I am not a grief counselor by education, however, my clients, no matter what the presenting issue, have at some point demonstrated grief, sadness, even intense crying, about a loss which has impacted their lives, so I made it a point to learn something about grief and the grieving process.
The men who come to my domestic violence program are like most men in our culture, who were not given permission to grieve, nor have they been taught anything about the normal course of grief, so when they feel sadness, the emotion they show to the world is anger or contempt, or they report on what they are thinking.
In my domestic violence group last night, one man discussed how hard it was to spend the weekend with his 2 year old son and have a great deal of fun together and then watch as his son was taken to his grandparents house, where the child has to live until the court is no longer involved. Both father and son suffer in that moment, and this particular man has lost another son to SIDS.
Another father has signed over his joint custody rights to his 11 year old son who will be moving with his mother to another state. This father believes that his choice, as painful as it is for him, reflects what is best for his son.
Another man has a heart monitor on, and is looking at a serious medical involvement for the rest of his life, and he cannot hold his infant son because the child pulls off his heart monitor cables.
The loss of lifestyle is something Robert is still grieving.
Another father is slowly reconciling with his ex-fiance, but is very suspicious of the risk, and is struggling with thoughts about risk and his feeling of love. If he decides not to go back to his relationship, he stays safe but loses the love. And he will need to grieve that.
As I look back over the time I have been alive, I am awed by the changes that have happened and I often wonder about the people I knew as a young man, who touched my life, and I feel nostalgic for a different time, a time of the 1950's for example. They aren't coming back, and I feel sad as I make peace with some of the poor decisions I have made over the course of my life, and amazement at some of the good decisions.
So we all have grief, and it can be felt in 1/18th second, if a loss happens or we are reminded of a loss, and we move right into one of the stages of grieving, and as a counselor, my job is to help people recognize the road map of grief, and to let them know it serves a very important purpose, and if we ignore it, we do so at our own risk.
Ungrieved pain, in my estimation, makes future intimacy more difficult.
Are you wondering where to begin?
The model I like to teach is the Kubler-Ross model, because it illustrates how easily we can move from sadness into anger and back, and I think it makes it clear in the last stage, acceptance, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.
The Kubler-Ross model also helps folks to understand that the stages of grief are not linear stages. I can move around in that model, experiencing any of the stages at any moment of the more accute grieving.
The entire process usually takes a couple of years for the loss of an important person in your life.
And even after the most emotional part of the process is done, an anniversary or a picture or a recording can cue the process again, for another brief foray into the emotions.
I know that while I miss my parents, who passed when I was very young, I also remember them fondly now.
There are many tools that a grief counselor and client can use to explore the process of grief, including art, music, dance, movement, and ritual.
When grief comes up in a group situation for example, we always had some black cloth that we could use as a shroud, or as a symbol of the loss, to concretize the ritual for the client.
In fact, I had one client burn a picture symbolizing his ending marriage, and bury the ashes in dirt if a flower pot in my office, and that simple ritual helped him to let go much faster than ever before.
The Stages of the Kubler-Ross Model
4. Sorrow, tears, melancholy, depression, ect.
The grief counseling I am talking about is uncomplicated grief. Complicated grief may require the services of an specialist.
So I think it is important for a counselor to able to speak knowledgeably about grief counseling, because you are going to see it in your practice.
I know my clients are grateful to get a sense that there is a rhyme and reason to grieving, and that it has a somewhat discreet beginning and end.
Would You Share What You Are Most Grateful For?
Very early in my personal growth experience, a wise person taught me to use the phrase "gratitude is the attitude" when I was resentful or afraid and that phrase has helped me feel better tens of thousands of times.