In my counseling practice, with my domestic violence and anger management folks, I teach a model of grieving every anger management workshop, and way too frequently in my domestic violence classes.
Our culture no longer handles grief the way it used to and men in particular, although women are now doing it also, who get caught up in the stoic, 'I just get the job done mentality' will not process grief appropriately, and unprocessed grief will limit the ability to feel positively in the future.
For example, not too many decades ago, when we were a more rural country, wakes were held in the home, and the family of the deceased would wear black for awhile to indicate to the community that they were letting go, and not so available to join in the usual village activities. We do not do that anymore. I have so many clients say they were told to "just get over it, and go to work" at the funeral of a loved one. While a return to normal routine is part of the process, "just get over it" may leave some stones unturned psychologically.
The focus in the Anger Management classes is on learning to manage the flow of grief, that there is a road map, that grieving is very important and necessary process involving a non-linear process of denial-bargaining-anger-grieving-acceptance.
That particular sequence is based on the Kubler-Ross model of grieving, and I make it a point to let my clients know that there are other models. The point being that the experience of anger at a loved one for dieing is part of a normal process, and is a sign that healing is happening. Without a road map, an individual might judge themselves rather harshly for having such a thought and push it out of mind. What is close to the anger is the love and the sorrow, which must get acknowledged, felt, cried, journaled, ect.
When we are angry about a loss, and do not achnowledge or process that anger, then it is hard to trust that the next person I care about will not do the same thing to me, leave me in such pain.
Lots of my male clients, who are taught that vulverability equals weakness, and that if you are weak, you will be attacked, will not go past the anger, at least consciously, which does keep them safe in their isolation. The quid pro quo to that kind of safety is lonliness.
That being said, I have seen research that indicates that men can grieve effectively without lots of tears, it is just a different process. What helps is a place to talk, a confidant, a men's group or circle. Build that in if you are male.
I know that when I began to do my own personal growth work, I tapped into a well of grief that took a lot of time and tears to go through.
What I mean is that I would go to my men's group and ask for time, and when time was available, I would tell the story line briefly and touch the feelings. I had found a place and men I could trust who would simple honor my tears, and my inner child got to heal that way. The healing I am talking about was the experience of feeling deeply and having other men pay respectful attention.
So I try to provide to my Anger Management clients some sense of how grief can be done right in the middle of the day, perhaps while walking from one's work station to the bathroom, how grief can be bookmarked for a bit, but must be attended to soon, or it will begin to rattle somewhere in your life, how art and prayer are helpful, and sharing.
And I give them very specific instructions about acknowledging their children's pain. Holding them until the kids complete the crying process, I attempt to explain how important the attachment process is for their kids, how brief attachment interludes may be, and how important that process is for kids growing up.
If you are in the Rockford, Illinois area and looking for a therapist with experience in end of life and grieving issues, please call Julie Logan, RN, LCSW, at 815-316-2620, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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