In my many years of working as a professional medium, and carrying out my independent research into grief and the impact of grief in life. I have come to the conclusion that there is more we don't know or comprehend than we know. Not only have I helped many individuals and families connect with loved ones. I have sat with those who are grieving in a spiritual counselor role. I do not believe that you can conceptualize or understand grief according to a particular formula. Grief remains complicated, and it’s as simple as that. The best we can do is to realize all its facets.
In this series of articles, I will be delving more into the deeper aspects of grieving and of course older research that has served its purpose. We need to move forward in becoming more aware and recognize changing patterns in the grief journey. This particular article challenges the old model of grief work, and how important grief work is, or if the old model of grief work works.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Grief Work
- Grief Work Framework
- We Complicate Grief
- Types Of Grief
- There are no stages to grief
- Psychology impact
- Expectations in grief and grieving
- Causation of personal suffering
- Prolonged Grief Disorder
- The New Paradigm In Grief Work
- The Prison You Build
- The Virtues Of Grief Conclusion
What is grief work and the grief journey
Grief can be a full-time job. However, it’s not one that you particularly want of course. Nevertheless, one must learn to do the work upon the grief journey. That means one has to do the grief work to find new coping strategies, and to understand the journey of grief that we take. Grief work was a model, initially coined by Erich Lindemann Chief of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Boston, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, Medical Director of the Wellesley Human Relations Service, Massachusetts, and Distinguished Visiting Professor in Clinical and Social Psychiatry at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California. Lindemann was a pioneer in this field of research and his work later molded the research of Kübler Ross and others.
Grief Work Framework
Lindemann was known for his research and work with bereavement and grief with the Coconut Grove tragedy survivors. He developed a working model that ultimately he called ‘Grief Work.’ His research led him to conclude that people going through grief would have to do the work to ultimately reduce the symptoms of grief. This three-part process is as follows:
- Emancipation from bondage to the deceased
- Readjusting to a new environment in which the deceased is missing
- Formation of new relationships
This 3-step process does have its benefits, and I can certainly deduce from his work and theories where he found this applicable. However, I have to question, and wonder if there is not more to this. I wholeheartedly believe it can be expanded upon.
There are of course aspects of this research that I absolutely do not agree with. For example, his first stage calls for the abandonment or emancipation of the bondage to the deceased. In my opinion, he got that one wrong. Asking someone to forget their loved one’s bond causes a deepened state of grief. It does not break those chains of bondage in grief. This is evident from my own research and the private counseling I have done with those suffering. I certainly would not advise anyone to forget about their bonds of love with their loved ones. Nor would I suggest they create distance from the memories of their loved ones.
In reality, becoming aware of the bonds of love that cannot be broken can help someone to come to a place of acceptance of the grief journey. The other two concepts I can concur with. However, it goes much deeper, and the work we have to do is far greater than a 3-step process. Grief, after all, is complicated.
We complicate grief
There is a great misunderstanding that time heals all wounds, and that the mind can heal with enough time. However, grief is very complicated and has many facets that are interrelated. Each relationship has a psychological cause and effect. The outcome of which can either deepen or ease one's grief.
Ignorance of grief can cause deepened grief within the one who is grieving. Each individual experiences their grief in varied forms and there is no one pattern the same as the other. Just as every mind is unique to the individual, so too is everyone’s grief, and all grief is unique.
Types of Grief
There are many types of grief; as you will see below, they cover a vast array of emotions and situations. However, one must be careful not to label grief as only connected to death and dying. Sadly, that seems to be the norm for most people. Moreover, many types of grief cover loss that exists out with the understanding of death and dying. As an example of loss, which could be a relationship or even a job or position in leadership. It expands into many areas of life, and we all experience grief in our lives in one form or another. The following types of grief cover all aspects of grief and the emotions.
- Abbreviated grief
- Absent grief
- Anticipatory grief
- Chronic grief
- Collective grief
- Complicated Grief
- Cumulative Grief
- Delayed Grief
- Distorted Grief
- Disenfranchised grief
- Inhibited Grief
- Masked Grief
- Normal Grief
There are no Stages In Grief
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross was a Swiss-American psychiatrist and author. She is best known for her work on the five stages of grief. These stages include Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Over time, her work has been expanded to include two additional stages, Shock/Disbelief and Testimony/Meaning-Making. These stages have become widely recognized as a framework for understanding the grieving process. Furthermore, the stages have been applied to a variety of losses, including death, illness, and other forms of trauma.
Impact On Psychology
Kübler-Ross' work has had a significant impact on the field of psychology, and the way we understand the emotional experience of loss. For many years, the stages of grief that were pioneered by Kübler Ross stood as the psychological yardstick with which to understand and perhaps measure grief. However, these stages only fit a rather antiquated way of labeling grief. Labels that allow some kind of understanding from an emotional and psychological point of view, but are antiquated. Her initial work was pioneering, which gave a model to base the understanding of the emotions involved in grief.
The seven stages of grief were noted as follows;
- Shock. Feelings of shock are unavoidable in nearly every situation, even if we feel we have had time to prepare for the loss of a loved one.
- Acceptance and hope.
- Processing grief.
However, one who is suffering in grief cannot place themselves in the theater of emotion by anyone's expectation, or by misunderstanding of the medical community who harbor expectations on emotional trajectory of grieving. To frame someone's grief as a particular stage that can be dealt with is egoistic and ignorant. As a consequence, it can be more damaging to the individual who is grieving.
Expectations in grief and grieving
There are so many expectations in grief from both sides of the fence. Initially you have the individual who is in the experience and places expectations upon themselves. Then you have others who may be within the environment of the experiencer. They then place expectations, not on themselves, but on the experiencer. They harbor an expectation of how they should be behaving and their expression of the grief process.
Expectations are dangerous to both parties, because with expectation comes suffering and mental anguish. One may expect less emotion after a certain time. When that is not realized, it causes imbalance and disorder. The individual living in the realm of expectation then expresses what the expectation is to the grieving individual. As a consequence, that causes deepened grief. The experiencer then creates their own expectations, often negatively based on the perceptions and expectations of the non-grieving party. You now have a potential psychological issue that can create deepened grief and disconnection from the self. Perhaps it could cause other psychological imbalances.
Causation of Personal Suffering
If we place expectations on grief and those who are experiencing that grief. We are inadvertently causing suffering due to our own ignorance. We should never place an expectation of grief upon an experiencer, and instead we need to learn how to understand the person who is suffering without placing expectations on him or her. Furthermore, there comes a time when one has to intervene when the experiencer is consistently going around in a never ending cycle of self-grief abuse. This self-grief abuse is brought on by the experiencer, who then finds comfort in their unbalanced grief due to the expectations they place upon themselves. Thee live in a constant cycle of grief looking for answers that do not exist. It is a dangerous form of grieving.
Prolonged Grief Disorder
There is perhaps a more dangerous condition within grief and that is known as prolonged grief disorder. Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD) was added to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition) in 2013. However, this type of grief has always existed and is potentially the most destructive. When one exists in a never-ending cycle of persistent grief, and can think of nothing else but the loss and the effect on their life, this is PGD.
It is characterized by a persistent longing and intense and persistent pain, difficulty in accepting the passing. The individual is constantly preoccupied with the loss and thoughts and memories. They hold on till the day they can be reunited and think only those thoughts consistently. They will continually look for answers and feel so disconnected that life is not the same. Some often contemplate joining their loved ones. This affects every area of one's life and can also lead to the depressive state. This causes the individual to cease connection with reality, and it impacts everything from an individual's life, including work, relationships, and physical health. It can be a debilitating and impairing condition, and treatment typically involves psychotherapy and grief counseling.
The New Paradigm In Grief Work
From the plethora of people I have listened to, and from the experiences in transcriptions I have received from the world beyond. I conclude that we all have to do grief work, and the work goes deeper into the self. Whether you are the experiencer or the sympathizer, we all play a leading role in our grief work.
There is no particular formula that I can say makes the work, but perhaps only three common virtues. These virtues are simple, and yet so profound that they affect transformational change, which is how we can move through our journey of change in grief. These 3 virtues are;
These virtues of grief are simple and profound. They are simple in difficulty and difficult in simplicity. It is rather like looking at a Forrest and only seeing an immense spance of trees to only miss the complete universe contained within its interconnectedness to all things. I will have to go into the virtues of grief in another article, where I can lay out my thoughts and potentialities of my research. Nevertheless, from my own experiences, I know one thing to be true. We have a lot of work to do in understanding, and moving through the grief journey.
The Prison You Build
If one succumbs to the prison of grief that you build within, you will forever perpetually cause internal suffering within. Life is to be lived, the soul yearns for experience and growth. Therefore, locking yourself in a prison of grief does not serve the soul and creates distance from the self. This is why you must embrace doing the work.
When we lose a loved one; there comes a time when we must see the blessings and light within the loss. It can be your greatest teacher or your greatest nemesis. Doing grief work is the work you do within yourself and it all starts with awareness. From the awareness; we come to a place of acceptance and then we have the choices to make on how we experience and learn from our grief journey.
The Virtues Of Grief Conclusion
In my next article in this series, I will delve deeper into the virtues of grief. I will endeavor to show how we can harness the power of the virtues to transform our grief from trauma to triumph.
Erich Lindemann – https://cms.www.countway.harvard.edu/wp/?p=8749
PGD – https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/prolonged-grief-disorder
Science Direct – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165032716318651
PGD And Depression – https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07481187.2013.809032
Kübler Ross – https://psychology.org.au/for-members/publications/inpsych/2011/dec/beyond-kubler-ross-recent-developments-in-our-und#:~:text=For%20Freud%2C%20'grief%20work',3)%20building%20of%20new%20relationships.