The basic principles of grief:
1) it is “normal” & healthy to express intense & painful emotions relating to loss
2) grieving is important for healing the wound of separation
3) a bereaved person may experience a wide range of feelings including: shock, sadness, anger, guilt, depression, despair, relief, hope & acceptance
4) painful feelings will diminish with time – if they remain intense & prolonged, then professional help may be required
5) a total absence of grief – when a person carries on as though nothing has happened – is not a healthy sign & also may indicate the need for professional help
6) a bereaved person who has not successfully grieved is more prone to illness, both physical & psychological

“It is important to talk about death because death is so integral to life… Suppressing our relationship with death is a form of numbing which spreads to other areas & tends to limit our capacity for feeling in general, or our vitality.” Robert J. Lifton.
– Do you agree?

Gender differences in grief (based on biology & socialisation – bereaved people adapt their behaviour to make other people feel more comfortable):

Female (socialised to be more ‘care eliciting’)
– be sensitive & expressive
– show feelings (except anger)
– ventilate/share concerns
– be domestically competent
– don’t be too competent in other areas
– don’t be in control (seen as aggressive)
– get on with life (take care of family)

Male (socialised to be more ‘distancing’)
– be strong/in control
– don’t show feelings, except anger
– feelings are a sign of weakness
– don’t ventilate or share concerns
– be practical
– take care of others (in a practical sense)
– get on with life – work & sport
– don’t be needy
– be helpless around domestic tasks

Bereavement & it’s Possible Consequences:
– grief impacts the pituitary gland which secretes ACTH (hormone for the fight/flight response) which helps produce adrenalin & cortisol (acts as an immuno-suppressant through a decrease in T-lymphocyte production)
– grief not processed can lead to immunosuppression
– most grieving people find their intake of alcohol & other drugs (nicotine, caffeine, analgesics) increases on a temporary basis
– relationships:
– the crisis of bereavement – like any major life crisis – frequently results in review $ changes in relationships
– for e.g. “You can tell who your real friends are when you are in a crisis.”
– life perspectives may change
– things once important may no longer seem important
– acquaintances may not seem worth the bother
– complex relationships characterised by conflict or demands may not be considered orth the effort
– bereavement may offer opportunity of a “clean sweep” – that time is precious

Source: Coping with Grief (McKissock & McKissock, 1999) ABC Books


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