Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday's Therapy - Ways We Grieve,Part Ten - Why Does Child-Loss Grief Take So Long?

Thursday's Therapy

Ways We Grieve

Part Ten

Why Does Child-Loss Grief Take So Long?

If you review the study found at, you will discover the outcome of the grief research is very telling for our purposes. The scientists who reviewed the research however drew what, in my opinion, was a wrong conclusion. They decided that since the “reward centers” in the brains of complicated grievers were being triggered by viewing pictures of their loved ones, that grievers ergo, might become “addicted” to grief. These “scientists” obviously have never been through the kind of severe loss that is so debilitating as child-loss grief.

To me, the proper interpretation of the results would be scientific proof that what Jesus proclaimed is true,

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Silly Scientists! Grief research does not point to grief being addictive! ~What trauma experts in the field know is that

In Child-Loss Grief

  • The brain has been traumatized by complicated grief à which means

  • The traumatic emotions/memories are stuck in the cerebellum and must be moved through neural passageways into the other parts of the brain to be properly processed.

  • Essentially, we must move the “toxic waste” of sorts from our cerebellum on through the other un-traumatized parts of our brain in a therapeutic, restorative way.

  • However the neural passageways from the cerebellum to these other parts of the brain have also been decimated by the trauma of the severe loss, so there is repair work to be done.

  • We must rebuild those neural passageways in much the same way as we built our original neural passageways—built when we were first a baby.

Do you remember learning how we originally built our first neural passageways? In school, we learned that our brains are not complete when we are born; they continue to develop.

Neural passageways are built in a baby by the continual mirroring experienced in the presence of our mommy or daddy or other safe caregivers. Spending one-on-one time before a nurturing caregiver who
  • holds,
  • nurtures,
  • comforts,
  • protects,
  • reflects back to us who we are in the way they
  1. value us,
  2. hear us,
  3. respond to us,
  4. look at us,
  5. hold us, and
  6. play with us, etc.

Such mirroring stimulates us as a baby in such a way that passageways for surviving and thriving are built within the brain.

(The babies who received little touch and personal responsiveness many times did not thrive or even survive.)

Now, as traumatized grievers, our grief work requires a similar process of intensive mirroring before ourselves, our loving caring Heavenly Father, and/or other safe people.

(Also, the newest research shows that people who believe they have a Heavenly Father who cares for them generally heal faster than those who do not.)

But as you might imagine – after experiencing child-loss trauma, this rebuilding of our damaged neural passageways through intensive grieving before a caring persona does not happen overnight.

Think about it this way… If you think about America’s dilemma during World War II, the federal government needed to build extensive new infrastructure so that the government could deliver critical munitions for the protection of our country under President Eisenhower. Such extensive infrastructure did not get built overnight; it took months upon months, even years upon years of intensive work to fully build our interstate highway system. It would have been foolish to think such work could happen overnight.

In a similar way, our child-loss grief is a grief like none other. It is so traumatic that our lives become quite debilitated as a result.
So it should not be surprising that the repair-work of such trauma will be an extensive process that will take years upon years to restore.
Even then, child-loss grievers may never ever be quite the same again. Thus the phrase was developed, that we will essentially need to define a “new” normal for ourselves. But the rebuilding process will of necessity require many years.

Building our “infrastructure” of neural passageways involves much use of our emotional right-brain. Hopefully, we will review some of these methods and techniques on a coming post soon!


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