Loss and Grief Essay

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Essay Title:
Loss and grief:

Grieving allows us to heal, to remember with love rather than pain. It is a sorting process.
One by one you let go of things that are gone
and you mourn for them.
One by one you take hold of the things that have become a part of who you are and build again.
—Rachael Naomi Remen. MD


In this essay I will outline the main theoretical models relating to loss and grief. I will show how these theories may support individuals within the counselling process. To demonstrate the above I will draw upon my experience and learning from classroom triadic practice, my counselling placement practice and my personal and professional development to date. During the process of which I will demonstrate my awareness of the implications and need for client and self care. I will also discuss the significance of cultural variations related to the models discussed.

Outline of Theories and Models

Sigmund Freud pioneered the study of mourning; he stated that melancholia was related to mourning and the individuals search for lost attachment. Freud stated that ambivalence in a relationship might have its root in past-unresolved grief and mourning. (Gay P.1995) The characteristics of "normal" grief were documented in 1944 when psychiatrist Erich Lindenmann conducted his study of relatives who had lost loved ones. His findings have been labelled "the symptomatology of acute grief. " (Worden, 2009. Grief and Counselling Therapy Handbook. http://www.socialworkers).

Freud and Linnenman acknowledged, in this essay it is my intention to focus on more contemporary models of loss and grief and the theorists who, in the past thirty years have paved the way for counselling practitioners today. Since all the models outlined are concerned with loss, they can also be used in relation to other life-changing events involving loss, such as divorce, redundancy and illness. Firstly I shall give a brief outline of these theories, the more in depth and relevant aspects of which, I will weave into their relatedness to my personal and professional experience and understanding.

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross: first introduced her ‘grief cycle model’ in 1969. Commonly known as the ‘five stages of grief’ it served as an initial framework identifying five stages of emotional and psychological response to bereavement, grief and loss. However the wider significance of her work has been the realisation that people go through similar responses when faced with lesser – but still significant changes in their working and personal lives.

Kubler-Ross suggested five phases to the grieving process; denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. While kubler-Ross and her predecessors accept that individuals will have their own response to their losses, she went on to state that the process of resolving bereavement was based upon a predictable pattern. In which one could become stuck at any stage, thus hindering ‘resolution’ of the grieving process (Kubler-Ross, 1969). As discussed by Madison the concept of sequential phases of the bereavement process sets a theoretical standard for what is considered to be ‘normal’ in regard to loss and grief. (Barnett L. Madison G.2011). I would contend that the idea that people move through any human condition in a sequential, linear manner to be overly simplistic. Moreover, if this were true, it would make the counselor’s role very prescriptive, further implicit in its suggestion, is the notion that some emotional and psychological processes to loss and grief are ‘abnormal’. As Linda Machin went on to point out, there are many factors such as ‘balance of stressful events-psychological and social structures and limitations’, (Machin.L. P39. 2011) that need to be taken into account for example, vulnerability and resilience to coping with loss and grief processes. (Humphrey M and Zimpher G.1996). I concur with Machin when stating that it is integral to my...
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