Professional Awareness of Suffocated Grief

Grief experts have labeled the term Disenfranchised Grief to be a type of grief that is hidden due to fear of ridicule, or a type of loss that is not recognized or belittled by others because to others it is outside the range of societal norms or perceived as insignificant.   Types of examples can be the loss of a pet, or particular loss that is extremely painful but personal but not acknowledged by society.  Another example would be the pain of an individual who may be a boy friend or girl friend who may have lost someone in High School.  While the family receives the bulk of the sympathy, the Highschool boyfriend or girlfriend may find themselves on the outside looking in.  Another example of Disenfranchised Grief pertains to suffering from a stigmatizing disease.  Still others who lose a loved one within the LGBTQ community may find a stigmatizing view towards their particular loss. All of these losses are ways society attempts to control how one grieves or what is worthy of grief itself.  These type of constraints are an issue that Grief Counseling attempts to unbind in counseling sessions.  Acknowledging the loss and grief is key and making awareness to others that these losses matter.

Many individuals are expected to react to grief in a quiet and private way. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification

 

Society attempts to control grief in other arenas as well.  Not just merely in what is worthy of grief, but also in how one should grieve in public.  Societal norms and standards of public display in the West seem to find contempt in outward expressions of grief.  The discomfort of others witnessing a sobbing mother, or a hysterical child grieving the loss of a parent seem out of control and socially awkward.  “What’s Your Grief” takes a closer look at this attempt to censure public displays of grief in it’s article “What is Suffocated Grief”.  The term labeled “Suffocated Grief” refers to situations where other standards attempt to moderate grief expression.  The article states,

“It wasn’t until years later, sitting in a conference listening to Dr. Tashel Bordere, that I realized it was more than that.. I heard the phrase ‘suffocated grief’ for the first time, a term she coined. She explained that for some, their expression of grief is not simply unacknowledged or stigmatized, as in disenfranchised grief, but it is punished. As she described normal grief reactions being penalized, all those calls to security flashed in my memory.”

“What is Suffocated Grief”. Whats Your Grief.  December 21st, 2022.  Whats Your Grief

To review the entire article, please click here

Commentary

Hence even if a grief loss is seen as within the norms of societal grief reaction and not disenfranchised, it still may fall under societal condemnation in regards to reaction to the loss and how that reaction is perceived in public.  This literally takes grief bullying to a whole new level and can cause larger issues for the griever.

Many within societal norms see outward expressions of grief as uncomfortable or not acceptable in public

 

Grief reactions are not universal.  Various cultures and faiths all grieve differently to a particular loss.  One standard of expression or mourning cannot be held higher to another.  Mourning as a public reaction to loss is the primary target of Suffocated Grief.  The prevailing society sets the standards and rules for what is perceived as appropriate.  When encountering loss, one’s reaction within a society must meet those societal standards of duration or extremity.   When one travels off the path of “proper” reaction then that person is perceived as odd or temporarily insane.  The discomfort for others is the primary issue.  Individuals sometimes do not know how to respond to a particular emotion of others.  Some individuals become uncomfortable or embarrassed when confronted with raw human emotion.  Hence, hospitals, facilities and nursing homes will noise regulations or removal of individuals from a particular patient or ICU room when human emotion becomes to raw and visible.

Where is Grief Suffocated?

Suffocated grief unfortunately can be seen in many medical facilities.  The ICU can become a very stressful place and the outward mourning of someone who may have passed may cause a considerable upheaval to the point of removal from the facility.  Noise and crying in public can be perceived as threatening.  Individuals who express themselves in the moment of extreme distress are seen sometimes as insane or out of control.  While precautions need to be taken to protect everyone involved, such outward displays of mourning are usually frowned upon in the West.

The same is true within schools.  Many minority children who experience more loss than white counterparts are sometimes held to a higher standard when expressing the same loss.  They are not permitted to express themselves and when they do, it is seen or perceived as aggressive.

Suffocation of grief is especially seen in the work force.  Many positions have little to no paid bereavement leave.  Instead individuals are forced to return to work while grieving and expected to maintain composure and professionalism.

It seems, once the final shovel of dirt has been thrown over the grave, everyone should become silent and move on with life without expression.

Better Training

Understanding Suffocated Grief is important because it opens one to the pain of others.  It is a sign of empathy to realize others are suffering.   Instead of turning away, one needs to open arms.  Pastoral Care and better training in grief are definitely needed in the caring professions.  Medical professionals and nurses need to become better trained in the reactions of grief.  A less sterile response to the needs of family experiencing a loss need to be implemented.  How medical professionals discuss death and how they reveal these things can play large roles in helping others experience the bad news in a more quiet way.  When these basic decencies are not met, individuals are more likely to be angry or devastated by a loss and display more outward mourning.

These feelings need to be respected within a safety net that prevents physical harm to oneself or damage to property.

Conclusion

Mourning or outward expression of grief within society is a very subjective thing.  Cultures differ across the world.  One way of reacting to loss should not be sanctioned by another community.  Instead, others should be able to express grief and have the time to express grief without fear of ridicule.  Healthcare professionals should receive training in helping others when reactions to grief and loss are experienced.

Alan Wolfelt lists a number of Bill of Rights for Mourners that cannot be taken away.  One is to express oneself uniquely during loss and another is to experience “grief bursts” without fear of societal condemnation or grief bullies.  It is important to grieve and express if one feels the need to do so.

The American Academy of Grief Counseling offers both a Grief Counseling Certification and also a Pastoral Thanatology Certification for qualified professionals in ministry, counseling and the medical fields.  The programs are open enrollment and independent study.  If interested, please review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling and Pastoral Thanatology Programs.

Additional Resources

“Disenfranchisement and ambiguity in the face of loss: The suffocated grief of sexual assault survivors.” Bordere, T. (2017)  Family Relations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies, 66(1), 29–45.  APA.  Access here

“THE MOURNER’S BILL OF RIGHTS”. Alan Wolfelt. December 21st, 2013.  TAPS.  Access here

“The Ways We Grieve”. Ralph Ryback, PhD. February 27th, 2017. Psychology Today. Access here

“What to Know About Disenfranchised Grief”. WebMD Contributors. October 25th, 2021. WebMD. Access here

 

Terminal Diagnosis Reactions and Grief in Pastoral Thanatology

It is terrifying to be diagnosed with a terminal illness or to discover a close family or friend discovers such a terrible diagnosis.   There are many existential reactions to such a proclamation.  Individuals respond differently to such a thought.  Finally death becomes a reality and how one deals with this reality determines one’s final chapter of life.  This video reviews the many aspects and reactions that accompany a terminal diagnosis.

A terminal diagnosis is an existential blow to many, Learning how to handle and cope is key to living one’s last chapter of life. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Pastoral Thanatology.

 

Please review the video below

The Irony of Death as Part of Life

The Angel of Death is coming for everyone ever born into this world.  It is inevitable.  Death cannot be coaxed or tricked or reasoned.  She comes for poor and rich alike, good and evil, great and small, man and woman, elder or child.  Whether its peaceful or violent, tragic or calm, death comes.  Some fear her, others welcome her.  In the end, as certain as birth is also as certain as death.

The Angel of Death can be seen as bad and good, sadness and joy and ending or new beginnings

 

While many may see this event as the end, it should be instead as seen as part of the process of existence itself.  Death is not the end of life but part of life.  It as important to live the death process as important as to live the birth process.  Many take away from this event, for it is indeed terrible and frightening but beyond this physical and sometimes seemingly dark moment, is a transition and an important part of life itself.  Whether religious, spiritual or atheist, death is a cycle plays an equal role to birth.  One can see it as balancing life, or giving back to the cosmos, or transitioning to the next life.  Whether one ceases to exist, or continues to exist, death gives back to the world that permitted one’s existence.  Whether one’s composition is reformed for the cosmos, or one’s immortal soul and life energy transcends another plane, whether theist or atheist, one sees a sacred balance taking place.

This part of life must be honored, it must be respected.  The individual and those who love and are loved, need to treat the process and event as a sacred event.  Whether tears, tales of the good times, or preparation for the next, it is a time to share all emotion.  It is a time not to hide from, or try to avoid, but one to embrace, no matter the sadness or pain.   Death should be met with dignity, on its terms.  Death should be made to be as comfortable and painless as possible, but death should not be hated or cursed, but accepted as an event as real as birth.   Many who do not understand these views, will hasten death before it should come for fear of suffering or depair, while others will cling to life too long through any artificial means.   It is natural to fight for life, but it is equally natural to accept reality and find comfort during the process.  The imbalance between hanging on too long and giving up too soon through the process takes prudence and a true understanding of the death event and what it means.

While it is more difficult to celebrate death as one celebrates birth because of pain and loss, it can still be celebrated in a different way.  It can be celebrated as a completion of life. It can be a celebration of the life lived and depending upon one’s views, a new life experienced.  An awakening from the cocoon of temporal life and awakening as a new creature into the next.

Many view death and life from multiple prisms.  No one prism is more valid than the others and in many cases, the different views can conflict.

One’s spiritual, emotional and intellectual views on death give a better picture of the event for ourselves. The irony of fear and peace, joy and sadness, and known and unknown are all part of the feelings with death

 

The first view of death definitely is shaped from a spiritual arena of thought.   Those of religious backgrounds have many different ceremonies surrounding death.  From the multiple Hindu rituals aiding the soul into the after life to monotheistic views of judgement and entrance into hopefully Heaven.  Many of these religious and spiritual views can grant the dying or the families of the dying a sense of hope.  While there are multiple tears, hope and faith promise the suffering and the sufferer that they will once again see each other in some form.  This can lead one to many conclusions.

It can help individuals see death in a different light.  Death is only a physical terminal date but it is not permanent, but only temporary and transitional to another life.  In Christianity, through death, Jesus Christ conquered death and promised Resurrection to all who die after Him.  This same promise is issues to those within Judaism and Islam.  The promise that Jehovah or Allah will awaken the bodies of the dead.  Death hence is not final.

Nor in the Eastern faiths.  Death brings about a transition where the soul may again re-emerge on this plane of existence, or finally reconnect with the ultimate reality.

Hence within the spiritual prism of the idea of death, death has no final statement, but only a temporary stamp that leads to transition.  While those who are not spiritual face a different reality, one more without this type of hope, there can still be a aura of awe.  One can find the imprint of the lost loved one in memories that live on through others.  The importance of legacy and values handed down and being kept alive are important for these individuals, even more so than those of spiritual beliefs.  While there is no chance or thought of reunion, there still exists the faint whisper of the one who once was in others or in values.  There is also the oneness of knowing that the circle of life that takes, also gives back, and through the cycle of life and death, all share a material role to play.

The second view that affects one’s view of death is one’s intellectual self.  While faith or belief plays a large role in shaping death and her essence, the intellect nonetheless relies upon the senses to understand life itself.  This empirical reality is based in science itself.  Hence, while one may possess a strong faith, the intellect still fears what it cannot grasp.  It still wonders and can doubt.  So while one may at one particular point, express relief that one’s loved one has passed on, there still exists a small existential nudge of fear and doubt.  There is indeed hope, but the fear still can exist.  The intellect can only adhere to what the senses show it.  The sight of the corpse, the sounds of the funeral and the cold reality of no more presence of the loved on Earth is a true reality.  These intellectual realities cannot be dismissed by faith alone but are real and true experiences that cause intense suffering.  The intellect acknowledges the harshness and separation of death.

The final view of death affects one’s emotional self.  The intense sadness of separation of the loved one cannot at times be comforted by faith.  While the intellect acknowledges the mark of death and the consequences of it, the heart mourns it and experiences it.  It sees death as unfair, unjust and a weapon to take one’s love away.  The emotional heart fears death, it seeks to avoid it and it wishes it would never happen.  These are all natural feelings connected to survival.  One tries to exist as long as one can. It is evolutionary to do so.  The evolutionary urge to exist in this plane and the anxiety and intense sadness of separation from those one loves, drives one away from the mere thought of death.

So from this, one can can see a balancing act of views about death. None are truly wrong.  Spiritually, intellectually and emotionally, all play an equal truth in understanding death.  They balance the full story and allow certain parts to mourn, fear and have hope.  They are sometimes experiences at different times.  When one is experiencing the immediate experience of death, emotional tears and thoughts dominate.  Later, when calmed, more spiritual ideals may return.  Then in the coldness of grief, sometimes, fears and intellectual thoughts can emerge.  They should all be analyzed and allowed to ferment within the soul.  Ultimately, they help shape one’s entire and whole view on death.  They complement each other.  They show hope, but also permit sorrow and even doubt.  They allow natural anxieties about death to manifest that need addressed.

Together, they can allow oneself to mourn but also to have a healing trajectory and also a better reverence for death.  They help one to experience death as part of life and to entertain all the emotions that are associated with it.  The balance of these differing sensing of what death is permit a more complete view of the event, with each one playing an important role in the process.  Hence ironically, death is feared but not feared, sad but joyous, and known but unknown.

Helping others properly face death with all the uncertainties is an important part of living itself. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program

 

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program.  The program looks at the needs of the dying as well as the needs of the mourning.  It tries to help ministry and healthcare professionals into better understanding the nature of death and helping others transition through this important part of life.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals looking for a certification in Pastoral Thanatology.

 

Additional Resources

“What Is Thanatology? :A thanatologist studies various aspects of death and dying”. Chris Raymond.  June 7th, 2020. Verywellhealth.  Access here

“What Happens When You Die”., Cleveland Clinic. Access here

“Facing Death without Religion: Secular sources like science work well for meaning making”. Christel Manning. 2019. Harvard Divinity Bulletin. Access here

“Death in Different Religions”.  October 8th, 2019. Endwithcare. Access here

“A systematic review of religious beliefs about major end-of-life issues in the five major world religions”. RAJSHEKHAR CHAKRABORTY, M.D, etc, al. Palliat Support Care. 2017 Oct; 15(5): 609–622. National Library of Medicine. Access here

 

Pastoral Thanatology Program Video on Needs of the Dying

The dying have many needs that are sometimes neglected.  Physicians focus so many times on physical needs.  They see sometimes patients as success or failure only.  Dying is not failure but a process.  Properly dying is part of living.

The dying face many issues when confronted with death and beyond the basic issues of human dignity and physical comfort, they also need emotional, mental and spiritual support.  When these things are not met, then the entirety of the human person and his or her needs are neglected.  Important parts of one’s life are neglected when fear and death encompass the person and the family.  The video below explores the multiple needs of the dying.

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Pastoral Thanatology

 

Please review the video below

Grief Counseling Certification Blog on Facing a Terminal Diagnosis

Upon a worrisome visit to the doctor, eventually in one’s life, one will come to the grips of existential crisis, where one must deal with a life or death illness, or hear the terrifying words, that one is dying.  For some, these words come earlier in life, for many, later, and for some, death can come like a thief in the night.  Those who are granted the ominous warning are given a blessing and a curse.  A blessing to prepare oneself and others, to put things right and affairs in order, but also a curse in knowing the clock is fearfully clicking to a deadline that is unavoidable. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification.

There is a myriad of emotions and feelings that one goes through when a terminal illness is announced.  An existential reality of one’s own finite nature is made rawly known to the intellect.  What was once considered an abstract but real concept suddenly becomes personal and intimate.  One comes to the conclusion that death will concretely and definitely happen.  It is no longer a future imaging of how but becomes a concrete concept of now and here.  Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Courses

A terminal diagnosis brings oneself to one’s final chapter in life. It is a scary time but there are ways to face death. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification

 

How one perceives life and existence itself plays a large role in the existential dread of this bad news.  Levels of fear and anxiety are measured and varied in regards to one’s own existential beliefs.   Someone who is profoundly convinced of life after death and molded by an undying faith, may feel a sense of fear, but also a sense of hope and reward, while one who holds empiric and only observable phenomenon as a basis for existence, may feel a deeper dread of creeping into nothingness.   Some individuals are less attached to the temporal reality and are able to sense a stronger sense of purpose and peace beyond the observable world.  Those of this deeper faith, whether rightly placed or not, will react quite differently to the bad news of approaching death than one of lesser or no faith.

Fear of the unknown still exists even if in the smallest grain to the faithful.   So naturally, the evolutionary push to exist when challenged will spring forth within the soul a type of fear.   The fear of the unknown still exists for those of faith, but the levels of fear that may surround one who is terminally ill, differs greatly in intensity.   One of faith upon the announcement of bad news will definitely still feel a sense of fear and be forced to reckon with the unknowable.   This type of fear is a natural reaction.  Since one’s conception, the urge to exist is programmed within the body.  The urge remains a strong driving force.

For those facing death, a general fear may also be replaced with a more acute fear of the now.  Fear of sharing this news, or keeping it to oneself.  Fear of the disease itself and what this particular disease may do to one’s body during the final phases.  Oneself may fear the pain, the treatments, the side effects and quality of life or even the fear of leaving family and children without one’s guidance and protection.   Obviously these are grounded fears to one who has come to a firm acceptance.  While initially one may be swarmed with questions and options, one may soon find oneself consumed with collecting as much information about the disease or condition,  understanding pain management or reviewing various extraordinary measures to preserve life. Understanding the enemy can sometimes qualm some fear and even give a glimpse of hope.  One finds oneself with more power over fear when one faces the enemy across oneself.   Some individuals face the enemy, while others choose to live in fear and hide from it.  One in the end accepts how they will face death, either with a strong will, or a broken one.  Accepting death but facing it with a strong will despite fear is the true definition of courage.

Due to this natural fear of death, even among the most spiritual and religious, one when faced with this terrible thought will undoubtedly deny it.  Elisabeth Kubler Ross who worked with the terminally ill observed this natural human reaction to reject bad news initially.   Something so frightful at first refuses to be processed by the brain.  Bad news is met with an equally powerful rejection of it.   As one receives this bad news then, one will probably initially reject the sentence of death.  How long this reality takes to sink in may differ among some.  Some may seek additional medical opinions, until all options are removed.  Others will proceed with elaborate alternative therapies in hope of a cure.   For some, hope can be a evolutionary device for survival.  It definitely is not something to rejected but when hope blinds oneself to such an extent that is masquerading as denial, then it can become problematic to oneself and prevent oneself from dealing with the reality of death.

Death itself is a process that many run and flee from.  Evolution to survive engrains this feeling into oneself.  Yet, if one stops and realizes that death is a process one must face, then maybe one can allow oneself the process of dying properly.  Many cultures value a good death.  A good death is as part of life as birth.  Dying well, handling oneself well and maintaining dignity is critical to the last chapter.  Long term denial strips one the opportunity to handle affairs, repair relations, prepare the mind body and soul and live the final chapters.  So, absolutely, upon terminal diagnosis, one will feel fear and denial and this is OK.  What one does not wish to continue to entertain is a long term denial.   Hope should not be squashed, but denial should not be masked as hope either.

Oneself may think if one ignores the horrible diagnosis that it will go away.  For this reason alone many in denial, may keep a terminal diagnosis as a secret from friends and family.   One will ignore checkups and important procedures and postpone wills and other critical business at hand.   These types of secrets are part of denial at its core.  Oneself may feel as if one is sparing others grief, but this type of internalization of bad news only denies the reality and creates less time for others to express love and accept reality.

Following this diagnosis, other emotions may erupt within oneself.  As Kubler Ross points out in her famous stages of grief, one experiences far more than denial upon the initial announcement of bad news.   One will experience also a range of emotions with the first minutes or days or weeks or months.   Anger is a powerful emotion that may erupt.  One may find oneself angry at God, or others.  One may feel one’s life has been stolen or cut short.  Others may become jealous of others who were granted better health.   Again, in grief, one cannot deny these initial feelings, but understand them and see where this anger comes from.   While one may feel like they may be treated unfairly, one cannot allow anger to turn into envy and become caustic within one’s very being.  There is little time left with a terminal illness and negative emotions and negative energies while acknowledged should not be permitted to fester, unless one wishes for the soul to also suffer with the body.

With the lamenting of death, some will feel greater melancholy.  How long one grieves the impending loss of life, like fear itself, varies upon the spiritual nature and resilient nature of oneself.   One should clearly come into contact with the sadness of loss of one’s physical life, but again, like anger, it is important to evaluate the emotion within its proper degree.   Some may go into a deep depression or no longer wish to live.  Oneself may recede to the shadows well before the date of death.   When sadness of this level overtakes oneself, then one must realize that the diagnosis is now taking more life than it originally took before.  The intense grief is taking what is left.  It is stealing the final days of sunshine, family memories and expression of love.

With such deep emotions, sometimes it may be good to express these feelings.  Some may find solace in their family and friends, but others may feel a fear to cause them more pain.  While this is noble, in many ways, family and friends wish to help one carry this cross.  Oneself should not feel isolated to the point where one has none to share the fear and emotions of dying.  An additional option is finding others in support groups or other social venues where others of like diagnosis can meet and share emotional fears and acute physical symptoms.  A good balance between sharing with family and other like diagnosed individuals can play a great tool in helping one face the emotions of one’s diagnosis.

Kubler Ross pointed out that many may also bargain. As if one has a final say with the grim reaper, oneself may feel the need to negotiate with the angel of death.  This sense of powerlessness is lessened with bargaining and creates an illusion as if oneself can negotiate the final days.   Oneself may ask, if I can only have an extra year, or have only this procedure instead the other procedures.  This illusion of power and control over death is merely another way oneself may try to create one’s own ending.   Instead of focusing on “ifs”, oneself should focus on the realities and what can be done within the time given.  Less time bargaining and more time doing is a far better way to accept the angel of death.

How will you face the angel of death and one’s own existential reality when the time comes? Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification

 

Upon this terrifying news of one’s own impending death, one can react in a multitude of ways, intellectually and emotionally, but while no emotion is initially to be ignored, there is clearly a better way to face death.   It is up to you, the person facing the terminal illness, how you will face the final chapter in your life and no-one else but you can author that chapter.

If you would like to learn more about death and dying, or about AIHCP’s certification programs in Grief Counseling and Pastoral Thanatology, then please review AIHCP’s online programs.  The Grief Counseling Certification and Pastoral Thanatology Certification Programs are both online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.

 

 

Additional Reading

Elizabeth Kubler Ross Stages of Dying.  Please click here

10 Practical Tasks to Help You Deal With a Terminal Illness” by Chris Raymond

Terminal Illness : What To Expect” from Mantra Care

Terminal illness: Supporting a terminally ill loved one” from the Mayo Clinic

Dealing With Terminal Illness” from the Charity Clinic

 

 

Pastoral Thanatology Certification Video on Near Death Experience

 

Near Death Experiences are a universal phenomenon throughout the world.  No culture is void of their presence.  What does it mean?  Is there a scientific explanation or is it a metaphysical experience?

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification as well as AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification.  The programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.

 

Please review the video below

Pastoral Thanatology Program Video on Death and Dying

Death and dying is part of life and living.  Living well means also dying well.  How one philosophically, mentally, emotionally and physically approaches the topic of death is critical to one’s final days.   Dying can be very unique for different people.  It can occur quickly or slowly but for all it will come and how we approach it and understand it is not only important for oneself but also our loved ones.

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thantology Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to individuals and qualified professionals interested in Pastoral Thanatology.

Please review the video below on Death and Dying

Pastoral Thanatology Certification Article on Spiritual Care of Patient

Spirituality is part of everyone.  The whole person, mental and physical.  While spirituality is more individual than social, many doctors do not give the holistic care to the entire being of the patient.  Doctor sometimes focus more on the body, recovery and failure based on life or death.  Many times the pastoral and spiritual issues are not identified.  The patient has multiple needs and even for the non religious, many have spiritual needs or at least spiritual acknowledgement during grief and loss during care.

Many patients would like a more pastoral approach in healthcare. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification

 

The article, “Does spirituality belong at the doctor’s office?” by Jen Rose Smith takes a closer look for the need of pastoral and spiritual care of patients.  She states,

“In fact, many patients would like to discuss spiritual matters with their health care providers: One study found that 83% of patients want physicians to ask about their spiritual beliefs, especially when they’re facing life-threatening illness, serious medical conditions and bereavement. “A high percentage of people, if they’re in the hospital for a physical illness, would like to talk to their physician about spiritual matters and have a conversation,” said Dr. John Graham, president and CEO of the Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center, a cosponsor of this month’s conference.”
To read the entire article, please click here
Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Pastoral Thanatology

Pastoral Thanatology Program Blog and Spirituality in Healthcare

Some may question spirituality with a physician or in healthcare but when treating the totality of the person there is always some type of spirituality.  Healthcare professionals should not cross certain boundaries with personal faith but many individuals have spiritual needs and emotional pains.  It is important to be more holistic in treatment approach of the entire person.

Care of the sick or dying is more than medical treatment. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program

 

The article, “Does spirituality belong at the doctor’s office?” by Jen Rose Smith looks closer at the issue of spirituality and the doctor’s office.  She states,

“Graham has defined spirituality as “our innate ability to connect — to connect to others, to our environment, to the transcendent mystery and to our true, deepest self.” Like Sweet, he said modern medicine’s focus on efficiency leaves out that broader view of patients’ well-being and their spiritual and religious needs during illness.”

To review the entire article, please click here

Many physicians and healthcare professionals struggle with the basic interaction beyond the medicine and hence miss the spiritual needs of their patients.

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Pastoral Thanatology.

Grief Counseling Certification Blog on Near Death Experience

Near Death Experience or NDE are mysterious and empirically unexplainable experiences individuals near death can experience.  It is still a mystery as to if NDE is a proof for a metaphysical afterlife or a lack of current understanding of the brain and its unknown processes when responding to possible death.  For now, they are accepted as something that is unexplainable and not to be connected with psychosis or any type of mental pathology but a legitimate experience some individuals face when dealing with death.

Near Death Experience or NDE has certain qualities associated with it that differentiate it from other mental states such as dreams or hallucinations.  It NDE, there is an out of body experience that occurs, or a autoscopic episode.  This episode is when one is unconscious and the trajectory if not corrected will lead to physical death.  During this unconscious state, one can experience lucid visions outside one body.  To qualify as an NDE, a 16 question survey must score at least a 7 in value.

 

Are Near Death Experiences metaphysical and spiritual episodes or some unknown yet reaction of the brain to death? Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program as well as AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification

 

Among the many questions include the level of consciousness one felt during the episode.   Was the experience equal or greater than normal conscious behavior.  This is a key element in differentiating from a dream state or a hallucination.  During these states, individuals under anesthesia are able to comprehend things around their unconscious body that the brain should not be able to sense.  This type of mental ability questions whether the soul is experiencing a metaphysical experience or if there is some unknown power of the brain yet known to science.  Many who experience NDE are able to relate things regarding those around them while they were unconscious that the brain should not be able to observe or sense.  In fact, the senses are even more acute and sharp during NDE.  Blind individuals are able to see things in some studies, as well as individuals who can see but see more so in deeper colors and understanding than any mere human eyes. In other cases, NDE patients also understood the thoughts of others around them.

Science looks to explain some of these feelings and sensations when the body is in crisis.  Russel Noyes, a famous psychiatrist, who researched NDE, pointed out that the body when in crisis experiences various adaptations.   There is a sharp mystical awakening to more vivid images, as well as a depersonalization with emotion and a detachment.  Also, there is a hyper-alertness with sharper vision and hearing that helps the person survive.  Could these abilities be amplified near death?

Most who experience NDE, which is around 1/3rd who have close clashes with death, firmly believe it was a real experience.   They return in many cases more peaceful and guided.  They look to implement life changes and have less death anxiety itself.  The experiences are also multi-cultural and do not differ between Western and Eastern religious codes.  Even children with little predisposed religious ideals, experience the same and often beyond their natural understanding.  Individuals who are not religious also share similar experiences.

During these religious experiences, many experience a calm and bright light, and in some cases see lost loved ones but others can experience nothingness or more frightful visions.  Some see torture and hellish images.  They experience upon their return a call for conversion or a scared traumatic response.  Others try to explain it away.

Grief Counselors, or more so licensed professional counselors are needed to help individuals discuss and resolve their NDE experience.   It is important that the counselor understand that it is not a pathology but to be on the look out for pathological reactions to the experience.  Counselors also must be open to the individuals interpretation.  Since there is no rational explanation, it may very well be metaphysical or also tied to unexplainable brain functioning that is firing off an array of visions that science cannot understand.   It is critical to listen and accept the story of the individual with an NDR and how it relates to that particular individual.

Gaining the trust is key.  Individuals, may think they are crazy, or noone will believe their story.  It is important to reassure the patient that this is phenomenon is a real experience although unexplainable by science and that their visions are not crazy or pathological.  It is essential to help the individual integrate the experience into their life story.  Unless pathological reactions occur when extreme anxiety or dangerous new behaviors arise, the person should be encouraged to share and incorporate the experience into their life in a healthy way.  There is no treatment since it is not a pathology itself and there is no true medication because the incident is beyond comprehension.

Near Death Experience is a universal experience across cultures. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification

 

Those of belief may accept the experience as a religious experience.  This is not pathological but acceptable.  The reality is it may very well be a metaphysical experience beyond the scope of science and to marginalize it and categorize it against the will of the patient is counter productive.  It is best to co-exist with the experience from wherever it came and allow it produce the healthy changes one needs in one life.  Ultimately, there may be an explanation or it may be metaphysical, or it may be a mixture of both, but since they are universal and non pathological, it would be prudent to merely care more about how one reacts to the experience in counseling than to define it for the patient.  How the patient defines it is the patient’s choice.

Death and dying is a mystery.  It is the final chapter of observable existence.  NDE is merely another element of it and how we see death beyond the grave and the many spiritual questions that burn within our mind and how our body reacts to death itself.

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling.

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program

Related Articles

Near-Death Experiences Evidence for Their Reality” by Dr Jeffrey Long, MD

Near-Death Experiences and Psychotherapy” by Dr Linda Griffith, MD

“Death Society and Human Experience” by David Kastenbaum, PHD