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GriefPerspectives

Local News

Scholar's Corner

Resource Review

Bookshelf

Greetings to Our Partners in Care!

Welcome to this month's edition of GriefPerspectives!

At Windsor Chapel we greatly value our relationships within the community and we look forward to continuing to be a strong resource for you as care providers.

Thank You for doing what you do day in and day out.  Your passion and commitment to excellence in care is of great value to so many individuals and families in Windsor and Essex County.  Our community is a better place because of you.  I trust that this month’s edition of Dr. Hoy’s GriefPerspectives will be a benefit to you as you continue to provide excellence in care and service to others.

Please be sure to check out the Local News section of this newsletter to hear of the exciting events upcoming at Windsor Chapel.

Your partner & resource in the community,

Scott Lockwood                                                                                        

Director of Community Development & Education                                 
Windsor Chapel Funeral Homes Ltd.

slockwood@windsorchapel.com
Cell  519-566-8175

GriefPerspectives

 

Bereavement:
Beyond Emotional Expression

by William G. Hoy
 
This summer has ushered in an unexpected season of deep personal loss for myself and my family. I have found it the importance of story and presence more important than ever as we have walked these fresh roads through bereavement. This month, I am reviewing previous research with new insights into the important facets of bereavement that are often overlooked or overshadowed by emotional demonstrations.
 
First, be careful not to underestimate the power and effectiveness of an intentional conversation

 

Photo Courtesy of iStock Photo/ totalpics
Whether a trained and experience professional caregiver or a volunteer seeking to support a grieving friend, we can easily overlook the obvious. Perhaps we think this brief conversation or that phone call does not really make a difference. Remember, however, that not much is required for most bereaved people to feel supported and embraced in their suffering. A phone conversation with a good listener is far more than many of them will ever get from their own families or friendship circles.
 
During these first decades of my career, I have informally surveyed clients on what helped most in the early aftermath of grief. Rarely do people recall specific words that were helpful, but practically no one has forgotten the power of a caring presence on the other end of the phone or at the door, especially many months after the loss. See the research report below for more confirmation of this fact.
 
Second, be cautious about asking too many "feeling" questions early in the conversationIn their book, Grieving Beyond Gender: Understanding the Ways Men and Women Mourn (Routledge, 2010)  Ken Doka and Terry Martin talk about the instrumental griever and the importance of not pushing too hard to get an emotional/affective response to the experience. I think all of us have some "instrumental" griever in our style, and therefore, we need to be aware that too many "feeling" questions early in a conversation stifles the very expression for which we are looking.
 
Early in my interaction with grieving people, I am most likely to offer prompts such as, “Tell me about what happened…” and “Would you tell me a bit more about (person who died)?” After I have heard the story and asked for clarifying details I will begin asking questions about meaning: “What do you make of this?” or “How have you found yourself making sense of all this so far?” While emotional expression can be vitally important, I have often found these last two questions help us get there. Instead of asking, “”How do you feel about that?,” I most often ask “So what do you think about that?” or “What do you make of that?” People who easily access emotion tend to do it in response to such questions; people for whom emotional expression is a more latent concept typically do not share much emotion in response to “feeling” questions anyway.
 
This leads me to my third observation: grief is not fundamentally about emotional expression. This is an outdated concept based on the frequently cited but empirically unsupported notion that one must "Feel it to heal it." Actually, our best theories of the grief process today agree that what is happening in bereavement for the grieving person is that he or she is making meaning of the loss. As a matter of fact, I think the best description of grief is “the process of making meaning of the experience and identity in the face of loss.” In other words, in loss, we are constantly asking ourselves two questions: "What does this experience mean to me?" and "Who am I now in the face of this loss?" In my opinion, the grief process is a gradual answering and redefining of those two questions.
 
Fourth, make sure that early attempts at support for a grieving person focuses on him or her telling the storyPhoto Courtesy of iStock Photo/marekuliasz Introspective reflection, opportunities to hear about feelings, thoughts and meanings will come soon enough. In the early going, make sure that clients get the valuable opportunities to tell the fully nuanced version of the loss (and pre-loss) story. Make follow-up questions about the facts and details of the story, not about the responses to the story. Your client will go to feelings, thoughts and reflections soon enough. While he or she is telling the story, make sure you are offering prompts like, "Tell me more about that..." and "What else happened?" and "That sounds really hard. What happened next?"
 
Remember that within a few weeks, even family members and close friends tire of hearing the story so supportive professionals and volunteers may be the only people willing to listen to it. Elicit details and embrace the story. In the telling of the story and THEN reflecting on its meaning, clients will most likely find the most authentic way through the grief process.
 

The Author:
For more than three decades, William G. Hoy has been counseling with the bereaved, supporting the dying and their families, and teaching colleagues how to provide effective care. After a career in congregation, hospice, and educational resource practice, he now holds a full-time teaching appointment as Clinical Professor of Medical Humanities at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.


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Local News
Scholar's Corner

Søfting, G.H., Dyregrov, A., & Dyregrov, K. (2015). Because I’m also part of the family: Children’s participation in rituals after the loss of a parent or sibling—A qualitative study from the children’s perspective. Omega: Journal of Death & Dying (ePublication,  20 March 2015) doi: 10.1177/0030222815575898
 
Worden’s and Silverman’s seminal research on the grief of children after a parent’s death (Worden, 1996 referenced above) confirmed what many bereavement professionals had intuitively concluded: children need to be allowed to attend funerals.

 

Now, in the most recent examination of children’s involvement in funeral rituals, earlier research and clinical wisdom are confirmed. Qualitative studies such as the one reported in Søfting, Dyregrov, & Dyregrov’s (2015) paper reaffirm the conventional wisdom: children report a high level of satisfaction with having participated. What interpretive studies such as this contribute to clinical research is a finely-nuanced perspective on experiences, largely owing to the depth of personal interviews. Much can be learned from an interview narrative that escapes the simple scoring process of quantitative studies.
 
Qualitative studies are generally small; this one included eleven children between the ages of 8 and 12 and who represented the geographical diversity of Norway. Six had experienced the death of a parent while five experienced the death of a sibling. All attended the wake or viewing of the body, ten attended a funeral service (with the body present), and one attended a memorial service (with an urn present).
 
The researchers noted one particularly interesting theme: the children recalled fondly the unexpectedly large number of people attending the funeral and especially, who was present. Children were especially pleased that their friends and teachers were in attendance at parent funerals. One nine-year old girl whose father had died remarked in her interview, “Even my teacher was at the funeral. For me only” (p. 8). Similarly, a 12-year old boy whose father had died gratefully recalled that his class attended the funeral, allowing them to better “see and understand” (p. 8).
 
Even though some of the children were initially resistant to participating in the rituals, all were grateful they had done so and recommended other bereaved children should, too. The children reported that although participation in the rituals was both sad and stressful, it was important to be included. One nine-year old girl asked rhetorically why a child should be excluded just because he or she is little. Some related that children should be included because they, too, are part of the deceased’s family.
 
Children reported that attending the wake and seeing the body was also helpful. The two children whose parent had died in an accident were especially grateful to see the body, expressing relief that their parent’s body was not damaged as they had feared. The researchers noted that the children’s voices echoed the advice of professionals about children and funerals, “that is, the importance of taking farewell, making the death real, and thus helping children in the grieving process, the children also pinpoint the importance of being included as a family member in grief. Being included legitimizes their status as a ‘full’ member of the family system with an equal status to adult grievers in an important and vulnerable phase of the family’s life” (p. 13).
Resource Review
 



GriefLink is an online point of connection between bereaved people and the professionals and volunteers who look after them. The interactive website includes profiles of therapists and educators, new books, links to a wide range of educational presentations and events, and helpful resource pages for individuals working through their own losses. The information pages are based on current thinking and research, presented in an easy-to-navigate, readable online format.
Bookshelf

Neimeyer, R.A., Harris, D.L., Winokuer, H.R., & Thornton, G.F. (2011). Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society: Bridging Research and Practice. New York: Routledge.  $ 49.95.
 
Nearly three years after its publication, this volume continues to prove itself as a fine anthology of the work in bridging research to good clinical practice in our field. “Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society" is an authoritative guide to the study of and work with major themes in bereavement. Its chapters synthesize the best of research-based conceptualization and clinical wisdom across 30 of the most important topics in the field, including the implementation of specific models in clinical practice, family therapy for bereavement, complicated grief, spirituality and more. The volume’s contributors come from around the world and their work reflects a level of cultural awareness of the diversity and universality of bereavement and its challenges that has rarely been approximated in other volumes” (from the publisher).
 
GriefPerspectives editor Bill Hoy is joined in this volume by more than 60 other authors, a veritable who’s-who of the bereavement world: Kenneth Doka, Linda Goldman, Irwin Sandler, Jack Jordan, Betty Carmack, Colin Murray Parkes, Louis Gamino, Heidi Horsley, and J.William Worden, to name just a few. Each chapter integrates the latest thinking on some aspect of bereavement with practical, proven strategies for supporting people in grief. Margaret Stroebe writes about this volume, “This is a highly significant contribution to our field.”
Copyright © 2016 Windsor Chapel Funeral Homes Ltd., All rights reserved.


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