Our Treatments for Grief and Bereavement (Grief Therapy) provide a soothing, supportive environment, which allows the person to work through the process of loss.
To help you, your loved one, or a brain-injured patient through a loss there are 7 major steps.
Bereavement is to feel desolate and alone as a result of a death/loss. Grief is the deep mental anguish arising from Bereavement. There are two types of Grief: Normal and Pathological.
This can only be done through looking at and observing reality rather than our own perception. First, the cause of a symptom must be accurately determined. The body only has a limited number of ways of reacting. For example, a person can have symptoms of redness on the eye from several causes; it behooves the ophthalmologist to thoroughly investigate all the possible reasons for the redness.
It is important to determine if the symptoms you or your loved-one, patient, friend or colleague displays is from Post Concussive Syndrome, Post-Traumatic Stress, or healthy grieving. Once the first two have been ruled out, then the reality of the loss has to be faced. This includes changes in mind, body and personality.
This first step can be extremely difficult, because as a result of a brain injury, the person may have lost the ability to be aware of said injury. For family, friends and colleagues, denial often interferes. Of all the stages of the grieving process, the first stage is the hardest.
You, as the bereaved, must be helped to experience the pain of grief. This crucial aspect of the grieving process consists of expressing in words the intense feelings that accompany the loss of self.
The healing process is very much aided when the feelings are shared with a trusted person. When you, the bereaved, share feelings of grief, you are not just venting powerful painful emotions, but more importantly, you are making an active declaration of trust.
Thus, the bereaved are taking a formidable risk. By confiding and unburdening their painful feelings, they are expressing the belief that their feelings can be accepted and understood by significant others.
This declaration of trust removes barriers of isolation and cynicism that so easily form after a tragic loss heightens our sense of vulnerability.
All cultures and religions have developed rituals and customs of mourning to assist the grieving process. It may be important to allow yourself to figuratively or actually bury mementos or things that remind you of your old self.
By doing so, it helps in honoring that memory. We all tend to do this; we call it cleaning the house. For example, finally throwing away your college course notes is an important step in honoring the past and moving on.
In addition, the brain-injured griever may need help in finding an acceptable way to remember and honor the life they once had. A scrap album may be made, or a box put together and kept or buried. As professionals, family and friends, you can help as you would any person who has lost a family member in this commemoration of the person they lost.
It is important to recall what they did well, or special moments in the past, as you would at a wake, funeral, or at the home of a beloved one. Acknowledge the achievements of the past self so that it did not die in vain.
The bereaved, brain-injured person needs to recognize and acknowledge the conflicting feelings in relation to their previous self. Denial of these feelings represents a considerable barrier to the resolution of grief. Especially in a personal disaster, which is frequently sudden and unexpected, it rarely leaves a clean wound. Almost always there is a mixture of intense feelings. Some people feel they are getting a second chance, while others feel like their brain injury represents the end for them.
The brain-injured person must achieve a balance between the conflicting feelings so that both positive and negative feelings are fully recognized, and then put into perspective.
This task consists of saying good-bye on an emotional, rather than intellectual, level. This can only happen after all of the previous steps have been mastered. The bereaved must withdraw their emotional investment in who they once were in order to go forward with their lives. They must come to terms with the fact that the person they are now may be a composite of the previous self.
This step requires the adoption of a present and future orientation as hopes, dreams, plans, and aspirations are reconstructed in view of the new realities. This step can be exceedingly difficult because it involves relinquishing the hopes, dreams, plans, and aspirations that revolved around their prior self. Sometimes this move forward can be blocked by what is referred to as angry unwillingness; the person’s fight against the utilization of personal resources.
In the context of bereavement, this resistance to moving on may result from anger that life has dealt the bereaved a cruel blow. The feeling of having been cheated may lead to stubborn refusal to go forward with life.
Moving on can also be blocked by faulty identifications. For example, the griever may insist on viewing him or herself as a tragic figure. The bereaved must commit to full participation in life again, which may be difficult if they have received enormous gratification from the solicitations of family and friends. These two dynamic elements can thwart the effort of the loved-one in helping the brain-injured person to move ahead.
The 7 steps for helping mourn the loss of self are impacted by developmental factors as well as other variables, including the circumstances of the death and the preexisting personality of the brain-injured person. For example, the younger the brain-injured person is, the lesser the experience of loss of self and intensity of grieving.
Because a brain injury is usually sudden and unexpected, the first task is to recognize the reality of the loss, as well as identify and express feelings, which is likely to be difficult due to the lack of awareness, and the sudden trauma, shock and denial.
Also, how the brain injury has affected the financial security of the family is still another important factor. If the brain-injured person was the primary source of income to the family, the effect compounds the person’s loss of self.
This loss of income often produces emotional pressures because of financial stress. The family may have to relocate or move in with relatives; this was the situation of the 24-year-old man who fell off the roof.
He had to move back with his family and now depends on them for survival. This was also seen in another situation where a 36-year-old man fell on his child’s toy. In his fall he sustained a mild brain injury which caused him to have uncontrollable fits of rage. The consequence of his injury was the loss of his job, as well as the loss of his marriage and family. He no longer was able to work and had to move in with his family of origin. His despair was enormous. His loss of self was immense. Yet, no one recognized the grief. The doctors gave him medication for the rage and the family had no idea how to help him cope.
All of these problems and concerns may leave the griever preoccupied and unable to focus on their inner feelings. This should not be mistaken for resistance or avoiding grief.
As mentioned earlier, often Psychotherapy can compound the issue when the therapist is unaware of the stages of grieving and is only trying to deal with management or behavioral changes. Many times the very people who say they want to help us are the ones who prevent a brain-injured person from grieving, because of their lack of awareness or knowledge about grieving. Everyone involved with the brain-injured person should acknowledge the painful mixture of feelings that constitutes grief.
Until now, there was no acknowledgment that the brain-injured person was grieving the loss of self. This is reinforced because of the denial from doctors, family and friends, that the person they have known and loved no longer is the same. Many times the bereaved brain-injured person gets the unmistakable message that they should hide their true feelings lest they be too upsetting for others.
The griever may need to hear directly from the doctor, family or friends that they are ready to listen to their real feelings, so that healthy grieving can take place. Similar to grieving a spouse, it does not mean forgetting them, but realizing they can never be with you again in flesh and blood. So too, grieving your prior self, does not mean forgetting or denying who you once were, but realizing that person no longer exists.
By listening, caring and being there for the bereaved brain-injured person, you are nurturing the spirit and the new sense of self. By listening, caring and being there for yourself in your own bereavement, you will discover a new sense of self, while nurturing your spirit that is truly you.
“May your spirit remain strong and through your grief may you come to honor and love your new self.” -Dr. Diane®
Dr. Diane® and her integrative team of brain health experts use conventional, complimentary, and alternative methods to provide you with a personalized program for Treatment of Grief and Bereavement!
To schedule an appointment for an in-person, phone or Skype consult with Dr. Diane®, please call 800-500-9971 or submit our contact form.