The Grieving Process

Back to Life! A Personal Grief Book.

The grieving process is a "process". This difficult and enriching experience takes time, which is what the word process hopefully indicates.

The grieving process has some models which can help us as we move through the process, but each individual will follow their own path through their own grief.

I am the son of two alcoholic parents and in the early 1980's, I became aware of the codependency work being done by Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse, Claudia Black, Terry Gorski, John Bradshaw and others, including Pia Melody.

Pia Melody advocated that in order to break down our codependency behaviors, which we adopted as children in our dysfunctional families in order to survive, we write out our life story, day by day.

Any recovery, which means becoming aware of brain maps and patterns which we created and nurtured inside our own heads, would involve examining those codependent habits from the minute of their inception. With that awareness comes the ability to chose how we operate today.

And once we become aware that we can make different choices today, there is often a welling up of grief over having to do what we did as kids.

Our innocence and trust was taken, in many different ways, or we felt enough fear as kids to trade innocence and trust for survival, without our permission.

And the grieving for that loss is just as profound as it is for the loss of a parent, and it follows a similar trajectory.

I can remember the shock and sadness I felt when John F. Kennedy was assasinated in 1963. That represented a loss of innocence for me, and I still grieve that, so grieve can come from many different kinds of losses, and the grieving process can be aided and abetted by a listener, or a safe place to access the emotional pain for crying, or just to tell the story.

The men I have worked with over the years have carried incredible amounts of pain, about loss of fathers, mothers, innocence, children, jobs, comrades, brothers and sisters, and when given the opportunity, they will touch it and heal, which means they will trust again, or perhaps it is more accurate to say they will trust more easily.

Trusting again is the end goal of grieving, if you ask me, and it seems amazing that we do not educate our culture more effectively about the rhyme and reason of grief.

It has been my experience that once folks know there is a pattern to grief, and that while pain may be strong for awhile, the purpose of the pain is to let go, and come back more able to trust and love again, they go into it more willingly.

Patterns of Grief

The model or pattern of grief that we are most familiar with these days is the Kubler-Ross model which has five stages;




Sadness, melancholy, depression, tears


I explain to my clients that the Kubler-Ross model is helpful, but her work was derived from observing those patients who were given a diagnosis of a terminal illness, and that model may not be a perfect match to those who are uncovering the pain from being parented by an alcoholic.

Nevertheless, the Kubler-Ross model is an excellent beginning point for our experience of the winter of emotional life.

There are other models of the grieving process, some with more than five stages, others with less than five stages.

The point is that there is a model.

New Information on The Grieving Process

Americans for Better Care of the Dying and Hospice Foundation of America co-hosted the fifth in the "Lunch Bunch" series of meetings to inform policymakers, healthcare professionals, and others on end-of-life issues.

Kenneth Doka, Ph.D., Professor of Gerontology, College of New Rochelle, presented five challenges new research poses to existing models of grief and their clinical implications for health care providers.

Doka, a senior consultant to the Hospice Foundation of America, is widely known for his work in educating others about bereavement, and edits the journal, Omega.

In an interview with Exchange, Doka said that a concern among grief educators is that with the rise in medical and palliative care, lessons from the hospice model not be lost.

"The medical community needs to recognize that grief occurs throughout the disease process, and that patient and family are involved in grieving," he said.

One goal for clinicians, said Doka, is to support the dying through their anxieties and any issues they may want to resolve, in part by acknowledging their grief.

According to Doka, among the myths about grief are that depression/distress is inevitable, distress is natural, one needs to work through the loss, recovery is expected, and resolution will be reached.

Instead, Doka suggests new models for grief work, some of which have been proposed and investigated by other researchers.

Doka recommended extending the concept of grief to include what he calls "disenfranchised grief," or grief that cannot be openly acknowledged, such as:

relationships that are not recognized (lovers, friends, coworkers);

loss that is not recognized (perinatal loss, abortion, pet loss);

griever who is not recognized (very old, very young, and developmentally disabled persons); and,

disenfranchised death (murder, suicide, AIDS).

Doka also described "task models of grief," which emphasize individuality and stress autonomy.

Tasks include accepting reality, working through grief, adjusting to loss, and restoring one’s own life.

More work is needed to recognize the many ways grief affects individuals, and how it varies in its physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual effects, but that grief, like most emotions, is a universal experience.

Doka suggested that "recovery" from a loss may not be possible or desirable, and instead describes "amelioration" of grief, a return to similar (or better) levels of functioning with diminished pain.

The bereaved maintain connections to the deceased through memory, biography, legacy, and spirituality.

Bereavement counselors, Doka said, face the challenge of helping the bereaved to celebrate connections while avoiding potential problems, such as an inability to grow or move forward.

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