Counseling and the Process of Grief
These are some key
stages and feelings that come up for an individual, a family, a nation
when encountering the process of dying, death, loss and major change.
This is simply a guideline. No two people grieve the same,
and no two people grieve for the same time period. The process of grief
does not happen in a linear fashion or from 1-10. The process is cyclical
and manifest in many different ways. It is a process as unique as an
individual person. This is a guideline; a beginning to understanding
not a definitive proclamation on the process. Use this to help you access
where you are in the process and as a guideline as to what individual
support you may need. Remember this is a personal process. You may
need time to be alone; however be aware of isolating yourself at this
time. The process of grieving is a very sacred time and must be honored
individually. We must learn as a society to support the person or persons
grieving. A facilitator or therapist in assisting in the process of
there to hold a space for healing and created a safe place for feelings
be expressed and explored. This needs to be done in a non-judgmental
way and in a way that honors the individual's inner process. Many times
it is beneficial for the person grieving to ask for support and to ask
that support in specific ways. For instance one may just need and want
to be listened to and not given advice or suggestions for processing
emotions or thoughts. There needs to be a flexibility in approach and
in assistance. The individual, family or group grieving will not always
the same assistance. Like all communication sometimes we have to
stumble and fumble until we know what we need and can ask for what
we need and want. Also, feelings can be messy. This is ok. We don't
always have to express ourselves succinctly. Sometimes it may take 30
minutes to know what we are feeling, sometimes 3 hours, other times
30 days. For some years. It is important that one allow themselves the
time to find their expression and what they feel and need. It is also
very important to learn to ask for what you need, to know when to furnish
it yourself or ask it of another. And, in stating this it is important
with a facilitator or therapist that you feel comfortable with, even
with uncomfortable emotions and feelings. It is crucial that you not
on yourself and process and begin to notice the difference between your
process and you. In choosing a facilitator or therapist you need to
feel a sense of rapport and enough initial trust to allow for a consistent
relationship in building further trust to facilitate healing and wellness
through this important transition.
Stages of the Process of Grief
The process of Loss and Bereavement
Denial and disbelief
2. Alarm - anxiety, restlessness, physiological accompaniments of fear
3. Urge to find/search for lost person/object/title/job/security/known
4. Anger and guilt
5. Bargaining - in anticipation and reaction to the loss/threatened
6. Despair and depression - internal loss and deprivation
7. Identification phenomena - adopting traits, habits of deceased/adopting
behavior patterns to insure that the loss/perceived loss does not occur
again in the person's environment. In the case of job/career security
this can be taking on traits of person that is perceived as causing
the loss. At this stage one may begin to repress certain aspects of
their personality and curtail their instinct to reach and respond in
relationship to their environment and world. Withdrawal.
8. Pathological variants - delayed/prolonged/inability to grieve.
Lack of motivation. The loss/perceived loss must be grieved in order
to move through the cycle and restructure. It is at this point that
many people may feel "stuck", blocked, or feel a virtual victim
of circumstance and environment. The feeling of "why try again?"
"It's no use." may prevail.
9. Acceptance - non-acceptance or resignation. This is a decision making
interim; and the beginning of recovery as a resolution is mandated at
10. New identity - reorganization. At this juncture the restructuring
begins and all that entails in the process, and individual development.
of Bereavement Counseling
Help the person actualize the loss.
2. Help the person identify and express feeling of anger, guilt,
fear, anxiety, sorrow.
3. Work with the person on living without the
4. Aid emotional withdrawal from loss
5. Give time to grief and its expression
6. Assess "normal" and "pathological" behavior/relating
7. Allow for individual behavior
9. Explore defenses and coping mechanisms
10. Assess for referral if there is absence, deferred or prolonged grieving.
Loss, Transition & Change
To Travel through the unknown to get
to a place of Certainty.
throws you into a place of uncertainty, even if the loss is anticipated
experience of loss signals a time of re-evaluation. The recent loss
whether the loss of a loved one; (animal being or human being) creates
a void and a disrupt of our routine, patterns and focus.
this loss is a situational loss. A long-standing job, career,someone
moves away, is sick; or we are in the midst of a divorce or separation.
the loss is from a loved one, a situation, way of viewing ourselves,
a role/title we now have to restructure and reorganize our life, way
of being and relating without what we have lost.
are missing a part of us…. An important part of our life is missing;
this leaves a gap we will need to fill with….We don’t know
what yet. This does not replace what is missing or is lost; especially
in the case of the loss of a loved one.
now will be with us in other ways—non physical. And, we will now
have to learn how to feel them with us non-physically.
the loss we need to give ourselves time….Time to create wholeness,
to piece ourselves and life back together in a new way. And, this may
feel odd, frustrating and useless in the beginning.
will and do heal. We heal by taking the time to focus on the loss and
bring the meaning of the loss into the present with us. There is no
time limit on healing. It takes as long as it takes. (if we can not
get out of bed 6 mos. on we need further help to deal with the loss)
We need to nurture this new way of dealing with life, this new way of
being and relating without our loved one. We need support at this time.
Support is crucial, even if you don’t think it is necessary or
importantly is allowing the time to grieve, to reminisce, to reflect,
to allow a healthy expression of all your emotions and feelings. If
others well intentioned are hurrying you along in your process this
is not healthy. Find those that can listen, can just be present to your
situation and experience without trying to “fix” or hurry
you along. One needs to express emotions at this time to get to core
feelings. Remember all feelings are valid and ok. They are simply feelings
and need to be expressed, acknowledged in a place of honor and safety.
loss brings one deeper to oneself, an unveiling and revealing takes
There is always a reason even though it doesn’t make sense and
in earthly reasoning and sense is senseless; or perhaps before one’s
the loss we will come to see ourselves in a new light, and we may even
feel the strength and meaning of the life before the loss if we bring
it’s meaning forward in the present.
loss and what it means needs to be expressed.
ways of expressing are:
Writing- It helps to write about the loss, not necessarily literally,
but what it invokes in you.
Collage the person’s life
Collage what you are feeling and experiencing because of the loss
Reading books on the loss
A pictorial memorial
A chronically your experience and understanding of this loss.
Write a poem about you-where you are now
Write a poem about the process and state you are in from the loss.
Use your heart, mind, spirit to channel the energy of the loss in a
way that feels satisfying to you.
and telling our story is powerful for us. It allows our emotions to
be revealed, expressed and transformed. To tell “our story”
our path and process is giving honor to what we have experienced. It
also marks it in time in a way that we can reflect back on the loss
and transition. Many times loss happens quickly or in a way that we
are in a heightened coping state and we are not aware of how we are
being affected in the moments of the process.
through the experience of transition, whether it be the transition from
seeing a loved one fading through illness, or the unexpected loss of
imminent death we are thrown into “coping mode” very often
having to mask our feelings, or prioritizing them in a way that the
transition and loss process takes key precedence over our feelings,
needs and wants. This is even more prevalent with care givers of those
sick or in the death (crossing over) process.
author and professor Robert Neimeyer provides detailed descriptions
of the use of expression & artforms in his Book - Lessons
of Loss: A Guide to Coping by Robert A Neimeye
• writing a biography of the deceased
• drawing and painting
• writing an epitaph of the deceased
• keeping a journal of the thoughts and feelings
• examining how we are like the deceased (also known as a life
• integrating objects that link us to the deceased into our lives
• writing about the loss as if you are a third person describing
• constructing a memory book honoring the deceased
• using metaphors to describe the loss and your reactions to it
• expanding the metaphors into a metaphoric story
• going on a personal pilgrimage
• creating a photo gallery
• writing a poem of the loss
• reading about others’ experiences with loss such as C.S.
A Grief Observed
• creating and conducting a personal ritual about the loss
a Descansos- (The word “Descanso” is a Spanish word that
means place of rest) How can you create a commemoration that allows
a place to rest for the loved one you have lost, or the situation that
is no more in your life.
my heritage (Hispanic) we use the descanso to bring meaning, honor,
sacredness and clarity to the loss of the loved one. I have updated
this use to use for a loved one, situational loss, or transition. It
is a powerful tool and one that honors your life, life experience, situation
or the loved one that is no longer on this earth plane.
allows you to honor, commemorate, celebrate and let go to connect in
a new way that is relevant for you in the present. You see descansos
on the side of the road of an accident, for instance, to signal to those
that pass that a death has occurred here. A Descanso allows you to acknowledge
the loss, the transtion and the new way of managing the loss in your
mind and life.
is truly a way of honoring the deceased or what has been lost. The descanso
is done in whatever way or manner is pertinent to you. Design it, write
it in a way that reflects your personal beliefs, imagery that is significant
to you, that is sacred to you.
writing one or more letters to the deceased expressing what you were
not able to express while he/she were alive (without sending them).
Artists and non-artists have also used painting, sculpture, photography,
music, and other expressive means to help them find meaning in their
loss. If the task becomes too difficult, a trained counselor can be
of invaluable help during this time of exploration.
Space to Grieve
of the drawbacks i see in our societal structure is we don't have a
space for grief. When we are faced with loss, whether loss of an idea,
a position, a major transition or loss of a loved one many times we
are told: "Don't worry", It's going to be okay" "Try
to get on with your life", "you'll be alright". If we
are not told this perhaps we have the uncomfortable experience of not
being looked at in the eye, of avoiding the loss; especially if illness
or death is involved. For most the message is clear - Get over it, and
soon so friends and family can feel more comfortable. The message is
hurry up and grieve, hopefully only a month or two, maybe six months
at the most and then join life again the same way you did before the
loss. This message and ultimately this belief system causes us stress-
distress of the body and mind. We are taught to "steel" ourselves
away and create a barrier to our emotions and feelings. We are taught
tacitly to "tough it out and move on", and we begin to expect
that of ourselves and each other.
a society we are uncomfortable with loss and especially crossing over-death
of the physical body. It reminds us of our limitations and that there
is an aspect of life that is unknown and perhaps random. As a bereavement
counselor and transpersonal therapist I recognize if we would keep a
space open for loss and what it evokes in us there can be a deeper meaning
in our life and new insight and understanding. This takes time, and
for each the time of processing, understanding and grieving the loss
is different. And, even in processing and making space for the loss
this doesn't mean it ends. We all grieve our loss's in bits, in remembrances,
and memories that are triggered in our present time living.
we are to have a space in our society for loss, this means we need to
create a sense of support and structure of support in our society. This
to me means we need to be able to acknowledge our losses and to talk
about them without censoring ourselves or being censored. The very act
of us speaking what is truly going on with us eases our stress or, more
accurately distress at having to suppress our life process.
In some ways our losses makes us human. We are vulnerable. We love,
we bond whether to an idea, a perception, a way of being, a job, career
or position, and of course the highest bonding to a love one, be it
an animal being or human being. And, yes, when we lose this connection,
this bonding we experience loss, and we grieve... And, doesn't this
make us a loving, compassionate a sentient human being. So it is natural
to grieve, even healthy. Suppressing our grieve is not natural human
nature or healthy. The best gift we can give ourselves or others in
the grief process is to just be present to this sacred state.We can
ask if anything is needed, we can suggest, we can support, but most
importantly is to just be present.