Grief and Grieving?
When is long grief prolonged grief?
long are we "allowed" to grieve?
The changes in
society over the last cerntury have a strong impact on the
and handling grief and the process of dying as well.
Not so long ago the close by living extended family
strongest support system
for most people. It wasn't only normal to rely on each other much more,
old people used to live and die with the family as well. Living and
dying belonged together
and grieving was seen as a normal part of life.
In recent years
more and more people are forced to move frequently. Families usually
apart. Friends and other groups become the support system
wich usually isn't as strong though. People are trying more not
to burden anyone.
Apart from that the process
of dying has been pushed out of our lives with
old people mostly living and dying in aged care or hospital. Living
(and grieving) tends to be more isolated. The chance to learn from the
experience of others has shrunk as well. Many people don't know or can
even imagine what
people who lost a tiny baby - let alone had "only" a
With that also the
"allowed" for grieving has shrunk in the past
my own research, I have found that even physicians and nurses who work
with mourners on a regular basis assume that mourning ought to be
short. They become very concerned if the mourner exhibits
characteristics of grief much beyond the first month.
What's even worse is that comments that scold for "not
getting on with it already" or the like, are not only very hurtful but
hinder people to go through the phases
of grief and solve the five related
tasks in their time. If that happens, if people get stuck in
grief, then we'd really speak of prolonged grief.
So, how long does recovery from grief really take? That again
depends. Even people that grieve the same loss don't usually grieve the
According to Buz
Overbecks "she cries, he sighs"
most mothers need 9 - 24
months (or more) to resolve
make peace with their grief in 3-6
months. With many men feeling that their spouse needs
professional help after this
Why Are There
Different Time Frames
For Recovery From Grief?
question many grieving parents ask themselves or each other in some
way. Why don't
you grieve the way I do?
In fact to have an identical grieving experience even for the same loss
is unlikely if not impossible ("we've had the same loss -
why don't we have the same grief?" by Prof. Kathleen Gilbert)
The differences are due
different relationships to
different possibility to anticipate
and prepare for the loss
different meaning given to the loss
different coping strategies
different expectations of appropriate behaviour
expectation to grieve
the same way adds to stress)
And of course especially for miscarried or stillborn babies
there are naturally differences in the
intensity of the relationship between the baby and each parent.
can only start to get a feeling for this child as a reality
when they see it on ultrasounds or feel it kicking (if they happen to
be there then), mothers
can't help but think about their child much
more often much earlier on. They feel sick in the morning (or are
concerned if they don't), avoid alcohol or anything that could be
connected to Listeria, get concerned when they don't feel well
It's also usually mothers
who plan to take a break
from work which will also change their lives profoundly. And later with
every little kick they feel they are reminded of this little human
being inside them.
After such a sad loss many dads
feel upset that they didn't have a
chance to get to know their baby that closely.
the other hand in loosing their baby many moms not only lose a
one. In the beginning for many it may feel as if they loose - to say it
bluntly - their reason to live for the next
... months. They had started to arrange everything to care for that
little being full time for a certain time. Being left by him or her
might feel like being rejected or fired from a much wanted job. It
feels like having flopped as a mother in pregnancy already,
hopes and dreams for the future, tearing on self esteem and self worth.
It takes a while to sort through that rubble and see through
the haze of grief. What's needed is gentle patience and a
couple of strong shoulders to lean on and gently get back in touch with
the world around.
Moving Beyond Grief
And Loss - Together
Tips for Grieving Parents
Don't expect to grieve the same way or any certain behaviour of your
partner for that matter. Rather talk about it. Ask questions, explain
what you feel and think.
Remember, men and women usually have
very different ways of coping with such a loss. Acknowledging them and
working around them is the best you can do.
That means, try to make
your grief a collective experience as far as possible by:
room to discuss
thoughts and emotions. But for the repeated
storytelling many woman need to do, try to find a listener who isn't
stressed by his own grief and the confrontation with unfamiliar strong
emotions as much as your partner is.
beliefs about the loss and it's meaning for
you with each other
accepting differences in grieving among the
family members (If your partner seems to not understand your problems,
that might be
because all you need is understanding and warmth whereas he looks for
ways to fix things because he doesn't want
you to suffer anymore.)
those differences as strengths (By not grieving
at the same times you can support each other much better, or as one dad
put it: "Where would we end if we both broke down at the same time.")
Is Therapeutic Help Needed?
Of course there are cases of real prolonged grief. Therapeutic help is
necessary (according to Lothrop) when:
the 5 tasks of the grieving process haven't been solved
the grief is very intense even years after the loss
there are excessive grief reactions following minor
in the case of self destructive impulses
there are long-lasting fears connected to sickness and death
there is long-lasting hostility, anger or suppressed anger
there are symptoms of depression after 18 to 24 months
inability to handle everyday life after 18 to 24