The Experiences of Grief and Mourning
Grief is not a pathological state, so there is no specific psychological treatment for the experience of it.
Normalizing grief is the preferred method for working toward integration and resolution.
We all will pass through grief at some point in this lifetime. So there is a very universal/archetypal aspect to it
When sitting with another who is experiencing grief, we need to use the skill of listening. Listening is not talking.
Silence will allow them the space to talk and externalize their internal process. Let the process unfold as long as it needs, so long as they are not hurting themselves or others. The first year of grief and mourning consists of supportive listening and self-regulation.
“Grieving allows us to heal, to remember with love rather than pain. It is a sorting process. One by one you let go of things that are gone and you mourn for them. One by one you take hold of the things that have become part of who you are and build again.” Rachel Naomi Remen in Worden, 2009.
- Grief/bereavement – personal experience of loss.
- Mourning – process one goes through in adapting to death/loss.
- Grief Counseling – supporting normal adaptation to loss/death. (Support/Listening)
- Grief Therapy – helping clients get unstuck in their mourning/complicated bereavement; facilitating adaptation. (Offering possible new, life-enhancing perspectives.)
- Acceptance – is the ability to think about something (the loss) in a relaxed body.
Tasks of Mourning:
- Accept the reality of the loss.
- Process the pain of grief.
- Adjust to the world without the deceased.
a) External adjustments.
b) Internal adjustments.
c) Spiritual adjustments.
4. Find an enduring connection with the deceased in the midst of embarking on a new life.
Healthy Mourning/Grief Cycling:
- The stages begin with the loss.
- The grieving/pain/energy rises toward a crescendo marked by anguish and tearfulness.
- This peak of energy is initially very high.
- The energy then begins to dissipate/fall toward our baseline and with it comes tolerance and desensitization.
- With the desensitization comes recovery and remembrance with love instead of pain.
This cycle is allowed to happen several times over, or as many times as it needs to. It is the organic healing of the wound of loss. Each time the cycle moves toward the crescendo, the peaks lessen, the periods of tearfulness lessen, and the drop to baseline affect shortens while attaining increased desensitization.
The goal is always desensitization and remembrance with love instead of pain. Desensitization is achieved through self-regulation/a relaxed body.
Self-regulation is non-mechanical biofeedback. It produces a positive feedback loop when relaxing. It feels good so we are inclined to keep doing it. Neocortex will also comes back online.
Complicated bereavement occurs when there is fear and muscle constriction as the energy rises toward the crescendo. The results of the constriction and holding include: no desensitization, no resolution, avoidance, bewilderment/hopelessness, depression and suffering. There is remembrance with pain rather than remembrance with love.
When fear and muscle constriction occur, softening muscles in the body will lead to lower arousal, confronting pain, desensitizing fear and resolving grief.
Grief needs to be integrated through narrative.
We don’t have to heal grief; it heals itself.
We are self-healing organisms.
Self-regulation/Remembrance of loss + relaxed body = desensitization and lessening of pain/increased acceptance.
Narrative/Telling/writing the story of loss (eulogy) + relaxed body = relegating loss to the past and remembrance with love instead of pain.
Three Steps to Resolving Grief:
- Supportive Relationship – We must have people in our lives who we can turn to in our pain and who are capable of listening without anxiety.
- Relaxed Body – We can achieve self-regulation by softening muscles.
- Telling Our Story – Narrative is integration and facilitates our ability to relegate loss to the past and to remember with love.