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GriefPerspectives

Local News

Resource Review

Research that Matters

Scholar's Corner

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

Finding Meaning After Tragedy Strikes

by William G. Hoy

 

The embers had not even cooled after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 before people began assigning blame and finding spiritual meaning in the tragedy. On one side of the aisle, a few were blaming the attacks on specific people groups with whom they did not agree, suggesting the attacks might be God’s judgment on America. On the other side of the aisle, some suggested that the attacks were the result of the nation’s economic and international policies and that we really got what we deserved.
 
Searching for meaning in the midst of tragedy—whether one of global import or private family matters—is a vital part of the grief process. Over the course of our lives, humans develop “global meaning” that includes the general orienting system of life and comprises basic beliefs, goals, and a subjective sense of purpose (Park, 2010). Serious illness, the death of a loved one, and other adverse experiences challenge these beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between the global beliefs and the ability to make sense of the adverse life event, the ensuing distress requires a search for meaning (Janoff-Bulman, 1989; Gillies & Neimeyer, 2006). Helping individuals grapple with these weighty philosophical and spiritual issues is one of the tasks to which caregiving professionals and volunteers are called as we seek ways to support hurting people.
 
A number of questions can help the counselor assess and support a person in grief as he or she tries to make sense of the death. Asking an open, even somewhat-vague question like, “So what sense are you making of all this right now?” gives the grieving person a great deal of latitude in response. The wise counselor will then clarify the answers given with follow-up questions like, “When you said. . . tell me a bit more of what you meant” or “It sounds like you’ve come to terms with much of this; what part of this experience are you finding is still difficult to make sense?”
 
Above all, caregivers must be sensitive to bereaved people who are trying to make sense of the non-sense of a loved one’s death. Remember above all that these meanings may change over time. A few days after her young daughter’s death to cancer, one mother said, “I am so glad she is out of the suffering of this world and in the arms of Jesus.” However, three months later, she was intensely mad at God for “snatching my little girl right out of my arms.” Notice the metaphor of protecting arms in both meanings.
 
One of our tasks is to deal with the apparent contradictions in the search for meaning. Though it defies the popular notion of how we ought to think, we can be both glad and sad at the same time. The meanings that some bereaved assign to the loss change frequently, and providing support means remaining present, even when it looks like the bereaved “cannot make up his mind.”
 
Moreover, bereaved people often report that the “jumbled” feelings and meanings they find after a loved one’s death increases their isolation from others and their sense that they are losing their minds. Friends sometimes stay away, in part, because they do not know whether it will be Dr. Jekyl or Mr. Hyde who shows up! In addition, the drastic changes in one’s thinking from day to day makes one feel crazed.
 
Of course, one of our other important roles is to protect the rights of the bereaved in finding meaning in the death while educating friends and other would-be supporters that it is not their place to try to make meaning for the bereaved. Saying to a new widow, “At least he’s out of his suffering and at peace with God” or “Aren’t you glad you had so many years together?” might make the “comforter” feel better but it rarely does anything to help the grieving. These kinds of statements attempt to minimize the loss and its impact of the survivor. A bereaved person can assign meanings to the loss, but it is not the place of others to try to do so.
 
 
References:
 
Gillies, J. & Neimeyer, R. A. (2006). Loss, grief, and the search for significance: Toward a model of meaning reconstruction in bereavement. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 19(1), 31-65. doi:10.1080/10720530500311182
 
Janoff-Bulman, R. (1989). Assumptive worlds and the stress of traumatic events: Applications of the schema construct. Social Cognition, 7(2), 113-136. doi:10.1521/soco.1989.7.2.113
 
Park, C. L. (2010). Making sense of the meaning literature: An integrative review of meaning making and its effects on adjustment to stressful life events. Psychological Bulletin, 136(2), 257-301. doi:10.1037/a0018301
 
 
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
We are very excited to announce that Windsor Chapel has just opened its South Windsor Chapel at 3048 Dougall Avenue. 

If you and/or your team would like to arrange for an open house tour and information session, please contact Scott Lockwood at slockwood@windsorchapel.com or by phone at 519-566-8175. 
Resource Review
 
 

Originally known for their line of notebook-style calendars, the FranklinCovey organization in Salt Lake City, UT has put many of its best tools on the web and made them available for free. Steven Covey’s approach to crafting one’s personal mission statement is one of the tools I have used over the years with bereaved individuals who are trying to discover what to do next in life. Now, the interactive tool is available online at http://msb.franklincovey.com
Your Professional Library
Smith, H.I. (2017). Eleanor, a spiritual biography: The faith of the 20th century’s most influential woman. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. 239pp. Paperback. US $ 20.00. ISBN  978-0-664-261641
 
In this extraordinary book from the pen of the most prolific author in my friendship circle, Harold Ivan Smith has again produced a masterpiece. Those of us who have known Harold Ivan over the last decade know that Eleanor Roosevelt’s spiritual life became a consuming passion that took him across North America and around the globe in search of better understanding this complex woman’s faith. I am amazed at how he packed such research into a delightful read that barely exceeds 200 pages of text.
 
Smith portrays his subject with wit and poignancy. He details her miserable childhood with an alcoholic father (whom she adored) and a stern mother and grandmother. In spite of deep hurt and disappointment throughout her life, Eleanor Roosevelt found deep meaning and satisfaction in caring for others. She often left the White House on Christmas Eve, for example, to deliver trees and gifts to the impoverished families living in the executive mansion’s shadow. Smith demonstrates how Roosevelt’s faith was not the simple musings of Sunday School but a deep understanding of God significantly infused by the words of the Hebrew prophet: “This is what the Lord requires, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NASB). Clearly, her concern for the poor and the oppressed was her response to these ancient words.
 
In the conclusion to this fine volume, Harold Ivan Smith quotes Eleanor Roosevelt: “I think we shall have fulfilled our mission well if when our time comes to give up active work in the world we can say we never saw a wrong without trying to right it; we never intentionally left unhappiness where a little effort would have turned it into happiness, and we were more critical of ourselves than we were of others” (p. 204). The author then closes the book with these words: “Without a doubt, Eleanor fulfilled her mission.”
 
Research that Matters
 
 
Haynes, W. C., Van Tongeren, D. R., Aten, J., Davis, E. B., Davis, D. E., Hook, J. N., . . . Johnson, T. (2016). The meaning as a buffer hypothesis: Spiritual meaning attenuates the effect of disaster-related resource loss on posttraumatic stress. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, ePub 8 August 2016doi:10.1037/rel0000098
 
End-of-life and bereavement professionals are typically well-aware of the role faith can play in the support system of individuals who are facing or have recently suffered a significant loss. One common question that has swirled around the intersection of research and practice wonders whether the ability to make spiritual/philosophical meaning acts as a cushion for those experiencing tragedy, the so-called “meaning as a buffer hypothesis.” This research study conducted by a team of eight psychological researchers from five different colleges/universities examined the religious meaning found by survivors of Hurricane Katrina in its aftermath.
 
The study’s abstract reads, “Religious and spiritual beliefs serve a number of functions, including promoting mental health in the wake of negative life events. We explore the “meaning as a buffer” hypothesis, which posits that (spiritual) meaning will shield individuals from the negative psychological consequences associated with adversity. Building on Park’s (2010) meaning making model, we investigated whether spiritual meaning can buffer the effect of disaster-related resource loss on posttraumatic stress. Survivors of Hurricane Katrina (N = 485) completed measures of resource loss, spiritual meaning and peace, and posttraumatic stress 3–4 months after the disaster. Survivors who reported experiencing higher spiritual meaning following the disaster reported significantly less severe posttraumatic stress in response to resource loss, relative to survivors who reported lower spiritual meaning and peace. Put differently, spiritual meaning and peace buffered the deleterious effect of disaster-related resource loss on mental health symptoms” (p. 1).
The researchers are quick to explain that their study has significant limitations but it does provide direction for future research into the role of faith in adverse life events such as natural disasters, assaults, accidents, critical illnesses, and deaths of loved ones.

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GriefPerspectives is published monthly by Grief Connect, Inc. Copyright ©2017. All rights reserved, including publication or distribution in any form, electronic or printed. For reprint permissions or suggestions for content, please email us at GriefResources@msn.com.
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