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Positive Aspects of Grief
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In the last section, we discussed Mind Sets of Grief. In
my practice, I have found that there are three basic mind
sets of grief. They are absolutist thinking, intolerance
of mistakes, and denial of personal difficulties.
In this section, we will discuss The Positive Side of Grief. I
have found three positive sides of grief. They are the
appreciation of life, strengthening of family ties, and finding
meaning in suffering. Clearly, all three positive sides
of grief are closely related, but may manifest themselves in different
ways. As I describe The Positive Side of Grief, you
may want to use the information as a checklist to evaluate a client you are
Three Positive Sides of Grief
♦ #1 Appreciation of Life
Aaron experienced grief in a way that gave him a better appreciation
of life. Aaron, age 46, had come close to dying in a car accident. His
wife and two kids were in the car with him. Aaron stated, "After
I regained consciousness, I was so worried about my wife and kids. I
couldn’t move my legs, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to
know my family was OK." Aaron’s oldest child,
Marcy, did not survive the accident.
Aaron stated, "I’d been
in the hospital for hours. It hurt so bad when I got the news that Marcy
didn’t make it. Ten minutes after I found out that Marcy was gone,
my wife and my youngest daughter, Lisa, came into my room. Through the
pain of losing Marcy, I could feel the relief and the happiness that I still
had the rest of my family." Having come close to death himself and knowing that other members of his family survived, Aaron came to
appreciate life in a way that those who had not experience death could not. Does
a grieving client of yours need to be gently reminded of this positive side
of grief ...their appreciation of life?
♦ #2 Strengthening of Family Ties
As you know, grief can create a closeness between the people involved. I
have found that if the clients involved in the grief process are already a
family, a strengthening of family ties may
occur. Aaron stated, "Since the accident, we have
become a very close knit family. There are no arguments
over petty things, even though we are so stressed out and grieving the loss
of a child. Medical insurance isn’t covering all the hospital bills,
so money is tight. We’re emotionally wrung out and damn near bankrupt,
but we’ve never been closer as a family. We appreciate each other
so much and helping each other is our top priority."
grieved the loss of his daughter, but he experienced a strengthening of family
ties which helped him cope with
his grief. Do you have experience treating clients who have had a strengthening
of family ties due to shared grief?
♦ 3-Part "The Living Dead" Technique
To help Aaron overcome his guilt for having survived the accident that resulted
in the loss of his daughter, I asked him to try the Living Dead technique. The
Living Loss technique is a journaling technique that has three parts.
first part is writing about the life and death of a loved one. Aaron
wrote about his oldest daughter Marcy, who died in the car accident.
second part is writing about how the loss of that loved one affects the grieving
client. I asked Aaron some questions to help him with the Living
Loss technique. These are four of the questions I asked Aaron
in the Living Loss technique.
4 Living Loss Questions Answered by Aaron
Question one: How does the memory of Marcy affect your life today?
Question two: Does your guilt affect any of your relationships today?
Question three: Do you have mental conversations with the dead?
And question four: Do you feel closer to the dead than to the living?
I explained to Aaron that he did not need to feel strange or crazy if he maintained
an ongoing relationship with Marcy. I stated, "It is common for
survivors to have mental conversations with dead loved ones. Many survivors
also feel a closer attachment to the dead than to the living."
-- The third
part in the Living and Loss technique is writing a letter to the
loved one. In a later session, Aaron explained that writing
a letter March helped him better understand why he maintained an ongoing
relationship with her. Aaron stated, "Now I know that I just didn’t
want to let go. Writing a letter to Marcy also helped me see that I didn’t
need to feel guilty for having survived the accident that killed my daughter." Are
you treating a client like Aaron who could benefit from the Living
and Loss technique?
♦ #3 Finding Meaning in Suffering
In addition to Appreciation and strengthening of relationship I have found
grieving clinents find meaning in suffering. Grief can help clients
gain empathy for other people who suffer. Clearly, this empathy can
result in finding meaning in suffering. For
example, Aaron stated, "Losing Marcy really made me feel for other
people who have bad things happen to them. I’m surprised that
Marcy’s death made me so open-minded."
explained to Aaron that human misery is everywhere. I stated, "Grief
can help you understand a father who loses a child in a fire, a woman who
has been beaten by her husband, or a teenager who was mugged and raped. There
are many people out there who are suffering." In a later
session, Aaron informed me that he had volunteered to lead a group session
at his church on Tuesday nights for people experiencing grief. Do
you agree that finding meaning in suffering is a way that
clients can experience a positive side of grief?
In this section we have discussed The Positive Side of Grief. In
my practice I have found three positive sides of grief. They
are the appreciation of life, strengthening of family ties, and finding
meaning in suffering.
In the next section, we will discuss The Three ‘D’s of Grief. The
Three ‘D’s of Grief refer to forms of emotional and physical numbing
I have found to be common among clients experiencing grief. The Three ‘D’s
of Grief are dissociation, de-realization, and depersonalization.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Beller, J., & Wagner, A. (2018). Loneliness, social isolation, their synergistic interaction, and mortality. Health Psychology, 37(9), 808–813.
Bellet, B. W., LeBlanc, N. J., Nizzi, M.-C., Carter, M. L., van der Does, F. H. S., Peters, J., Robinaugh, D. J., & McNally, R. J. (2020). "Identity confusion in complicated grief: A closer look": Correction. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 129(6), 543. Boerner, K., Schulz, R., & Horowitz, A. (2004). Positive Aspects of Caregiving and Adaptation to Bereavement.Psychology and Aging, 19(4), 668–675.
Taylor, S. (2020). Transformation through loss and grief: A study of personal transformation following bereavement. The Humanistic Psychologist. Advance online publication.
Weiss, T. (2005). A Researcher's Personal Narrative: Positive Emotions, Mythical Thinking and Posttraumatic Growth. Traumatology, 11(4), 209–219.
What are three positive sides of grief?
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