man and cannot be dismissed but worked through, and second, the losses of grief are always part of the particular person’s psyche and cannot be eliminated, but must be accommodated in a healthy fashion into the person’s life story. Accommodation in this way becomes an important element in contemporary grief theory. In the past it sits in the background and replacement became the key. Freud insisted one must remove all psychic energy from the deceased or lost and emphasize one’s new energy into new enterprises. Grief was seen as a sickness or unnatural state. This misconception prevents true healing. It creates a “robot” response to death or loss which is unnatural and

realistically impossible. Only a true sociopath could remove himself from the loss of a loved one, granted selfish interest was not affected. With such separation from human emotion, infusing energy elsewhere and replacing the lost with something new, drew a sharp dichotomy of the person “past” and the person “present”. It broke the story line and failed to connect the two persons of past and present for the healthy person of the future. Accommodation in this respect takes the energy and reinvests it into the lost person in a healthy fashion. It does not hope to change the past, but insert it into the story line of the existing person. It hopes to find value and new meaning within the loss. This involves creating a new chapter or a change of the plot, but it does not underestimate the importance of the previous chapters of the person’s story. The story remains uncut from its past and continues to build new chapters. If one adds a theological perspective, it also understands, that future chapters will again, reintroduce this character back into their life story. In fact, within a theological perspective, the lost character never leaves the story, but is involved at a different spiritual level, ready to be introduced physically in an eschatological era. This is the power of accommodation of loss and the importance of meaning making in one’s historical narrative. The lesson: the present and future need the past to exist and one should not try to escape it or surgically remove it, but allow it to become part of what one is today.

Attachment and Grief Support

     Attachment is the other key. Attachment theory is the basis of all human interaction. From the cradle to the grave, people experience attachments at some level. The highest bonds are usually between parents and their children, but throughout life, attachment varies in extreme and intensity. The primary principle revolves around this intensity. The strength of the bond depends on dependency and intimacy. The reaction to loss is hence based upon the strength of these things. Hence when dealing with the grieving, a counselor should be aware of the bond that has been broken. Is one dealing with an attachment involving a simple three month break up or a divorce of a ten year marriage? Is one dealing with the death of a distant aunt or the death of a mother or father? These subjective elements will play large roles in grief support due to the attachment applied to that person. In the same regards, a woman who was somewhat interdependent may recover quicker than a woman who was completely dependent upon her husband.
     From a theological standpoint, theists can take these attachments to another level with God. While in the temporal reality, one must accept, even the greatest joys of this world will one day be taken away, one can with assurance of faith believe God’s love can never fade. Many studies have shown that those who experience loss find meaning and reconstruction quicker by their faith in God. God represents the most stable and perfect attachment; an attachment that can never disappoint or cease to exist. However, one of the most reassuring aspects of attachment with God is that all the good attachments that have been lost, will again be shared in the eschatological state. Even a materialist, who denies the existence of God, cannot deny the  emotional benefits of hope from a purely psychological state. For this reason, attachment that goes beyond the mere human attachments presents a very powerful tool for coping during grief.
     From these perspectives, attachments should not be seen as possible pathologies, but are important social links to human existence. Everyone forms bonds and attachments to people. These attachments should not be seen as horrible ghosts when they are severed but should be revered and respected and reformatted into one’s future narrative. It is true as the poet once said, “It is better to have loved and lost, than never loved at all”.  To review the Grief counseling certification program, click here.
By: Mark D. Moran, MA, GC-C