The Initiatory Potential of Grieving the Loss of a Loved One

de Gast, Ilka (2007) The Initiatory Potential of Grieving the Loss of a Loved One. Doctoral thesis, Meridian University.


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In working therapeutically with clients who have experienced the death of a loved one, the conventional approach focuses on helping the bereaved work through painful feelings and emotions, and on restoring them to a functional state of being. This Clinical Case Study highlights other possibilities for working with clients which may provide opportunities for long-term personal growth, including greater self-awareness, changed priorities, a shift in worldview, and the deepening of capacities such as compassion and courage. A review of the literature on bereavement consisted of biological, psychodynamic, cognitive/behavioral, sociocultural, and group perspectives, as well as imaginal approaches to bereavement. These sources provided context for the examination of the therapeutic process of six grief group participants who entered therapy after the deaths of their partner or spouse. This writing examines the progression of their treatment. Issues that emerged included difficulties being able to function in everyday life, the wish not to continue living without their spouse, lack of trust in others and in the world around them, not knowing how to manage anger and other difficult emotions, and existential crisis. Interventions implemented were grief education, expressive arts, ritual, and visualization to work through painful emotions, strengthen coping skills, and explore existential issues. vii After 15 months of group therapy the participants reported feeling less overwhelmed by grief, and were able to find joy in life once more and integrate their experience of loss in a way that was meaningful to them. The learnings of this Clinical Case Study outline how the clients’ imaginal structures changed from those that include the Stoic Warrior and Victim structures to the Active Griever and Initiate structures. Key concepts and principles from the bereavement literature were used to interpret these structures. Finally, by integrating theories on bereavement with interpretations of the clients’ imaginal structures, a comprehensive approach to bereavement is presented, including how to enhance the initiatory potential of grief. This approach encompasses, but is not limited to, the following factors: 1) accessing and actively expressing the pain of the grief; 2) receiving guidance from initiated elders; 3) grieving within a supportive community, within a ritual context, and utilizing expressive arts; 4) formulating a myth of the hereafter; and 5) nurturing the continuing bonds with the deceased.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Psychology > Critical Theory
Depositing User: Ilka DeGast
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2017 21:49
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2017 21:49

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