One of my duties as a bereavement coordinator is to train budding MFT’s to become psychotherapists. Believe it or not, there is very little training in graduate school regarding bereavement. Generally, we have a short chapter and discussion on Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief, and then we are on to the next thing. The not so funny thing is, grief and loss encompass many events throughout life, and the process is not defined by death alone. Understanding the grief process is advantageous as it is helpful in many areas’ personal growth and healing.
The first thing I teach interns regarding grief is this: Grief is the natural reaction to loss. This concise and simple sentence says it all; let me explain. It means that when we suffer a loss, especially by the death of someone close, we, as human beings WILL react. Where it gets tricky is the “how one reacts”. The expression of grief is varied and difficult to predict, but when we know there is a loss involved, we have to put that filter of grief on whatever is being displayed. For example, commonly I will be working with a bereaved client and they will tell me that their family and friends all say “you are so strong, you’re doing so well! When in truth I’m dying inside.” Another example is that people often associate ‘not crying’ with getting better, until of course, they break down again. Crying or not crying is a poor indicator of how one is “doing” in adapting to their loss. Grief is a very fluid, ever changing process, that is indescribably intense, all consuming, and tremendously challenging.
But here is some good news. Grief is about choices. It’s also about reflection, making meaning of the past, how to live in the present by living into a future you choose. It’s hard work, difficult, and painful work. The truth is, it’s going to be all those things with or without help. The without help option is fraught with obstacles that can prolong grief and stifle a productive outcome. It is our mission at Hope Bereavement Center that “The bereaved are empowered through the grieving process.” You can insure this outcome by reaching out for support from one of our grief groups, or individual counseling.
Grieving is difficult, you need not do it alone. You are not weak, nor are you dysfunctional if you get support. It is our job to support and assist you to find YOUR way!
By Jim Reiser LMFT, Bereavement Coordinator, Hospice of the North Coast