Why should we turn an eye to grief as a formal study?
Grief is the most universal human experience, and we live with it every day in many forms.
You’ll often hear that we’re a death-denying society. By extrapolation, we’re also a society that refuses to or doesn’t remember how to grieve. The two go hand in hand: the loss, and the process to integrate it into your life.
While all of us live the experience of grief, we frequently don’t understand what we’re going through and so we treat ourselves (and each other) cruelly or carelessly. One of the biggest health risks after a loss is isolation. And being disenfranchised contributes to that unnecessary pain. That pain is not grief; it is the direct result of ignorance.
We’re a society that doesn’t remember how to grieve.
It’s easy, without knowledge, to ascribe our grief responses to other causes. By labeling grief depression, we send people to medication and assume that therapies will help ‘solve the problem.’ By assuming that high emotions and sharp interactions are just negative personality traits, we quarantine the person who may be struggling, to accept himself in his confusing fragmented, transitory state of being.
We understand more about the vacillating nature of grief over the course of a lifetime; we help people build skills to withstand, and lean into grief.
A half a century after Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ seminal stages of grief applied to dying people, we describe the phenomenon much more multi-dimensionally. We know how to see people as different kinds of grievers; we understand more about the vacillating nature of grief over the course of a lifetime; we help people build skills to withstand and lean into grief.
Not understanding grief can hurt your clients.
We have recreated rituals that work effectively to help grieving people in today’s world. We recognize how our relationship with our dead informs our relationship with our lives. We acknowledge more easily when grief is complicated. We appreciate when someone needs therapeutic support, that someone who is working through a naturally painful transition, doesn’t need. We know that sometimes the deepest losses aren’t deaths.
I believe that understanding grief involves three legs:
- understanding our own grief
- understanding the grief of others very different than us
- balancing those subjective views with intentional study of the theorists and researchers who have taught us how grief support fits into a larger, often more objective perspective.
With regard to grief and loss, having a professional skill set requires both a knowledge of the nature of grief, and the ability to use that knowledge to be completely present for someone who needs to be seen, not ‘fixed.’
If you are interested in expanding your professional toolbox, and deepening your understanding about the grief process, Kim Mooney has developed a Desktop Lunch & Learn Series for you. Classes begin begin April 19th, and space is limited.