Grief while universal is definitely also unique and very complex. The complexity of grief leads to a variety of reactions to loss due to multiple different origins.
The article, “The Grief Experience: Survey Shows It’s Complicated” by Koenig takes a closer look at the complexity of grief. She states,
“Many of us have the misperception that there’s a right way to grieve, and most people think they’re doing it wrong,” says Donna Schuurman, a family therapist and senior director of advocacy and training and at the Dougy Center, a Portland, OR, nonprofit that helps people deal with the death of a loved one. “We live in a society that wants us to get over it and move on.”
Grief will always be a complicated emotion to fully understand but we can help others grieve in a healthy way. We can understand the reasons behind each case and help those individuals cope with their grief in effective ways. Please also review our Grief Counseling Courses and see if you would like to become a certified Grief Counselor.
Grief is a reaction to loss. It is natural but overtime grief can become toxic to the body. Long term and pathological grief can weaken the body and affect it negatively. This is why it is important to ensure you are grieving in a healthy fashion. If not, one should seek help and counseling.
The article, “How Grief Shows Up In Your Body” by Stephanie Hairston looks at the negative effects of adverse grief in one’s life. She states,
“What causes these physical symptoms? A range of studies reveal the powerful effects grief can have on the body. Grief increases inflammation, which can worsen health problems you already have and cause new ones. It batters the immune system, leaving you depleted and vulnerable to infection. The heartbreak of grief can increase blood pressure and the risk of blood clots.”
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Grief or loss has no bounds because loss can be anything. While most loss is something dear to oneself, there can be a wide variety of losses than fall outside of standards of what some would could consider regular. Some of these losses are referred to as disenfranchised losses because they fall out of the usual and normative categories.
Understanding that loss is not only objective but also subjective is key. Grief Counselors cannot label some things or losses as normal and others as not abnormal or not important. Yes, there must be a line somewhere but if Grief Counseling only acknowledges normal losses then grief counseling ceases to serve all.
What we consider main stream loss is loss of someone dear. We tend to as a society rank things and classify them. Human society also ranks and classifies losses. Obviously the loss of a parent, or child, or spouse is considered the most devastating types of losses one can endure. We tend to rank siblings and grandparents next, with aunts, uncles, cousins and friends thereafter. Yet this type of ranking can sometimes be wrong. For some, a parent relationship may exist with a grandparent or aunt or uncle. For others, a dear friend may be closer than a distant sibling.
So it is very naive to always assume a ranking of loss. In some cases, unique relationships exist. Unique relationships can go well beyond human bonds as well. One of the most disenfranchised type of loss is pet loss. Individuals assume since the loss is not a family member or human friend that the loss of a dog, cat, horse or even a hamster or rabbit is meaningless. Again, some individuals create bonds that are very intense. These bonds need respected. In the case of a family pet, it can be very traumatizing and hence a serious loss. As a society, and as certified Grief Counselors, we need to recognize this reality.
Is there a line that needs drawn? Can a loss become to insanely abnormal? This is hard to say. It is true that complicated grief and abnormal reactions can occur but the grief counselor must be very careful in diagnosing what is a normal loss or a complicated grief reaction. If someone’s plant dies, goldfish, then how far can we begin to see a disproportionate grief reaction to the value. Again this is difficult because bonds are what determine grief. Abnormal bonds are subjective but where is the line drawn? From human to dog, or dog to goldfish? This is indeed difficult. People may form abnormal bonds and that needs addressed but one must be careful in assessing what is normal and not normal. There definitely is a line but it is not as universal as some may think.
Beyond the hierarchy of losses which unfortunately can determine what is a “real loss” and what is not, one can find many other types of disenfranchised losses. Disenfranchised loss views can easily dismiss many who are forgotten in the mourning cycle. For instance, how many times if the father neglected when a miscarriage occurs? How many times, is a step father or step mother neglected if a step child dies? How many times are cousins, or others discounted, beyond siblings during a loss of a brother or a sister. One cannot dismiss the grief of other people in the life of a person just because they do not fit neatly as son, daughter, brother, sister, or mother and father. There are numerous other relationships that can be over looked,
Relationships that are not mainstream can also sometimes see disenfranchisement. Like a boyfriend who may grieve a loss of a girlfriend but not be seen as important to the family, there are numerous same sex relationships, where other partners are neglected in the pain and grief they feel over the loss of their significant other.
In addition to this, certain types of deaths may be seen with stigma. Stigma can also affect disenfranchisement. Suicide is a common example. In these cases, the family needed support, is sometimes neglected because of the delicacy of the subject.
Other types of losses, such as miscarriage, are also commonly downplayed or dismissed. Even the pain suffered by couples who cannot conceive.
In addition, many losses are also downplayed or dismissed that fail to meet the criteria of death. A loss of a job, relationship, or the loss of a body part can all be downplayed. These losses are still very painful and while they may not entail the ultimate loss of death, they still nonetheless carry grief with them. For many the loss of a fiance or the pains of a divorce are equal to death. The end of something and the loss of that person is final.
Grief Counselors need to be aware and alert to all types of losses and not quick to dismiss to a social hierarchy of reaction. Every loss needs to be acknowledged and understood in relationship to the griever. Unique grieving situations can arise beyond the mainstream. This is not to say, grief counselors should not dismiss unhealthy grief reactions or abnormal bonds, but it does say grief counselors should keep an open mind about different types of losses. Disenfranchised grievers can be minimized by merely acknowledging loss.
In doing so, grief counselors must dismiss comparative statements and instead address the loss. Statements that start with ” at least it was not this or that” or “it could have been worse” or “this is not that big of a deal” need to be removed from every grief counselors treatment. Grief Counselors need to acknowledge the loss and understand how that loss affects the individual. Whether it is the loss of a rabbit, or a teenage breakup, the loss must be understood for what it is. Only the griever can later access the value of the loss in comparison to other things. In some cases, they may very well consider that loss to still be a significant loss. An elderly woman may consider the loss of her cat to be very devastating even though many others would dismiss it.
The purpose of the Grief Counselor is not dismiss any loss but to help clients understand their loss, adapt to it and evaluate it on their own terms. Return to healthy adaptation of the client is the mission of the grief counselor, not loss judgement.
Loss judgement is the key term to remember with disenfranchised grief. Grief counselors cannot judge loss but only acknowledge and help others deal with it. When loss is not acknowledged, the griever suffers more intensely.
Disenfranchised grief will continue to exist because society has its own standard on what loss is. People have their own ideas and fail to show empathy. While this is a reality, it should not be a reality in Grief Counseling. If you would like to become a certified Grief Counselor then please review the American Academy of Grief Counseling’s program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.
It is important to be there for family and friends when they lose someone. What to say and what to do can sometimes be confusing though. We want to help but may not know how.
The article, “6 thoughtful things to do when someone passes away” from Considerable Staff looks at how we can approach this difficult situation and help others. The article states,
“Offers of support can be open-ended and vague, and often the last thing a grieving person wants to do is devote effort to an ambiguous offer of food or company. Knowing the best way to lend a hand can be difficult, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying.”
Hopefully we can all be better friends and family to those suffering a loss. To read the entire article, please click here
Divorce is a difficult loss that causes distress in every facet of life. This is why divorce is so difficult. One must not only overcome emotional loss but also financial loss and other norms. One must adjust to an entire new life and this adjustment can be very difficult.
The article, “Why Overcoming Divorce Grief Is So Freakin’ Hard” by Kevin Finn states,
“Divorce is complicated (and it sucks) because you’re faced with seemingly non-stop social, emotional, legal, financial, and the everyday challenges of your new life. Everythingchanges and not always for the better – at least at first. Of course, all these changes trigger grief which you may think you understand because you’ve grieved before. ”
Grief is an altering experience. It can transform us. While it can hurt us short term, it also helps us grow through life. Grief may live scars but it also makes us stronger.
The article, “Finding Empowerment Through Grief” by Carol Lawrence states,
“Grief is one of the most universal experiences that we can go through as human beings. Regardless of how each of us learns to cope with the loss of a loved one, one thing is certain – the way we reflect on loss can teach us valuable lessons that we carry with us for the rest of our lives.”
For many parents, it is a difficult cross to not be able to share their own parents with their children. The loss of experiencing one’s child with one’s own parents is something many face. Wondering how to share the life of a deceased parent to one’s own children is something very important.
The article, “One Day I’ll Tell My Children About My Mother’s Death. Until Then, I’ll Show Them How She Lived” by MARISA BARDACH RAMEL discusses how she will teach her children how her own mother lived and in this way continue the memory. She states,
“My daughter won’t know her Grandma Sally, not in the way she knows her other grandparents—her Nana and Grammy and my stepmother Tippy. But my mom will not be absent from her life, either.”
Great article on progressing through the fog of grief. Grief is not an easy passage but many times if full doubt and fear. We can become loss and numb in our emotions.
The article, “How to Get Through the Fog of Grief” by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell states,
When my 57-year-old husband, Dale, suddenly died of a massive heart attack on Nov. 20, 2018, two days before Thanksgiving, to say I was in shock was an understatement. More than a month later, I realized just how much my mental capacity was affected by this life-changing trauma
Grief, especially traumatic grief due to shooting events, can leave families in a deep valley of despair. Such tragic events can alter lives forever and scar the future. Senseless and traumatic it is hard for families to understand why
The article, “Time doesn’t erase grief, strong emotions connected to the victims of mass shootings: by Brian Hutchel states,
“It was April 1999 when the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado shocked a nation. Video of students desperately sprinting from the school to safety under the watch of armed police flooded televisions across the nation.”