Posted by: James Atticus Bowden | March 29, 2014

Understanding Grief. Part 1: What the Doc Said

Nellie's book on grieving.

Nellie’s book on grieving.


Understanding Grief, Helping Yourself Heal by Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD is one of Nellie’s books. She saw this guy speak several times. This book is from 1992. I don’t know if she has any of his later books. She used what he said in the grief groups she lead at Mt. Vernon Elementary School. Sadly, there were enough little kids who had lost a parent, sibling or grand-parent to keep her group full every year. She counseled them when actually she was ministering to them.

This book has good teaching, despite the occasional lapses into psychobabble. Like, “embracing your grief.” I get past my gag reflex because I learned a lot of psychobabble helping my wife earn her Masters in Counseling. Here’s the good stuff.

Understanding Grief
• Grief is the internal meaning to bereavement. Mourning is taking grief from the inside and expressing it outside.
• Grief isn’t what we ‘get over’. It’s what we ‘live with’.
• Every individual has a unique journey to go ‘through’ grief.
• The ability to love requires the necessity to mourn.
• Tears shed are the beginning of the healing process.
• Expressing grief outwardly is necessary.
• Final dimension of grief is reconciliation.
• The sense of loss becomes a renewed meaning and purpose.
• Your support group – and sub-culture – influence how you are allowed to grieve and mourn.
• Death affects the head, heart, and spirit.
• Grief comes like waves.
• Going through grief is more like going through dimensions than stages. The stages – shock, denial, numbness, and disbelief – aren’t fixed like a schedule on a calendar.
• Grief doesn’t necessarily get easier over time.
• Work of mourning – and grieving – is draining. It leaves one wiped out.
• No critical decisions should be made.
• Problems with sleeping and low energy happen. Gets hard to fall asleep.
• Guilt over having joy comes from feelings of loyalty.
• Survivor guilt can be an issue.
• May take weeks or months to reach the depth of grief and mourning.
• Cry as much and as often as one needs.
• Grief attacks come suddenly. It’s emotionally draining. Tears and sobbing are healthy. “Sobbing is like wailing and it comes from the inner core of your being.”
• Loss of intimacy and sexuality is part of the process.
• Reconciliation as healing means you live with grief and work to reconcile yourself to it.
• 6 Control Needs
o Experience and express the reality of death.
o Tolerate pain that comes with grief while taking care of self physically, emotionally and spiritually.
o Convert your relationship with the dead from one of presence to memory.
o Develop new self-identity without the dead.
o Relate experience of loss to context of meaning
o Have an understanding support system – for you.
• Be compassionate with yourself.
• Person who died was part of you. Mourn the loss of outside self and inside. Overwhelming sadness and loneliness can accompany.
• There is a time to get on with your life. But, not when others determine it.
• 12 Freedoms
o Realize your grief is unique.
o Talk about your grief.
o Expect a multitude of emotions.
o Allow for numbness.
o Be tolerant of physical and emotional limits.
o Experience grief attacks or memory embraces.
o Develop support system.
o Make use of ritual.
o Embrace spirituality.
o Allow search for meaning.
o Treasure memories.
o Move toward grief and heal.
• Avoid critical people. Avoid people who try to steal grief.
• Death changes life forever. Your life will never be exactly the same as before.
• You are the expert about your experience.
• How to help
o Have a support group.
o Listen attentively. Be compassionate. Avoid clichés.
o Write personal notes. Be aware of holidays and anniversaries.
• Your life is under re-construction.

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