Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thursday's Therapy Writing About Grief? Closure, Schmozure!

Dog tail Pictures, Images and Photos

Thursday's Therapy

Writing About Grief? Closure, Schmozure!

~Tommy and Angie Prince

Many therapists today often have it wrong about this notion of "saying 'Goodbye'" to a loved one, portraying that such an exercise could be helpful in that it would bring "closure" to the bereaved. Closure can't be packaged and wrapped up for the bereaved! Closure is something you do to a closet door (or to a therapist's mouth)! It is not something that can be attained, grabbed, or fulfilled by a bereaved parent! How can you wrap up the tiniest of memories that pop up in one's head at any given time of the day, the week, the month, or the year?

Some therapists would even argue that continuing to struggle with grief is because the griever hasn't adequately "said 'Goodbye'" to their loved one. Some suggest writing a letter to one's bereaved as a therapeutic intervention to provide such "closure."

But current research does not back up such a theory...

"Research so far has shown little evidence that written disclosure facilitates recovery from bereavement."

~(2009) Researchers* (highlights mine)

So, why is there even so much concern for "resolving" one's grief over a loved one?

Why is there so much concern that we "recover" from bereavement anyway?

In medicine, the dictionary says "resolve" means "to cause a symptom to disperse, subside, or heal."

Why does a therapist want to "resolve" someone's grief is a toxic symptom whose extinction would result in a "healthy" person?

I probably made that mistake (in my pre-Child-Loss days) when clients talked about their loved ones years after their loss and teared up while talking about them. I think I concluded,

"Oh, they didn't effectively grieve this years ago, so perhaps I can help them to get this grief out."

For me today, now that I am a grieving mother, I see that someone who might try to "bring closure" to my grief over my baby, essentially trying to "stop" my grief, is cruel!

Expecting "closure" for my grief would definitely be doing more harm than good to my aching soul. I do not think my grief will ever completely resolve this side of heaven; there will always be a longing for my baby until I see her again, until I can once again hold her in my arms.

All my intentions as a therapist (pre-Child-loss) for helping clients to "get their grief out" were not bad. I do think getting the grief out, meaning to get their grief expressed, was very good for them. But thankfully, I did not push the expectations on them that NOW, this grief should be done, over, caput.

However I probably did naively think that now they would be "much further along in their grief process." Maybe. Maybe not. But the expressing of the grief was still good. And I am so very glad that I did not push for a "successful conclusion" to the grief.

Though writing will not bring "closure" to our life-time grief process, I do think writing can be a comfort for us grievers. Our job as grievers is unfortunately that we must learn to "accept the unacceptable," or as Dr. Therese Rando, grief expert, says,

"We must continually bump up against the reality of their absence to begin to learn that they are not coming back."

We are put in the awful position of having to adapt to a harsh reality. But instead of "recovering" from grief, we are continually in a process of "integrating that harsh reality" into the fiber of our life today or else we couldn't cope with day-to-day life at all. The big key is we are having to "adapt" - we are NOT forcing ourselves to "recover" by "expecting our grief 'symptoms' to disperse, subside, or heal." So if our writing about our grief is helping us to express our grief, get in touch with our grief, and adapt our "new normal" lives to our unwanted loss, then the writing can be helpful. However, if we are seeking "closure" to our child-loss grief through writing, it's not going to happen.

The researchers' results did show some positive results to grievers writing out their grief as the results "showed that writing decreased feelings of emotional loneliness and increased positive mood, in part through its effect on rumination."

But in analyzing the results of their research, the researchers also readily concluded that regarding "written disclosure" of one's grief, such "writing DID NOT affect grief or depressive symptoms."

Longing for our child will continue, and that is normal. Don't let a therapist tell you that such grief or longing is unhealthy! Grief over our precious child will continue at varying levels for the rest of our lives.

Writing about our grief? Yes.

Expecting "closure"? No.

Picture thanks to
Current Research (2009) in Grief Therapy: ~
The efficacy of a brief internet-based self-help intervention for the bereaved,
* 2009 Researchers: Karolijne van der Houwen, Henk Schut, Jan van den Bout, Margaret Stroebe and Wolfgang Stroebe


No comments:

Post a Comment