I cling to scraps of my mother. I’ll take anything I can get. I’ve extracted all that I can from my memories; turning each one over in my mind, carefully searching for something I might have forgotten.
There is nothing unhealthy with continuing bonds with a deceased family member. Keeping on to possessions is a natural way to remember. Of course there is examples of unhealthy bonding when for example someone refuses to go through clothes after a year or two but this article focuses on the healthy relationships we can have with the deceased.
Good article reminding us of the many who suffer through the holidays via loss of a loved one. This article puts things into perspective for many who have not yet tasted the loss of a loved one and a holiday
It might sound crazy, but I think there is definitely room for realistic and humorous cards for parents who’ve lost children. In a situation where no one really knows what to say, it’s nice to let a card do the talking.
Very good article about the odd and sometimes wrong but well intentioned things we say to a griever. What if we could make greeting cards for the bereaved, what would they say? How many of these have you heard when you are down and thought “wow” or how many times after reading this have you seen yourself say some of the things you should not say?
Grief Counseling Certification Program: The Many Faces of Grief: Common Emotions that are Experienced
Grief is a universal emotion and experience. Everyone will go through grief in their life time. Many will repeat the experience throughout their lives. For a long time grief was shunned by society. People really did not understand it and so it was often a very private experience. Often times the person in grief believed that what they were going through emotionally was abnormal and so they were often reluctant to discuss their experiences. Little had been written about grief and thus people also did not know what to say or do to assist a family member or friend who was in the midst of the grieving process.
Today things have certainly changed. Grief has been studied extensively over the past several decades and we now know much more about it. Clinical research has been better able to more clearly define this phenomenon and we continue to learn more about it all the time. We have come to understand what intense emotions are confronted in grief and we also have come to develop solid interventions and strategies to help people with their grief experiences.
While grief is a subjective experience and unique in many ways, we have learned over the years that there are several stages of grief which are actually universal in nature.
These universal grief experiences include the following:
Shock and Denial
This phase often manifests itself in a sort of numbness, a feeling of disbelief and a sense of helplessness. This may occur immediately at the awareness of the loss of loved one or the loss of any kind. People may experience feelings of things being unreal, or feel like they are in some dream state. Denial is a strong experience and often people will respond to a loss as if it did not occur. Observers of this may think the person does not care or does not understand what has happened. The observation of denial can be perceived in many ways. In some cases the denial can be very intense and dramatic. When this occurs, professional help may be needed. 2. Pain and Guilt
As the shock and/or denial abate, it is often replaced with feelings of longing for the one we have lost. It is standard at this stage to experience guilt and remorse about things we may have done or not done, said or not said, to that person. Overwhelming emotional pain is difficult to deal with, and should not be stifled. In this phase we most often see people express themselves much more and we also will likely witness crying and the expression of many types of regrets. 3. Anger
A common question those in grief ask is ‘Why?’ Why Him/Her? Why us? Why me? Finding the answer to this question causes frustration and anger. It is common at this stage to try to find something or someone to blame, or take your frustration out on. In this phase we may often see the person experiencing trembling, and there may even be physiologic manifestations such as increases in blood pressure and pulse rates. Anger may even be expressed toward God for the loss. It is beneficial to encourage those in grief to verbalize their anger but to do so in more constructive ways.
You may experience a period of introversion. This stage of the process may leave you feeling low, and you may find you spend a lot of time reflecting on the experiences you had with your loved one. Those close to you will often try to encourage you not to wallow in your grief. However, this is an important part of the process. It allows you to work through your feelings about the one you have lost, as well as reflect on your time together. It is common to feel depressed and this should be acknowledged. If the depression persists for long periods of time or one begins to contemplate self-harm or suicide, professional intervention should be undertaken
5. Hope for the Future.
The sense of hopelessness and despair you felt will start to lessen. You can now begin adjusting to life without the person you have lost. Often, people in this stage of the process start to think about how they might best commemorate and celebrate the life of the person they have lost. Deciding on an online memorial can be a great way to honour your loved ones. It allows you to have a permanent reminder of them which everyone can have access to, be involved in creating and even add to.
6. Readjustment and Acceptance.
You will eventually begin to feel that you can settle in to new routines, and maybe even start making plans for your future. Life will seem less overwhelming. You can think about and talk about the deceased with more sense of a peace, rather than experiencing anguish. You have moved away from the intense pain of grief at this phase.
Time for Grieving
How long does this general process of grieving last? There is no good response to this question. Grief takes “as long as it takes.” While the above stages are generally universal, the time in grief is not universal. It is uniquely individualized. Some go through the experience and reach acceptance much sooner for others; it can sometimes take several years or more.
When the experience of grief persist for more than several years or when the symptoms continue to cripple the grieving person in living their lives then professional help is needed. A professional who has a certification in grief counseling can be of tremendous help. This professional is schooled in therapeutic interventions for grieving and can really assist in helping the person better cope and progress in the grief experience.
As time goes on we will learn more about grief and how people experience it. This will lead us to the development of even more and often better interventions. The time is now for society to become better educated about grief and to learn some common and simple ways to help others through this experience.
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 griefcan 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.