Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Grief Notes

I have been perusing some interesting academic articles on grief and bereavement. I don't for a moment think there is in any way an easy "solution" to grieving, but there seem to be different ways of approaching grief.

There is an interesting review of a book "The Loss of a Life Partner: Narratives of the Bereaved" by Carolyn Ambler. The classical thinking on bereavement explains recovery in working through a series of stages, and gradually detaching emotionally and physically from the deceased. But she suggests that a "post-modern" approach might be better. But this book looks at the process by which "bereaved individuals struggle to maintain their relationship with a dead partner, and to incorporate this into an ongoing search for meaning, and the development of their own sense of identity", which takes the contrary view that it is not about detachment but engagement, about acknowledging how the memories and feelings of the past are important, and will make us who we are. All the fine details yet are not spelt out, but it seems promising.

The classic model comes from John Bowlby, and appears quite recent in origin, deriving from the 1950s post-war situation, building on Freud's post Great war work on the subject, and is a model very set in the background of an individualistic Western culture. It is based on an idea of "attachment", and in his model, the individual ceases to search and try and restore the loss, and eventually loses that attachment.

Rose Cleary has an article on this in Feminism Psychology in which she notes that in fact Bowlby went away from Freud who saw "grief as the painful process of integrating the loss into the very structure of the self". This is also present, she notes, in Buddhist and Shinto where "the rituals of mourning encourage a continuing relationship with the person who has died", and which I think can also be seen in the people who visit a grave of someone loved as a space when they can still talk to them, and share their life with them.

So far, and I've only skimmed the surface, the literature on grief seems to be either following Bowlby and the classic "grief process", or looking more critically at that and coming up with ways of exploring grief that are less clinical, and more existential and aware of the cultural limitations of the classical model.

1 comment:

Jill Gracia said...

Interesting Tony - I have suffered a most traumatic grief, the suicide of my beloved son.

Nearly 6 years on, after the sheer, raw grief that I initially felt I am now at a different 'stage'. At first, I myself felt suicidal, and the only thought that kept me from going down that route was the I would be imposing on those who loved me the same sort of grief I was feeling.

Although it may not be a balm for everyone, I feel my saviour has been the fact that I kept my son's ashes and he is with me not only in spirit constantly, but I can talk to him, laugh with him as if he were still here. it is SUCH a comfort to me personally.

Grief is a very personal thing and we all deal with it in different ways. I would like to think that people feel able to act, talk, behave and react in the way that they themselves actually feel in the hope that others will try and understand.

I can honestly say that in my case counselling would not have worked for me at all. It was MY grief and I had to understand and work through it my way (not to say that it does not work for some people).