Showing posts with label Grief. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grief. Show all posts

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Grief - The body dies but the spirit lives on in the stories we tell.


The body dies but the spirit lives on in the stories we tell about the values, opinions, beliefs, and practices of the body which has died.

I had a dream last night about my paternal grandmother who died when I was 21. My aunt, her daughter, complained to me that I had not visited her and that she missed seeing me. I defended myself by telling my aunt, "But I thought she died?" My aunt repeated her statement, "No, she is alive and well and wants to see you."

"Okay," I said, "I'm sorry. I guess I was mistaken. I will go and see her."

I did go to see her and apologized. I said to her, "Grandma, I thought you had died."

She said, "No, I've been here and I've missed you."

She was quite different in that she seemed very happy and enjoying her life and I was very happy to learn she was alive and I could visit her now. We had a delightful visit and I look forward to many more. It was a joy to reconnect.

Monday, June 15, 2020

The grieving process - Stage two: bargaining

Understanding the Five Stages of Grief | Funeralocity

Stage two - bargaining

The second stage of grief has to do with the undoing of the loss. We do a lot of second guessing. “Maybe if this, maybe if that then the loss would not have occurred.” There is often a lot of self blame and blaming of others and circumstances. “What if this had happened, or that had happened, then the death wouldn’t have happened at the time it did.”

Bargaining also involves a lot of “if onlys.” “If only I had done this or that,” or if others had only done this or that then this would not have happened.

We even, like Jesus in the garden at Gethsemane, plead with God to remove this cup. We promise to go to church every Sunday, give $10,000 to the church, put a bathtub Madonna in our yard, if only God would intervene to not let the death happen.

The bargaining stage is often the longest of the stages of grief and can last months and sometimes years. The bargaining stage prevents and forestalls acceptance that the loss has occurred and is permanent. As long as we bargain in our minds and hearts, we don’t have to accept the crushing sorrow and grief that acceptance entails.

Arguing with a person who is bargaining does not help. Reassurance does not help. Listening in a non anxious and a non judgmental way does help. As the grieving person expresses and articulates their alternative scenarios, the facts become clearer that circumstances did not allow the desired change to prevent the loss to occur and so their hopes and desires are merely a pipe dream. Having expressed their desire that things could have been otherwise, the grieving person comes to realize that the loss probably could not have been prevented or forestalled. “It is what it is” as the Buddhists say.

Bargaining can be exhausting and will eventually run its course because reality eventually begins to set in and life goes on. However as bargaining peters out, sadness and despair become more prominent. This increase in sadness and despair is the harbinger of acceptance which intensifies the emotional pain but also brings a release from which hope in a future meaningful life springs.

One of the things which helps people get through bargaining to acceptance is faith in the process of grieving. Once it is understood what is happening, it becomes less scary and more understandable. With understanding bargaining becomes easier to manage as both the person grieving and the witnesses who want to be supportive.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

The grieving process - Stage one: Shock and disbelief

Why the Five Stages of Grief Are Wrong | Psychology Today

Stage one - Shock and disbelief

As we discuss the stages of grief it should be noted that the stages are just a general frame of reference and not prescriptive. People don’t have to go through the stages as described here. Further, people don’t experience the stages in a linear way but in an oscillating way going back and forth not one after the other. People often describe the grieving experience as a “roller coaster.”

The first stage is sometimes called “denial” but the word “denial” does not accurately describe the experience. People cognitively recognize death has occurred but often describe a sense of life being surreal. They describe being “numb” and disoriented. They say things like, “I just can’t believe this has happened and ____________ is gone.”

People describe themselves as being in a fog and going through the activities of daily life as if they were a robot on auto pilot. The feeling of disbelief is very powerful and there is a growing sense that the event of the death will be a milestone in their lives with the death marking the boundary of life before the death and after the death.

People often find it hard to eat, sleep, concentrate, and perform the normal tasks of their daily routines.

During this stage people need assistance with daily tasks and to be excused, if possible, from social obligations to others. They need to be left alone if the person wants to withdraw from social interactions or they need to be listened to if they want to share their thoughts, feelings, and anguish with a trusted other person. Providing a shoulder to cry on is a very important form of solace and consolation. The listener need not say anything to help the person feel better. Just allowing the grieving person to share their sadness, sorrow, anger, fears, regrets, and sense of loss is very helpful. Do not try to cheer the person up or reassure them things will be okay.

It is very common at this stage to observe an expression of anger and blame and guilt that someone is at fault for the person’s death. People even blame God for letting this death occur. A regression to a narcissistic state where people take the death personally is common. “How could this happen to me!”
People often feel a disorientation, confusion, and perplexity and say, “Oh my goodness, what will happen now?” There is an anxiety about how life can go on as it was lived before the death.

People often hear the dead person’s voice, see glimpses of them, or are reminded in a hundred ways of the person as living. It is like deja vu when the person is uplifted  momentarily believing that the person hasn’t died. Dreams of the dead person are very common.

This stage of shock and disbelief usually doesn’t last more than six weeks, if that. The grieving person needs to share their experience with an understanding other who can maintain a non anxious presence and non judgmentally listen to the person express their experience. Nothing need be said or done other than mere listening, and inquiring, when it seems helpful, about the person’s memories and experiences of their relationship with the person they have lost. Sometimes people want to talk about their memories of the relationship and sometimes they don’t. Either way is okay.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Overview of grieving: general observations continued.

People may feel disenfranchised grief if... - Cruse Bereavement ...

Before we get to describing the stages of grief there are few more topics worth mentioning about grieving in general.

Disenfranchised grief is grief that people experience without any social recognition or acknowledgement. A lover of a married spouse who dies without there ever being any public recogition of the nature of the relationship. Deaths of ex spouses after divorce.

Deaths experienced by professionals of patients or clients who were part of confidential relationships. This happens freguently to health care providers in all kinds of settings.

There are many other examples where loss is experienced alone without any social recognition, acknowledgement, or support. Miscarriages may fall into this category. People who die in institutions like prisons or nursing homes or by stigmatized circumstances like suicide, drug overdose, alcoholism.

Liberating losses - Sometimes death is experienced as a relief or as if a burden has been lifted. This often occurs after a long illness where the death is anticipated, but also can happen in a sudden death when the deceased is a part of a conflicted relationship.

Moral injuries - These are deaths witnessed or inflicted in war, capital punishment, or other acts of revenge or intentional or unintentional "accidents." Abortion is sometimes thought of as falling into this category.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Overview of the grieving process.

A Guide For Grieving Parents | Harbor Light Hospice

What are the stages of grief?

What is about to be described here is a frame of reference. Nobody goes through the stages exactly as described in a linear way. Most people oscillate back and forth through the stages but the person can probably identify where their emotions and thoughts are predominately at a given period of time when they are going through the stages.

What is presented here is boiled down from a clinical perspective. There are other descriptions but the one presented here is what seems most helpful when talking with people about their grieving process in my practice.

Here the stages:

  1. Shock and disbelief
  2. Bargaining
  3. Acceptance
  4. Hope
  5. Meaning
This is the first in a series of articles on the grieving process.

Before a description of the stages, here are some general observations about grieving in our society.

The grieving process is not something to be fixed but a normal part of life.
Grief is not depression and should not be medicated except when extreme symptoms appear which are usually a sign of an underlying psychiatric problem and not the grief itself.

Our society is very intolerant of grief and does not have appropriate expectations about the grieving process.

The two biggest ways of managing grief are simply to sit with it and be mindful about its existence and workings, and two, having a shoulder to cry on, an understanding witness who can accept the expression of grief without getting upset oneself.

There are differences in the grieving process the major difference being an anticipated death and a sudden death.

Death is nothing to be afraid of but a normal part of the life cycle.

Social reactions to death are varied and often difficult to deal with for the person who is mourning.

Grief is best exprienced with one's natural support system. Professional grief counsling services initially following the death are not recommended even though they often are. 

While the deceased person's physical body is dead, their spirit lives on in the stories that are told about them.

To be continued

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Reviews: "That Discomfort You're Feeling Is Grief"

Check out my review of the article in the Harvard Business Review by Scott Berinato and David Kessler.

Leave a response if you wish at the end.

Feel free to share the link.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Veterinary social work opens outlet for grief, emotional stress

From the Pittsburg Post-Gazette on July 3, 2017


The veterinarian side
Every day, five to 12 euthanasias are performed at PVSEC, the region’s largest specialty and emergency veterinary center, seeing several hundred cases a day. The number of euthanasias is high because many pet owners cannot afford the complex medical intervention needed to save a pet’s life.
“It’s hard when they know the animal can be fixed but the process can’t be paid for by the family,” Ms. Harbert said.
The American Veterinary Medical Association, based in Illinois, reports that 1 in 6 vets struggle with thoughts of suicide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that veterinarians have a four times higher suicide rate than the general public and are two times more likely to commit suicide than dentists and medical doctors.
“We see the sickest cases, so its hard for us as doctors and nurses everyday to see deaths. We are sad every time,” said Christine Guenther, a PVSEC veterinarian.
As a result, some PVSEC veterinarians suffer from compassion fatigue, burnout and ethical exhaustion when trying to come up with an alternative way to save a pet, given an owner’s financial constraints.
“You empathize so much with patients that you take on the burden and it takes a toll on you,” said Michael San Filippo, spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Ms. Harbert works with the veterinarian staff to emotionally process the cause of a pet’s death and help staff members cope with their own grief. She assesses how individuals are acting and then helps them reach a stable emotional state.
Training for this counseling is not typically taught in vet school.

For the whole article click here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The 4 tasks of grief

Editor's note:

While accepting the reality of the loss of the person's physical presence is necessary, the continuation of the person's spirit occurs in the stories we tell about the person's values, beliefs, opinions, preferences, and practices. The spirit of the person can accompany us through the rest of our life if we choose. Often it is very enriching to evoke the person's spirit in our memories and story telling.