Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday's Therapy - Unpackaging The Princes' 10 Truths about Child-Loss Grief: #1 NO Stages!

Thursday's Therapy

Unpackaging The Princes' 10 Truths about Child-Loss Grief


~Robert A. Neimeyer,

Luis Botella,

Olga Herrero,

Meritxell Pacheco,

Sara Figueras, and

Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner

Today, we will unpackage our first truth:

Truth #1 :

There are NO "stages" of grief.

Bereavement theory has evolved considerably in recent years.

Gone is

  • its unquestioning reliance on presumably universal stage models of recovery,
  • its preemptive focus on emotional responses to loss in isolation from both cognition and action, and
  • its penchant for quantifying grief in terms of psychopathological symptomatology.

~Neimeyer, 1998

In their place is

  • a newfound sensitivity to different patterns of adaptation as a function of age, gender, and ethnicity

~Martin & Doka, 2000

  • concern with the disruption of life assumptions

~Janoff-Bulman, 1989

  • and the quantitative and qualitative study of the transformations of self and world occasioned by loss

~Neimeyer & Hogan, 2001; and

~Tedeschi, Park & Calhoun, 1998

  • and a recent contribution to grief theory--namely, a constructivist and narrative approach-- (that includes the need for) a meaning reconstruction model

~Neimeyer, 2001b

See journaling and poetry that follows as an example of a process a bereaved father walks through via an evocative personal journal and poetic reflections to search for the new meaning he can discover to live daily with his son's absence due to suicide:

Excerpts from a bereaved father (Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner) of a son to suicide:

Suddenly a sort of black cloud imposed itself on that previously peaceful home, as the adolescent son began to change. He looked strange, he would lock himself in his room to cry, he gave up his studies and entered into a profound depression.

He was treated in the country's best centers, improving and starting to become his old self, only to fall into his depression again.

One day he left home and never returned. He was found dead, his car having plunged from a cliff [in the Chilean Andes] under circumstances never explained.

~Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner


...the family faced the fact calmly, keeping their pain to themselves, but questioning absolutely every paradigm that they until then respected. All their constructs, products of years of social and professional successes, were absolutely shattered. What happened? Who was to blame? Was it an accident? All these questions passed again and again through the family members' minds, and especially the father's. Eventually the suicide hypothesis became inescapable, and as a consequence of their personal constructs were absolutely shattered and psychological destruction began to threaten the family group, especially its head.

~Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner


Tu Ausencia: Your Absence

Your laughter was my laughter.

Your tears were my tears.

Your dream was my dream.

You left, and your laughter and your tears left.

Your dreams were cut short, my dreams ended one day in spring.

Today I recall your face and my soul aches and cries.

There is no warmth in my heart or hope in my life

That consoles me for your absence,

And that takes away the anguish of living without your life.

~Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner


Mi Rebeldia: My Rebelliousness

And it was my rebelliousness the one night drove me

To travel through the uncertain world of my mind,

Plotting my stories.

My time is coming to an end, my mind is restless,

Looking for the answer to the disquieting emptiness that life leaves you.

But the more I search, the fewer answers I find,

And time imprisons you with bolts of time.

The fog of years obscures your memories,

And today, more rebellious than before,

I deny the gods and lose myself in myself, without knowing my destiny.

~Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner


Y: And . . .

And . . . that beautiful evening you kissed death

Without noticing that you were leaving a thousand pains in your wake.

You embarked on your journey,

Embracing that bride who subjugated your soul and shadowed your spirit.

What journey did you face that has no return?

Is there meaning in the journey that crossed your destiny?

I shall never find answers to my eternal question.

I shall never know if the road ends with life.

And . . .

~Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner


Tu Busqueda: Your Search

You were looking for a rainbow hidden in the mountain

And, to your encounter, you flew in endless freedom.

Your wings covered you with a blanket of silence

And from the highest summit we get intoxicated with your light.

Your peace makes us stronger, your freedom unites us.

Your flight without return is our pain and our punishment.

But more, that eternal flight that released your soul comforts us;

It is our guide and our hope.

Your never-ending search took you to the mountain

And from there you flew to encounter your destiny.

Today we weep for your absence, we yearn for your hours.

But the same memory comforts us for your departure.

We will again someday, in remote places,

Exchange memories, joys, and pains?

~Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner

Concluding Comments

Our goal has been to describe and illustrate one promise and approach to understanding the breakdown in the assumptive world occasioned by loss, in the form of a constructivist perspective on meaning reconstruction. ...(N)arrative...provides an organizing frame for the human experience that both imparts order to the past and yields anticipations of an intelligible future. Traumatic loss disrupts the continuity of our self narratives, however, and undercuts our associated sense of identity.

Faced with such profound invalidation, we struggle to attribute sense to the tragedy, find something of value in the loss, and reconstruct a new and viable sense of ourselves as protagonists.

Contemporary trends in grief therapy dovetail with this narrative conception and provide a rich interpretive repertoire for understanding grieving as a process of meaning reconstruction.

Applying these concepts to the qualitative analysis of one father's grief journal, we were gratified by the extent to which a narrative approach fit the unique contours of his bereavement. Interestingly, the father himself drew upon not only constructivist ideas in interpreting his son's suicide and his own response to it, but also upon narrative methods---reflective journaling and poetic exploration---to pursue his own healing journey.

As constructivists, psychotherapists, and human beings, we cannot help but experience a profound sense of respect and awe in the face of such spontaneous meaning-making processes which help the author regain a sense of coherence and direction even in the wake of cataclysmic loss. Stories such as this one are a reminder of what led us to become psychotherapists: our faith and celebration of the human capacity to find significance in the experience of suffering and transformation in the midst of tragedy.

~Robert A. Neimeyer, Luis Botella, Olga Herrero, Meritxell Pacheco, Sara Figueras, and Luis Alberto Werner-Wildner

Content from the book:

Loss of the Assumptive World: A Theory of Traumatic Loss, Chapter 2, "The Meaning of Your Absence: Traumatic Loss and Narrative Reconstruction"


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