Thursday, September 29, 2011

Grief Recovery

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 grief can 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 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 recovery 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”.

By: Mark D. Moran, MA, GC-C
Certified Grief Counselor

Friday, September 23, 2011

Childhood Deaths Continue to Decline, But Are We Doing All We Can?

Each year, I eagerly await the publication of one number: the number of childhood deaths around the world. That number, which has gone down from 20 million in 1960, to about 12 million in 1990, to less than 8 million last year, makes a powerful statement about the progress the world has made in confronting inequities.

For full article: access

By Melinda Gates

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Broken relationships and Attachment Theory

A lot of literature about grief is overwhelmingly death orientated. This is a good thing in that death is a universal experience but it is not an everyday thing. True, the loss of a loved permeates one’s daily life long after the event, but the actual event is singular and for the more fortunate, not nearly as regular. The reality is most people go to counseling for relationship loss.

Grief counselors deal with many people who are devastated by divorce, a cheating spouse, a broken engagement, or the sudden change of not having that person to call, hold, or spend time with. These aspects are very common to the human experience. With proper guidance, the wounds become scars and help one grow emotionally and sometimes spiritually. The loneliness and the un-needed anxiety people experience in finding a mate can be stressful enough for some, but when one truly believes they found the one, only to be shocked that everything was an illusion can be a horrifying change. Changes in life style from the tiniest schedule can shake the foundation of that person’s life. Even the smallest scent or image can bring a tidal wave of emotional imagery. Unfortunately there are no short cuts in this adaptation period. As so many grief specialists emphasize, one must do their “grief work”. They must experience the change the emotional pain that accompanies it. Of course, as death, there is the acceptance stage, the emotional stage of anger and mourning, and the final adaptation to the new situation.

A good grief counselor will guide the broken person through these phases and encourage emotional release in the healing process. Only after these initial steps, can the person utilize new meaning concepts to a new reality and properly place the lost relationship in its proper perspective of his or her life story. The question arises why does this adaptation take so long for some people? It all varies based upon the level of attachment. Attachment theory is a theory that was used in great depth with widows or widowers in their loss of a spouse. The same can be applied to broken relationships that do not involve death, but separation. The attachment will determine the length of the adaptation to the person.

So, if someone was in a relationship for many years and suddenly the relationship ceased, one should expect a greater withdrawal and more intense and lengthy adaptation period. The opposite can be said for a short two month affair where there is little attachment and hence less adaptation. As a grief counselor, it is important not to only deal with death but also every day pains of the heart. Proper understanding of attachment can help one assess the situation and lay a ground work for eventually adaptation and assimilation of the past into the person’s present. One can never give a time frame for recovery, but with a special guidance, a grief counselor can help a person understand the phases and steps and help them take the necessary steps for a happy future with someone else.

By: Mark Moran, MA, GC-C Certified Grief Counselor Email:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011