Monday, December 14, 2009

Tuesday's Trust - THE DOCTOR IS OUT

When It Comes To Treating a Grieving Parent,



Be Careful Entrusting Yourself To Just Any Ole Counselor…

by Tommy and Angie Prince

Although there are many problems and disorders that folks have that can be treated successfully by a physician or counselor, iohooc (in our humble opinion, of course!),

Some problems cannot be effectively treated by just any ole counselor...

A physician using medication can manage many physical problems. A physical therapist can assist in the recovery of broken bones and torn muscles. Surgery can often correct internal problems. The removal of tumors, gall bladders, appendix, and part of the stomach can relieve damaged tissues.

In each of these situations the treating physician or physical therapist does NOT have to personally experience the disorder to successfully treat the disorder.

But if you are a grieving parent and find yourself stuck in some part of your grief and want to seek professional help, in our opinion,

Do Not Entrust Yourself to Any Doctors or Therapists Who Have Not Lost a Child Themselves!

In our own “wars of grief,” we find it is rare that any “civilian” to that war ever fully “gets it” in regard to the depth, length, or breadth of our pain. It is our opinion that neither will you find any professionals who will “get it” fully if they themselves have never suffered through the loss of their own child.

Even Sigmund Freud thought parental grief had an end to it until he lost his own daughter and grandson. After his great loss, he wrote in a note to a friend, that although the acute stage of grief eventually subsides, a parent’s grief never fully resolves. (Talbot, 2002)

So we say,

Do Not Entrust Yourself To Any Doctors or Therapists Who Have Not Lost a Child Themselves. The odds are great they simply will not “get” the extent of your pain, nor the normalcy of such depth of pain with this kind of loss.


Counselors generally can successfully help someone who is experiencing emotional problems. Talk therapy is good for people experiencing depression, anxiety, obsessions, marital problems, and relational problems. In each of these areas the counselor does not have to have personally experienced these problems to successfully treat the client. The outcome can be positive even though the counselor has not gone through a similar experience.

There are some situations where unless the physician or counselor has had personal experience with a particular problem, the treatment will be unsuccessful.

One area in which this is true is with addictions. Those who have been through the process of recovery and rehab seem to be the only ones who can treat alcoholism and drug addiction.

In terms of addiction, it “takes one to know one”!

The research is indicating that an addict may be required to go through rehab multiple times. (This is one of the few areas of treatment where failure is “acceptable.”)

But for the addict to have a chance at success, it is generally agreed upon by the professionals in the field that a fellow “recovering” addict must conduct the treatment.

When it comes to helping a grieving parent,

it takes one to know how to help one.

The process of grieving the loss of a child is unlike any other form of grief. It is different from the death of a spouse, the death of a parent, or the death of a sibling. It does not follow the same path of the other losses. The loss-of-a-child grief is more enduringly intense than any of the other kinds of losses. It is more severe than the other losses.

Though much grief-work can be done effectively, the full meaning, trauma and complexity of bereaved parents’ grief is something that will never be “fully integrated” into their lives. Any professional working with you in your grief needs to understand this dilemma.


Psychologists are proposing a “traumatic grief” category for the next diagnostic manual for psychological disorders which seems "to do a better job of clarifying the debilitating symptoms often experienced by bereaved parents." (Talbot, 2002)

(We will show this proposed category of grief in all of its detail in another blog post coming soon.) This improved categorizing of different types of grief is indeed progress.

Complicated grief or traumatic grief seems to be more of the norm for grieving parents, and that needs to be understood, particularly for any therapist or doctor who works with these grieving parents.


Kay Talbot is a Ph.D. psychologist who has lost a child. She comments on this upcoming grief category proposed for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for psychological disorders and how important it is to distinguish that

the deep grief for the grieving parent is not a disorder for this child-loss grief.

She also gives her input on the unique nature of child-loss grief and how undergoing grief therapy in the wrong manner sets a parent up for “secondary injury”:

But when putting the diagnostic categories into practice, it is vitally important to convey to bereaved parents that they are not ‘disordered.’

Their grief is extreme, traumatic, debilitating, and frequently requires professional intervention. But it is not abnormal for this loss.

Bereaved parents who seek or are sent for counseling are at risk for secondary injury when they are subjected to assessment and diagnosis.

Interestingly, we do not know how often bereaved parents leave a professional’s office feeling unheard, misunderstood, and/or judged and never return….

We (do) know that establishing rapport and trust with bereaved parents is critically important. Asking how we can best help (bereaved parents who do come in for help) and what we need to know in order to understand their grief conveys our interest in and respect for each unique parent.

~Kay Talbot, Ph.D., and grieving mother, 2002 What Forever Means After the Death of a Child: Transcending the Trauma, Living with the Loss (highlights ours)


1 comment:

bigD said...

This is bigD again. I have been reading some of your old posts, which have been so helpful and reassuring that I am not crazy. I just finished reading your post on Complicated Grief. I so agree with everything you have said. I felt I was experiencing symptoms of complicated grief (with some symptoms of PTSD and depression thrown in for good measure) even as early as three months after my son's death. I am now seven months out and I feel like I am getting worse, certainly not better. At the three month point, I sought counseling from a licensed psychologist who had lost a child, and was a certified thanatologist, and a well known and sought after grief therapist. This person has written books, travels the country, etc. I had to drive an hour to see him and pay out-of-pocket for the visit. I met with him for an hour told my story. The doctor asked me if I wanted to harm myself or others. My answer at the time was no. He then proceeded to tell me that I was "OK", considering all I had been through, and unless I felt it would be helpful to meet with him, that he saw no reason that I needed to keep coming. I was so upset and disappointed. Like you, I am an intelligent, well-educated, "normal", person who feels currently like I am going to lose my mind. I don't understand why I can't find help even when I seek out professionals with appropriate experience and credentials in grief and in specific the grief of child-loss. I actually contacted a doctor that you have cited in your posts (I came to know of him and his work in grief therapy via the Open to Hope foundation) to see if he would accept me as a patient. He was very nice, but, suggested I needed someone I could see one on one. He set me up with a very nice person, but, she was not a therapist, and it was all about just talking it out. I actually want to receive some kind of "therapy," just like you have discussed in this post. I have now given up on getting treatment for the moment because I cannot handle any more rejection or being told I am doing "fine" just because I am able to express my feelings and write a coherent sentence! It is beyond frustrating and it just magnifies my feelings of isolation and sadness over the loss of my son. I feel like I am drowning and no one sees me there flailing in the quicksand of my grief. Self-help only goes so far and it is very lonely work. Thank you for listening. Diane

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