Emotional COUNSELING INSIGHTS 40 GRIEF · PDF file GRIEF Enabling People to Grieve and Grow...

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Transcript of Emotional COUNSELING INSIGHTS 40 GRIEF · PDF file GRIEF Enabling People to Grieve and Grow...

  • GG RIEF Enabling People to Grieve and Grow through Their Losses


    Goals for Each Step

    Step 1: Ascertain where the counselee is in the grieving process.

    Step 2: Offer a biblical perspective of death and other losses, as well as the comfort and hope of God’s Word.

    Step 3: Facilitate the grieving process, allowing it to run its full course.

    Step 4: Offer long-term wisdom in equipping the individual, the family, and the church in preparing for life’s losses.

    A Biblical Perspective on Caring for People


    S T E P O N E

    Observation and Identification of the Problem Ascertain where the counselee is in the grieving process.

    Meet the Counselee I knew that someday my

    husband would die, but no matter how often he was ill, I never really thought about life without him. For weeks after his death, I couldn’t stop crying at the slightest remembrance of him. And now months later, life still isn’t back to normal. Normal—I don’t know what that is anymore. Food doesn’t taste as good as it did before he died. Colors aren’t as bright as they were. Jokes aren’t as funny. Sleep isn’t as deep. And I don’t have the energy I used to.

    The end of my husband’s life was like a song cut off before the last notes could be played. The tune never leaves my mind. It drifts into the back- ground from time to time, but it’s never far away.

    DEATH Is as Real as LIFE Sooner or later we must all acknowledge the reality of death.

    Grief, then, is an important part of life and the normal response to a significant loss. Eventually, we will all face its pain.

    As Christians, we take comfort in the certainty of the resur- rection, but we must still experience the emptiness and agony of someone we love being taken from us. A godly counselor will help the grieving person understand that in the valley of the shadow of death they can still experience the true Shepherd.

    With such an assurance, we can perceive grief not as an enemy, but as a friend, for God has fashioned us to grieve in order that our sorrow may be consummated. And though periods of depression may linger, our healing will be hastened as we approach our feelings with directness and honesty.

    WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT YOUR COUNSELEE? • What is the counselee’s level of spiritual maturity? How well

    does he understand what God is doing through his grief? • Where is she in the grieving process? How is she handling

    the loss? What are her feelings, thoughts, and attitudes? • Have the counselee’s relationships fared well through the

    grieving process? Have his interactions with others become stressful? Is he avoiding contact with others?

    • How has the loss affected the counselee’s health? Is she neglecting herself in ways that could prolong her grief?


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    The Mourning Process Christian counselor Archibald Hart defines grief as “a longing for

    something that is lost.” 1 A grieving widow longs for the love and pres- ence of her deceased husband. A grieving father yearns for his adolescent son who died in a car accident. Grief is the emotion, while “mourning is the process of withdrawing emotional attachment or investment from the lost object or person.” 2

    In his excellent book, Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, J. William Worden lists four primary tasks that are a normal part of mourning.

    Task 1: to accept the reality of the loss Task 2: to work through the pain of grief Task 3: to adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing Task 4: to emotionally relocate the deceased and move on with life.3

    The final task doesn’t imply that the person no longer feels grief. Grieving parents will always feel heartache when they recall the child they lost. But their sorrow won’t be characterized by the gut-wrenching pain that it once had. They will have released their loved one and rein- vested themselves in the living.

    To help your counselee conceptualize the mourning process that Worden describes, we highly recommend Pat Schweibert and Chuck DeKlyen’s chil- dren’s book, Tear Soup. Read the book with your counselees, and invite them to talk about how the story portrays their mourning process.

    What Is Abnormal Grief? Unnatural responses to loss may delay the healing process and be

    potentially dangerous. Unhealthy responses include:

    Absent Grief. The person acts as if the loss never occurred, denying its occurance and showing only minimal signs of grief. He may be working hard to “get over” his grief by thinking about it, while avoiding the pain of feeling it at all costs.

    Inhibited Grief. The person grieves only over certain aspects of the loss, or converts grief to physical symptoms, because in sickness the very real need for comfort is legitimized. She fears that if she expresses her true grief, people will abandon her.

    Delayed Grief. Some people feel unable to deal with their grief, so they “stuff” it, hoping that at some point they will feel more able to experience the pain. Even a minor loss in the future may trigger an ava- lanche, releasing the older grief.

    Chronic Grief. The person keeps his loss alive through grieving, getting stuck in the initial stages of the grief process, avoiding closure.

    Conflicted Grief. The person exaggerates some of the characteristics of normal grief, while suppressing others.

    Displaced Grief. The counselee channels her feeling of grief elsewhere, perhaps complaining about work or relationships with others. She may become bitter toward life in general or become chronically depressed.

    Unanticipated Grief. The person is so devastated by a sudden loss that he is unable to grasp the totality of what has happened. Mentally, he has difficulty accepting the loss because of its unexpectedness.4

    Some Grief- Producing Events

    — death of a family member, whether expected or sudden

    — death of a close friend

    — abortion

    — loss of child through death, adoption, or denied custody

    — the empty nest

    — divorce or broken engagement

    — loss of health

    — loss of a job

    — bankruptcy

    — death of a pet

    — natural disaster

    — military disaster

    As a counselor, your goal is to see the bereaved move from “Why did this happen?” to “How can I learn through this?” and “How can I go on with my life?” Why questions search for meaning and purpose in loss. How questions search for ways to adjust.

    The grief-strickenperson may appear to be “losing his faith” during times of anger or depression, but that is just part of the process. Be patient and support- ive, never judgmental or reproving . . . just be a quiet reminder of God’s love and constant presence in his life.

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    S T E P T W O

    Biblical Instruction and Encouragement Offer a biblical perspective of death and other losses, as well as the

    comfort and hope of God’s Word.



    T he loss of a baby, whether in thewomb or already born, is a life-shattering ordeal that needs to be grieved. Even an early- trimester miscarriage involves the loss of a life and of a fond hope. The couple or

    other family members need some- one to share their grief, not to try to explain it away. Therefore, avoid saying things like the following:

    • “God knows what He’s doing and has a reason for this.”

    • “It was nature’s way of taking care of a prob- lem, so it’s for the best.”

    • “You only carried the baby for a short time, so it’ll be easy to get over it.”

    • “You’re young; you’ll have another baby.”

    As you share the parents’ grief, watch for signs that the loss may be causing marital problems.

    Although their desperate need in such a crisis is closeness and mutual support, they may withdraw from each other in their private grief. When this tendency is left unchecked, couples who lose a

    child in death may end up divorcing. A counselor can help parents

    navigate the treacherous waters of grief by helping them speak openly and honestly to each other. Siblings should also be encouraged to talk about the death of their brother or sister and given extra portions of love and affection to help them weather the emotional storms

    with which they may be struggling. Urge the parents to speak with the medical

    staff who tended their child about the medical decisions made while the child was sick. The cou- ple needs to hear firsthand from the attending doc- tors that everything possible was done to save their baby and that they as parents could have done nothing more.

    As a counselor, help the grieving person realize the meaning of biblical hope. True hope is not just a strong wish, or hope against hope—true hope is a confident expectation. The apostle Paul writes of this certainty in his letter to the church at Thessalonica:

    Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (1 Thess. 4:13–14)

    Notice Paul doesn’t say we shouldn’t grieve at all. Such a thought would be neither reasonable nor helpful. Grief is needed for recovery from a painful loss. Rather, we are not to grieve like or in

    the same manner as those who have no hope, namely those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesu