Chronic Sorrow

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Living with Chronic Sorrow

The middle range theory of chronic sorrow theory was researched in the 1980’s validating

parent’s feelings over the loss of not having the perfect child and having a child with a disability.

Chronic sorrow provided a framework for understanding the reactions of individuals to various

loss situations and offered a way to view the experience of bereavement. Involvement in an

experience of a significant loss is the necessary antecedent to the development of chronic sorrow

(Peterson & Bredow, 2009). The loss may affect individuals and family members at any time.

Chronic sorrow may come to any of us during our lifetime. Chronic sorrow can best be

described as a natural response to a tragic situation. Where life experiences cause deep distress,

sadness, or regret especially for the loss of someone or something loved ( Gordon, 2009 ).

Chronic sorrow is followed by a permanent loss of a personal attachment that may be ongoing

with a sadness of such intensity that it recurs for the lifetime of the person. Mental pain,

suffering and despair can all occur from chronic sorrow regardless if the loss is caused by injury,

trauma or by death ( Alligood, & Tomey,(2010). Washington Irving says it best, "There is a

sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more

eloquently than ten thousand tongues.  They are messengers of over whelming grief and

unspeakable love.”

The rational for choosing the middle range theory of chronic sorrow was because this theory

was easy to identify with. From losing a home to a natural disaster, a job, and even in death of

family members, friends and numerous pets this theory really hit home from personnel

experiences.

Possible Antecedents, Defining Attributes and Consequences

Let’s start but trying to understand the antecedents of chronic sorrow and how they relate to

each other and affect each of us as individuals. This may help to understand how strongly

emotions control and play an important part in our everyday lives. The antecedents that go

along with chronic sorrow are loss and grief. They are experienced periodically by individuals

of all ages through their life time. Whether in the death of a family member, friend or pet, losing

a home and all worldly possessions or losing a functioning body part. To be able to get through

these powerful feelings and emotions can be very difficult and even more difficult for others to

understand (Peterson & Bredow, 2009). People all over the world are forced to deal with this

daily, but until it happens to you, do you truly begin to understand the impact this has on ones’

own life.

Every one of us will have to deal with loss at some time in our life. A loss can be described as “a pervasive psychic pain and sadness, stimulated by certain trigger events, which follows loss of a relationship of an attachment” (Teel,1991, pg. 1316). Losses come in many forms both large and small, such as loss of a job, a home, a way of life, a relationship, or loss of a significant other, spouse, family member or even a pet. The perception of the event, the situational supports, and the coping mechanisms all influence return of equilibrium or homeostasis. A person either advances or regresses as a result of the crisis, depending upon how the person manages the crisis (Potter & Perry, 2009). Experiencing a loss can trigger the grief process. Everyone is different and comes to terms with loss in different ways, so it is difficult to say how long a person’s process may take. Losses that are smaller and have less of an impact on peoples’ lives will take a much shorter time to resolve emotionally than more significant losses (Foust, 2006). Some people deal with the loss a day at a time, yet for some people it may be an hour at a time. As long as the person is not denying the...
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