bereavement, chaplaincy, dsm 5, DSM-V, grief, grief and loss, mental-health, pastoral care, psychology, spiritual care
Here is another article with regard to the view of grieving in our modern world. I am in agreement with the author’s sentiments, but I think we have to be careful with how we approach some of the intricacies of grief in the modern context.
Grief is normal and part of the healing process after loss, but, and I know I am not saying anything not already known, it can become debilitating over time if certain aspects of the process are not framed properly. It is true that businesses should be more user friendly towards mourners, and it is clear that if they would, those people would return at the appropriate time and be more productive than if they are forced back without having any time to grieve. Yet, I think we have to be careful with over-inflating the lack of compassion from the corporate world because we have to realize a line must be drawn in the sand for otherwise people might take an inordinate amount of time off, taking advantage, necessarily, of the company’s good graces. Having said that, I do think the current standards could use some tweaking, as others have noted recently in the conversation about grief and the question of it being a disorder.
I definitely agree that grief is not a disease that should be diagnosed like other psychological disorders. From all that I am reading, as I have previously posted, it is clearly going to be problematic if that is the final decision of DSM-V, because grief will be boxed into a time frame.
Grief is not a disease, a mental or emotional disorder, a bad attitude or perspective, or a misbehavior or sin. Grief does not need to be cured, diagnosed and medicated out of existence, fixed, quickly recovered from, or avoided. Grieving people are not sick, broken or crazy. Mourners are simply experiencing a natural, human response to the loss of a person due to death.
In order to heal, mourners need to receive support, comfort, encouragement, information about grief, and enough time to move through it. Grief is not an event which is gone through quickly. It cannot be rushed. Grief is a process which takes time and patience on the part of the mourner and his or her support system.
Natural healthy grief serves a purpose. Grief is a transition time from life with the person present physically to life without the person there physically. A mourner cannot simply jump from life with the person to life without the person without going through some sort of transition. Grief helps the person to face the death and loss, to accept the new reality, to evaluate the impact of the loss on his or her life, to make life adjustments, and then to move on in a healthy fashion in that new reality.
Unfortunately our culture, especially the business world, is not very grief or mourner friendly. Corporations and human resource departments place pressure upon the mourner to move quickly and efficiently through the grief process. The average bereavement leave for an employee in the United States is three days. That is, if the person who has died is an immediate family member. To add insult to injury, if the death is of someone outside of the immediate family, the mourning employee must take off his or her own personal time to attend a funeral or memorial. He or she may even be docked part of their salary for taking time off to take care of the business of death and loss. The message from the business world and our culture to the mourner is that grief must be done in the most efficient way, quickly, and with no impact on productivity.
Mourners also suffer at the hands sometimes of those they seek to help them. Some of these professionals seek to label mourners with new mental health diagnoses that signify the grieving person is not doing grief in a normal or acceptable way. These diagnoses have been created in order that practitioners can have a code number to give to an insurance company or to place in a client’s file that will allow them to justify getting paid for their services. The professionals say these diagnoses will make treatment more readily available to mourners. Personally, I would rather tough it on my own in grief than be labeled with a diagnosis that calls me officially as abnormal. Therefore, I think mourners fearful of an abnormal label will avoid professional assistance.
Unfortunately these diagnoses put pressure on the mourner to speed up their grief process to reach a level that the professional communities deem to be healthy grief within a time frame chosen to be normal by the diagnosing professionals. Natural, healthy grief does not follow a timetable set up by a professional. Grief does not follow a timetable wished for by the mourner or any person in his or her support system. Natural, healthy grief has its own timetable, and grief takes as long as it takes in each individual case.
Mourners should know that there is no set time or pace for grief. Natural, healthy grief will vary from individual to individual and with each situation. The best help a mourner can receive is from a grief companion, someone who will meet them where they are, not judge them in their grief experience or feelings, and walk with them during the darkest time of their life after a loss. Mourners should also know that grief is the natural human response to the loss of a person by death. Grief happens because we love the person who has died. Grief is overflowing love for a person no longer physically present, and mourning for that person is not morbid or pathological. Mourning a death is the natural result of losing someone you love and honors a valuable life.
In addition, mourners and their support system should know that grief does sometimes because of complications in the mourner’s life result in a mourner being stuck or becoming a danger to himself or herself or others. An example is when grief results in a legitimate mental or emotional problem (such as a chronic, debilitating depression) which puts the mourner at risk. When grief results in severe problems, professional help should be sought.
Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT is the author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” (c) Available on http://grief-works.org/book.php. Also available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstore. Available now for Nook and Kindle.
I was in the middle of seeking a job when my father died suddenly. After I came home, I went into the second interview wearing a black, mourning armband, thinking it the universal sign for grieving. My recruiter called the office ahead of me to tell them, “She’s wearing this funny band on her arm. But, don’t worry about it. Her father just died.” I started to break down at the end of the interview when they asked about a book I’d been writing when I heard about my father. I just got out and across the street without being struck before I broke down. I got the job.
That is a very moving story you shared. Death doesn’t wait for anyone or any event. We plan and hope we can fulfill our plans without life-changing hitches.
Thank you for sharing your story.