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Thinking about Losses and Grief Differently


Thinking about Losses and Grief Differently Universal phenomena Is challenging and distressing But it can be transformational, and most of us overtime develop skills ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Thinking about Losses and Grief Differently

Thinking about Losses and Grief Differently
  • Universal phenomena
  • Is challenging and distressing
  • But it can be transformational, and most of us
    overtime develop skills and attitudes that
    assimilate our losses in our lives in a
    functional manner

Psychotherapy and Psychotherapists
  • Often miss or fail to identify the presence of
    loss and grief unless of course the intake
    tells us the person is coming for bereavement
  • However, grieving a death of a loved one is
    similar to other losses and may invoke similar

Loss Responses Non-Death and Death
  • We experience
  • Sadness, we confront and avoid painful emotions,
    we attempt to reorganize our world, we struggle
    with connection and disconnection
  • Our new losses trigger material from our old
    world (attachment theory) we year to return to
    these preloss circumstances
  • We try to make sense of losses, or make meaning,
    we are paralyzed, we are transformed, and
    struggle to integrate losses into our lives

Loss and Grief Terminology
  • Bereavement period of sorrow following the death
    of a significant other
  • Loss real or perceived deprivation of something
    deemed meaningful (death or non-death related)
  • Grief an emotion generated by an experience of
    loss characterized by sorrow and/or distress, and
    the personal and interpersonal experience of
  • Coping Time limited reaction in which an event
    is endured or momentarily managed with coping
  • Loss Adaptation Process of adjusting to
    loss/grief (active process of modification,
    revision, reorganization, and assimilation over

Changing Ideas
  • Not linear - there is not necessarily a
    characteristic set of processes that each griever
    experiences or phases he / she must pass through
  • Not abnormal dont necessarily need to
    detach/sever from object we are grieving over
  • Grief doesnt necessarily end
  • We are not passive victims over our grieving
  • We must assume personal, social, familial,
    historical, and culture, influences our grieving
    and healing but not necessarily get caught by

and all grievers are the same!
Not all losses, all grief
Grief is an individual phenomena!
Moving Away from Linear Models
Lets Chat about these Cases
  • Kito
  • Elena
  • Jane
  • Billy

The Counseling Professional Working with Loss and
  • What loss and grief loss requires the counselor
    to do
  • Prioritize uniqueness of our clients and their
    experiences within the context of their lives
  • Recognize normality of grief, empower clients to
    be actively involved in their adaptation to loss,
    support clients without attempting to cure or fix
  • Respect clients as experts on themselves
  • Lets talk about the last one

Three Roles
  • Witness
  • Facilitator
  • Collaborator

The Witness
  • To observe, to listen, to hear, to remember, and
    to understand at the deepest level the powerful
    narratives of loss and grief
  • We bear witness
  • Thus as a witness we
  • Listen more than we talk
  • Employ respectful silence
  • Fully attend (see what is here)
  • Exhibit comfort
  • Allow grief (dont fix even when clients request
  • No judgment

Facilitator Role
  • Provide a framework conducive to functional loss
  • Focus and structure
  • Typical questions and framework
  • How can I be of help? How is the session going
    thus far? Where should we be spending our time?
  • We facilitate the clients work, but we dont do
    the work for them!

Facilitator Medicine
  1. Encourage recognition and use clients strengths,
    resources and abilities
  2. Respect the natural ebb and flow of the grieving
    journey, including periods of disorder, impasse,
    resistance, and confusion as part of the loss
    adaptation process
  3. Consult with clients regularly as to direction of
    therapy, and usefulness of various techniques /
  4. Assist clients where they are - not where the
    counselor wants them to be

Collaborator Role
  1. Collaborative counselors are more interested in
    client perspectives than they are in preconceived
    notions about grief based on expertness of others
  2. Neither directive nor nondirective
  3. Fellow explorer
  4. Help clients educate themselves about themselves
    and their world past, present, future

Collaborator Medicine
  1. Respect clients as narrators of their own stories
  2. Encourage and attitude of exploration and
  3. Rely and what and how questions to encourage
    reflection and ownership
  4. Encourage divergent thinking (ideas)
  5. Promote client resiliency

Key Technique in Working With Loss, Grief, and
Bereaved Clients
  • Master the Art of Silence
  • Respectful silence is bearing witness
  • Silence punctuates moments, prompts reflection,
    provides support, deepens process, and is healing
  • We are creating a space for coping, holding,
  • We do not solve grief
  • We do not rescue grief

Video Emersion Practicing The Three Roles
Listening To and Listening For Loss and Grief
  • Listen to this song?
  • What do you think is going on?

Lets not Get Ahead of ourselves?
  • Why do we grieve?
  • Love somebody?
  • What is love?

Why Loss / Grief Clients
  • Some clients specifically come for counseling due
    to loss and as a result of
  • Bereavement
  • Divorce
  • Separation
  • Loss of livelihood
  • Because they believe they are not adjusting well

Why Loss / Grief Clients (cont.)
  • However, most loss and grief experiences appear
    far more often in therapy not as the presenting
    problem, but as an underlying cause or
    contributing factor to client troubles.
  • As we explore client anger often we reveal core
    losses that have never been addressed or were
    adequately grieved for.
  • Refer to text pg. 19

Primary and Secondary Losses
  • Primary Loss significant loss event such as
  • Secondary Loss come about as a result of a
    primary loss

Secondary Losses
  • Acts a dominoes and can arise as a chain of
    events from primary loss
  • Death of spouse brings about loss of
    companionship, financial security, sexual
    intimacy, family role, social status
  • Job loss self-esteem, identity, financial
    security, sense of future
  • Childhood sexual abuse loss innocence, trust,
    sense of control, etc.
  • Mental illness loss of control over emotions,
    thoughts, family role, loss of occupation

All these losses bring grief
The question to ask then or to understand in
facilitating adaptation to loss that we must ask
our clients?
  • Primary Loss Relationship
  • Questions we need to know

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Ambiguous Loss (AL)
  • Two types
  • Physically absent / psychologically present (e.g.
    kidnapping, people missing from natural disaster,
    divorce situations, baby put up for adoption,
  • Physically present / psychologically
    absentperson is emotionally and cognitively
    missing (Alzheimers, traumatic brain injury,
  • The uncertainty characteristics of (AL) can bring
    about long term dysfunctional coping often
    contributing to complications in the grieving

Stigmatized Losses
  • Losses that reveal transgressions of societal
    norms or go against norms, mores, and folkways
  • These include losses related to HIV/AIDS,
    suicide, violence (e.g., homicide, genocide,
    domestic violence, homelessness, sexual abuse,
    addictions, to name a few)
  • Stigma attached to the loss, should they be
    allowed to grief? Family hides the secret
  • These sufferers usually experience and have a
    difficult time getting over guilt, shame, blame
    and their support networks can often be limited

Disenfranchised Grief
Cultural losses
  • Historical oppression
  • Racism
  • Residential school
  • Immigration

Psychosocial Factors Facing Our Loss
  • Now that we have seen that grief and loss are
    unique to the sufferer and that different losses
    bring with them different obstacles to adaptation
    lets look at psychosocial factors that impact
    grief and healing.
  • Adaptive strategies
  • Affective (emotional response / regulation)
  • Cognitive (analysis, reframing, distraction or
  • Behavioral (problem solving, activity,
    behavioral distraction)
  • Spiritual (prayer, meditation, rituals)

Adaptive Strategies
  • Can be used both positively and negatively
  • Everyone has their own combination of adaptive
    strategies based on personality and life
  • The idea is for the counselor and client to use
    which ones that are most helpful

Attachment Theory
  • Definition of Attachment
  • An enduring emotional tie to a special person,
    characterized by a tendency to seek and maintain
    closeness, especially during times of stress.
  • Healthy and unhealthy attachments can predict
    duration and intensity of bereavement

Disrupted Meaning Structures
  • Basic truths about the world assumptive world
  • Loss can shatter our assumptive world
  • I dont know who I am anymore shakes us to our
  • An important job of the grief counselor is to
    help clients deal with disruption of their
    pre-loss meaning structures

Meaning Reconstruction 3 Phases
  • Sense or meaning making
  • Begins with exploring the why
  • And maybe ends with letting go of the why
  • Moreover, the counselors aim here is to examine
    the meaning structures that once made ones world
    comprehensible, then renewing, redefining, or
    revising them to so as to restore balance

Benefit Finding Phase 2
  • Learning to find personal growth in loss
  • We may find a greater faith
  • Transform our identity
  • Develop competence or independence
  • Its not above moving on its about thriving in
    the aftermath of a reality we cant change

Identity Change
  • Process of reorganizing and rebuilding a sense of
    self fragmented by loss
  • Help client revise ones self narrative in a way
    that maintains continuity of a person while also
    incorporating altered aspects of the self
  • We are always becoming

Video Emersion Shattered Assumptive Word
Video II Disrupted Meaning Structures
Other Psychosocial factors
  • Personal history of Loss and Separation
  • Developmental considerations
  • Womens / Womanist development
  • Racial Identity development
  • Homosexual Identity development
  • Faith Development

Social Support
  • The better the quality of the grievers support
    network, the more functional is her or his loss
  • Sometimes our notions of who will support us does
    not happen or our initial grief reactions, or
    deficits in our interpersonally functioning limit
    our reaching out to others.
  • The latter support mechanisms and tendencys need
    to be explored by counselors

Uncomplicated and Complicated Grief
  • Uncomplicated grieving
  • Self-limiting
  • Common symptoms gradually diminish (e.g. sadness,
    yearning, confusion, numbing, and loneliness)
  • There is an increasing acceptance of the reality
    of death
  • Steady integration of loss
  • Grief is seen as normal
  • Easing of symptoms can be observed 6 months to a
    year following the death

Complicated Bereavement Grief (Prigerson et al.
  • Used to denote specific symptoms and level of
    distress due to a death (distinguishing primary
  • Grief is prolonged
  • Grief symptoms intensify rather than diminish
  • Disability of death lingers, and loss is not
    observed to have been integrated

Toward Diagnosis Four Proposed Criterions
  • Symptoms must last for 6 months
  • Symptoms cause marked dysfunction in social,
    occupations or other important domains
  • Yearning, pining, longing for deceased must be
    experienced at least daily over past month to a
    distressing or disruptive degree
  • 4 symptoms of 8 must be experienced in the past
    month as extreme
  • These are

  1. Trouble accepting death
  2. Inability to trust others since the death
  3. Excessive bitterness about the death
  4. Feeling uneasy about moving on with ones life
  5. Feeling emotionally numb/detached from others
    since death
  6. Feeling life is meaningless without the deceased
  7. Feeling the future holds no meaning without the
  8. Feeling agitated, jumpy, or on edge since the

Lets talk about pathologizing grief
Contemporary Models of Loss Adaptation
  • Martin and Dokas Adaptive Grieving Styles
  • Dual Process Model of Coping

Adaptive Grieving Model
  • Model focuses on
  • Specific patterns of grieving that is natural to
    the person, and
  • The preferred cognitive, behavioral, affective,
    and spiritual strategies an individual uses to
    manage our innate response to loss

Continuum 3 Basic Grieving Styles
A Closer Look at The Intuitive and Instrumental
Adaptive Grieving Styles
  • Our style can shift along the continuum, but for
    the most part is generally consistent across time
  • The models grieving styles reflect and respect
    innate differences among individuals that result
    from personality, culture, familial,
    developmental, and social influences

Preferred Coping Strategies
  • Affective
  • Cognitive
  • Behavioral
  • Spiritual
  • Any adaptive strategy may be used by an
    individual person, but there appears to be a
    clear preference for each grieving style
  • Thus, an instrumental griever and intuitive
    griever may employ the same strategy, but its
    use will be put in action for different means
  • Sharing a story for an intuitive is done to
    express emotion and connect on emotional level
    with others, whereas an instrumental tells a
    story to to gather info, organize a response, or
    solve problems

Affective Strategies
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Strategies at Work Some Details
  • Strategies that work at the beginning may not
    work during later adaptation
  • Your strategy of adaptation may clash with
    spouse, siblings, and family, causing
    deterioration in overall support
  • What if your counselor has a different innate
    adaptive strategy?

Strategies at Work Some Details
  • Counselors must what to make sure clients are
    utilizing their primary adaptive strategies
  • Its good to have secondary strategies, but the
    secondary strategies may be ineffectively applied
  • Counselors job to root this out

Dissonant Responses
  • Common for grievers to initially use secondary
    strategy and go against their natural style of
  • This can further complicate grief
  • The discrepancy is resolved when the
    client/individual moves into innate response or
    in counseling when we fetter out clients primary
  • Reasons for dissonant responses include
    personality, gender role socialization, type and
    intensity of grief, image management, substance
    abuse, etc.

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What are we seeing here?
  • Intuitive is going against her / his nature
  • Dissonance typically occurs when the intuitive
    attempts to limit their internal experience

Dissonance response intuitive (cont.).
  • They begin to use behavioral and CBT strategies
    such as
  • Avoid people who would otherwise elicit a
    emotional response, rationalize / intellectualize
  • Use alcohol / drugs to suppress emotion, overuse
    physical exercise to deny reality of loss, focus
    on everyone but themselves
  • This type of strategy can lead to physical /
    emotional exhaustion, psychosomatic illness,
    estrangement from others, complications may also
    from risky behaviors

Dissonance Response More Instrumental Griever
What are we seeing Here?
  • Instrumental griever is in dissonance because
    they believe they should be feeling (believe
    there is something wrong with themselves)
  • They are self critical and blame themselves
  • Distance themselves from others because they
    believe they are cold, uncaring, and insensitive
  • May conjure up feelings or loosen inhibitions
    (drink / rather than numb) to feel
  • Provoke violence to feel
  • Martin and Doka report that instrumental grievers
    may come to therapy for the problems created by
    the dissonance not the dissonance itself

Counseling Implications?