Help clients understand and break the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle!

Promote a Healthy Grieving Policy in the
Client Family, and Free any Blocked Grief

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

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The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/pro/rx/grief.htm

        Clicking links here will open a new window or an informational popup, so please turn off your brow- ser's popup blocker or accept popups from this nonprofit, ad-free site . If the windows distract you, read the article before following any links.

        This article is one of a series on effective professional counseling, coaching, and therapy with (a) low-nurturance (dysfunctional) families and with (b) typical survivors of childhood neglect and trauma. These articles for professionals are under construction.

        This series assumes you're familiar with:

        Before continuing, pause and reflect - why are you reading this article? What do you need?

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       This experience-based article is one of a series on effective clinical interventions with low-nurturance family clients. A "low nurturance family" is one in which members seldom get their primary needs met in wholistically-healthy ways. An effective intervention is an instinctive or intentional behavior of the clinician which significantly raises the family's nurturance level in the opinion of all involved.

Prepare

        To get the most from this article, first read:

  • this introduction to professional family clinicians and educators;

  • these slide presentations on the [wounds + unawareness] cycle that is a root stressor with typical low-nurturance families, and "good-grief" basics. If you have trouble viewing the slides, see this;  

  • this overview of co-parent Lesson 3 - evolve and live by a healthy family grieving policy, and this introduction to family grieving policies;

  • this research summary about grieving;

  • this overview of the clinical model on which these articles are based;

  • this summary of requisites for effective professional service with these six types of clients;

  • scan these terms which are used often in these clinical articles; and read...

  • this introduction to effective clinical assessment of these multi-problem client families; and...

  • this introduction to effective interventions with low-nurturance families and persons recovering from psychological wounds.

Why Lesson 3 Exists

        From infancy, normal kids and adults bond with favorite objects, living things, rituals, places, ideas, sounds, tastes, dreams, and beliefs. Through choice or chance, these bonds eventually break, causing painful losses. Nature provides an instinctive emotional-spiritual adjustment process that helps us gradually understand and accept our significant (a) losses and (b) their impacts, so we can resume our life pursuits and form selected new bonds. This natural (unconscious) loss-adjustment reflex is called grieving and mourning.

        Depending on a mix of interactive psychological and environmental factors, the gradual mental + emotional + spiritual process of reaching stable loss-acceptance in a person or a family can be slowed or blocked. If not admitted and corrected, this can promote significant emotional and physical symptoms like "depression;" apathy or "laziness;" obesity; addictions, crying "attacks;" significant irritability and rage outbursts (e.g. "road rage" and domestic violence), chronic trouble sleeping, digesting, and focusing; excessive social isolation, and episodic suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Many survivors of low-nurturance childhoods are unaware of being inhibited from healthy grieving by lacking self and social awareness, and internal and/or external permission to mourn.

        Typical adults and kids in troubled and divorcing biofamilies and stepfamilies are at significant risk of unfinished or blocked grief without knowing it or what it can mean. Lesson 3 in this model aims to...

  • educate co-parents and supporters (in any family) on (a) healthy-grief basics, and (b) typical signs and impacts of blocked grief; and to...

  • provide effective ways to spot and free up any blocked mourning among them. It also...

  • encourages family adults to proactively evolve an effective family grieving policy and...

  • wanting to live by it and teach their descendents to understand and value it.

        Unlike older, wiser cultures more attuned to Nature, our feel-good, hyperactive, excitement-oriented media and society generally minimizes or ignores healthy three-level grief. One result is that unfinished mourning is one of five epidemic personal and family stressors in our society.

Useful Lesson-3 Interventions for typical divorcing, courting, and re/married co-parents, ex mates, kids, and their relatives.

        Effective clinicians, supervisors, case managers, consultants, clinical directors, and instructors will be thoroly familiar with (a) attachment and loss, theory; (b) healthy grieving basics, (c) common incomplete and blocked-grief symptoms, and (d) practical strategies to motivate typical clients to form and live by healthy personal and family grieving policies. These Lesson-3 interventions will need to be spread across several sessions, and may or may not be triggered by the client's presenting problems. Reality check: have you met or heard of any client who said "...and we need professional help with healthy grieving"?

        Premise: interactive causes of incomplete and blocked grief in any person and family are:

  • unacknowledged (denied) false-self (psychological) wounds, plus...

  • societal, family, and co-parental ignorance about healthy-grieving basics, plus...

  • lack of consistent inner and outer permissions to mourn, plus...

  • an ineffective family grieving policy, and...

  • ineffective family communication and problem-solving.

Implication - if this premise is true, then freeing blocked grief requires skillful assessment and intervention with each of these factors. Pause, breathe, and reflect: how do these proposed factors compare with your current ideas about what causes incomplete and blocked grief?

        The Lesson-3 interventions below aim to prevent and reduce delayed and blocked mourning in any client family: They are particularly useful in average divorcing families and stepfamilies because of their many systemic changes and broken bonds, and adults' common grieving inhibitions. Follow the links for more detail on each intervention.

5-1)  If appropriate, (a) describe the five common family hazards, and (b) ask clients whether the hazards pertain to their current family

5-2)  Review and discuss attachment (bonding), losses (broken bonds), and healthy three-level grieving basics as appropriate

   a) Assess whether the clients accept that thruout their lives, typical adults and kids need to grieve many types of broken bonds, not just deaths.

   b) Propose and discuss the three-level model of the normal grieving process, and outline the key phases in each level. Note client reactions.

   c)  Propose, illustrate, and discuss the seven requisites for wholistically-healthy grief, and assess clients' reactions to them.

   d)  Propose how false-self domination and related psychological wounds can hinder personal and family mourning. Note client reactions.

   e)  Explain, illustrate, and discuss the concepts of inner and out permissions to mourn, and note the clients' reactions.

5-3)  Ask clients to describe (a) what grief-supports typical adults and kids need, and (b) their present style of supporting mourners in their family   

5-4)  Summarize and illustrate the idea of an effective family "grieving policy," and ask co-parents if they can describe their respective childhood-family grief policies.

5-5Ask co-parents if they can describe their recent family grief policies, and how effective they are.

5-6)  Describe and discuss incomplete and blocked mourning, and their typical symptoms and effects,

5-7 Invite the clients to inventory the major intangible and tangible losses in their recent lives - specially from divorce, death, birth or adoptions, geographic relocations, and stepfamily cohabiting. 

5-8)  Explore whether any client family-members might be unfinished or blocked in grieving any of these key losses.

5-9)  If / as appropriate, discuss and role-play family options for helping any blocked grievers resume their mourning. 

5-10)  Review strategies to motivate other family members to learn and practice these "good grief" basics, and to help each other evolve an effective family grieving policy.

5-11)  Follow up in future client contacts to see if they're implementing the key ideas here - specially assessing for and freeing any blocked grief. If they're not, decide whether to repeat selected Lesson-3 interventions now or later.

        As with all the Projects, there is no "right way" to intervene here - these are meant to be suggestive. The & symbol below denotes a printable reference handout for clients and colleagues. Here's more detail on each of these basic Lesson-3 interventions...

5-1)  If appropriate, (a) describe the five common family hazards, and (b) ask clients whether the hazards pertain to their current family.

     Why? This clinical model proposes that a common major personal and family stressor in our society is blocked grief - specially in typical divorcing families and stepfamilies. It also proposes that most adults have a superficial understanding of the grieving process, and are unaware of the symptoms of blocked grief and it's potential toxic impacts on health, relationships, and families.

Invite interest and create context by proposing that most families in our culture - like the client's family - are affected to some extent by four or five hazards &. Emphasize that one of them is incomplete and blocked grief - difficulty facing and accepting inevitable broken bonds.

Ask the client's reaction to these stressors - e.g. interest, apprehension, indifference, intellectualizing, rejection, ...; and answer any questions about them. Option - relate the stressors to the client's presenting problems, if/as appropriate.

Option - build further interest by proposing that unchecked, these stressors tend to promote significant psychological wounds and major life problems in the clients' vulnerable descendents.

Intervention 5-2)  Review and discuss attachment (bonding), losses (broken bonds), and healthy three-level grieving basics as appropriate.

      Why? Typical clients need this information to help evolve and use a healthy family grieving policy, and minimize, avoid, or free up any blocked grief and related systemic problems. They usually don't know they need it, and will rarely ask for it. The most cost-effective way to provide this intervention is in a seminar or class like this.

5-2a) - Assess whether the clients accept that thruout their lives, typical adults and kids need to grieve many types of broken bonds, not just deaths.

        Why?   

 

5-2b) - Propose and discuss the three-level model of the normal grieving process, and outline the key phases in each level. Note client reactions.

        Why?   

Intervention 5-2c)  Propose, illustrate, and discuss the seven requisites for wholistically-healthy grief, and assess clients' reactions to them.

        Why?   

5-2d)  Propose how false-self domination and related psychological wounds can hinder personal and family mourning. Note client reactions.

        Why?   

5-2e)  Explain, illustrate, and discuss the concepts of inner and out permissions to mourn, and note the clients' reactions.

        Why?   

 

5-3) -

       Why?

5-4)

      Why -

Intervention 5-5)

      Why -

5-6)

      Why -

 

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Updated April 30, 2013