Grief in a Religious Context

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Grief in a Religious Context

Alom Martínez Alemán
18 November 2012
Principles of Psychology
Professor Lisa Jack

Introduction
The U.S. National Library of Medicine describes Grief as a reaction to a major loss, and not as a state of major depression as many might assume. Most Psychology textbooks suggest that the experience of grief is usually unhappiness and pain, but it is not limited to these. Interestingly, current research indicates that bereavement involves much more than pain and sadness. The purpose of this paper is to examine the reactions to a loss for those who are religious and/or attached to God in some spiritual way. In order to do this, I will be summarizing and analyzing a study that examined the role of attachment to god, meaning, and religious coping as mediators in the grief experience Kelley and Chan (2012). Those who have experienced a loss in their life are well aware of how unhappy and painful this can be, but meaning in a process of coping and its relation to an attachment to God or religion, is usually overlooked. Although 83% of the US population believes in a God, grief experience is rarely related to an attachment to God or religion as part of coping (Pew Research Center, 2009). Bowlby (1969) describes his attachment theory as the human need to seek security and comfort in relationships with attachment figures throughout the lifespan. If these attachment figures are accessible and responsive consistently enough, they become a refuge in a stressing time and a protected space from which people can then feel free to engage with and explore the world (Ainsworth, 1967). Kirkpatrick (1999, 2005) believes that a personal relationship with God offers a kind of love or attachment like that experienced in the mother–infant relationship. This relationship involves and increases many aspects of an active attachment process. The goal of these aspects is to achieve and maintain a relationship with God. These aspects are religious behaviors such as prayer. When it comes to coping with religion, many while confronting crisis, seek these resources because they offer something beyond the limits of this world (Pargament, 1997; Pargament & Abu Raiya, 2007). Even though many of those who experience a loss may seek coping in any type of religion, this article focuses on those who seek Christianity as their means to coping and attachment. According to Pargament (1997), people’s religious coping efforts are shaped by their orienting system, which is the system of ‘‘well-established beliefs, practices, attitudes, goals, and values’’ (Pargament & Abu Raiya, 2007, p. 743) that people bring to each life circumstance and that influences coping behavior. Pargament and Abu Raiya (2007) suggested that religious coping efforts that provided helpful effects over time tend to share certain features. They ‘‘reflect a secure relationship with God, a belief that there is a greater meaning to be found, and a sense of spiritual connectedness with others’’ (Pargament & Abu Raiya, 2007, p. 748). In addition, religious coping efforts that may have harmful outcomes may also tend to share certain features. They ‘‘reflect an ominous view of the world and a religious struggle to find and conserve significance in life’’ (Pargament & Abu Raiya, 2007, p. 749). Humans build the context of meaning in order to understand themselves and life, to generate purpose, and to shape goals and expectations for the future. Loss can severely disrupt or even destroy the context of meaning created (Janoff-Bulman, 1989). Since human beings are constantly seeking meaning (Neimeyer, 1999, p. 67), the process of grief may reaffirming one’s meaning system or rebuild meaning by adjusting to the loss and allowing one to embrace to one’s transformed life (Neimeyer, 2001). Nevertheless not everyone searches for meaning after loss, and this might interfere with the process of adjustment. Davis et al (2000) found out on his research that...
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