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Bereavement and Loss-Distance Learning, CPD Programme at ICPPD UNIT 3 –Task 3

Please write 500 words on the theoretical Grief Model of your preference(from the various theorists and theories and models presented in this module)and say why, giving examples from your personal and /or professional experience.

Till now I have not given much thought to a preferred theoretical Grief Model. However, on doing this module I have spent some time reflecting on theories of grief, and after doing some further reading, I am probably drawn mostly to Alan D. Wolfelt Theory.

I am drawn to idea of Wolfelt’s approach in bereavement care, as it appears as if he has removed timelines, boundaries, barriers, tasks and stages of mourning, and got in touch with the felt experience of the mourner, and their unique and individual relationship with the deceased, and this new world they now find them self in. He appears to have replaced this with a curiosity of what it is like to not have the deceased in our lives anymore, what is it like to identify the needs of the bereaved and give them a voice ‘taking grief from the inside to the outside’. In doing this he appears to have outlined a pathway of recovery (even though he appears to abhor the medicalisation of grief, and the term recovery).

Yet in my experience there is a recovery from grief. Recovery doesn’t mean an illness or disease never existed, never impacted us, it simply means we learn to integrate the experience into our new way of being –which it seems he writes about –I’ve only skimmed his work (book, articles, and videos), so I might be wrong.

When I first started my training in counselling I felt really out of sorts, and wondered and am still wondering, what do we do with all of this awareness that sessions can bring about, and wondering if awareness alone is enough to magically change our living experience, or is what we do about the awareness that creates change and integration.

Wolfelt seems to address this as he identifies the needs of the mourner, which he outlines as:

    • A need to acknowledge the reality of the death
    • A need to embrace the pain of the loss
    • A need to remember the person who has died.

These first three seem to be about facing the realness of present moments after the death, almost a ‘how am I now’,’ where am I now’, and a ‘who am I now’ moment by moment existence for some people, not all. An almost mindful awareness of this massive change in this new way of being.

The next three needs he identifies seem to be linked to the exploration of how to move forward in a real way, a recovery maybe …

    • A need to develop a new self –identity
    • A need to be allowed to search for meaning (not dictated/directed by doctors, counsellors, families, friends, society, not medicated)
    • A need to receive ongoing support from others.

I have the luxury of having a distance in time from my last experience of death and this present moment, yet I am very aware that time alone hasn’t helped me but what I have done in that time, has been my greatest help. I had a knowing at that time, for me, that going to counsellors or doctors and saying how I felt may not be of benefit to me, but neither would sitting and crying and not facing my reality (I was a carer for years and years, since childhood so any time spent on self was, to me at that time, seen as selfish).

However, I embraced education of all sorts, and it helped me. From that came the learning around self-care, how having compassion for myself would help in my own healing of the raw unhealed wounds of grief I carried silently within me. I am allowing these grief wounds to integrate into my wise self, fostering compassion for self and others.

As time has gone on, I have learned how to channel my own experience and learnings to help others, not by giving myself up as a ‘look at me’ example, but as a deep knowing that inside all of us is great strength in the core of our being. At times it may be hidden until it is reflected to us through awareness or through the presence of another being. I find in my limited experience of counselling and bereavement support work –the action of solely inviting the client to give themselves permission to share their pain, initially with me, impacts them, and then exploring new small ways of living and integrating the loss into their everyday life is hesitantly met, but courageously done.

Reflection : We seem to have help in all aspects of life form pre-birth –to breath, walk, talk, read, eat, toilet, to love and be loved, yet we seem to learn at a young age how to hide our grief and loss, to bury it …. The same may be said as we age or face life threatening illnesses. As part of a stroke and medical rehabilitation team for years there was nothing we wouldn’t attempt to help a client –expect their emotional needs –these were treated with drugs or a 15 minute consult with a psychiatrist who inevitably would prescribe drugs –it was almost seen as a failure on our part, if a patient mourned the loss of function, or were sad…

Maybe that was what draws me most to Wolfelt, his awareness that grief and mourning are not an illness, a disease or disorder, maybe until a time the unmet needs of mourning make them so…

[Thank you to Anne Marie, who is undertaking this programme now, and has given permission to share her reflection on this task in Unit 3 of the Bereavement and Loss, CPD Programme.]

ICPPD Online Certificate in Bereavement & Loss – 45 CPD Hours

Home study at your own pace and start any time of the year. For more details or to apply for this programme click here.

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