Grief and Attachment
A lot of literature about grief is overwhelmingly death orientated. This is a good thing in that death is a universal experience but it is not an everyday thing. True, the loss of a loved one permeates one’s daily life long after the event, but the actual event is singular and for the more fortunate, not nearly as regular. The reality is most people go to counseling for relationship loss. Grief counselors deal with many people who are devastated by divorce, a cheating spouse, a broken engagement, or the sudden change of not having that person to call, hold, or spend time with. These aspects are very common to the human experience. With proper guidance, the wounds become scars and help one grow emotionally and sometimes spiritually.
The loneliness and the un-needed anxiety people experience in finding a mate can be stressful enough for some, but when one truly believes they found the one, only to be shocked that everything was an illusion can be a horrifying change. Changes in life style from the tiniest schedule can shake the foundation of that person’s life. Even the smallest scent or image can bring a tidal wave of emotional imagery. Unfortunately there are no short cuts in this adaptation period. As so many grief specialists emphasize, one must do their “grief work”. They must experience the change the emotional pain that accompanies it. Of course, as death, there is the acceptance stage, the emotional stage of anger and mourning, and the final adaptation to the new situation.
A good grief counselor will guide the broken person through these phases and encourage emotional release in the healing process. Only after these initial steps, can the person utilize new meaning concepts to a new reality and properly place the lost relationship in its proper perspective of his or her life story. The question arises why does this adaptation take so long for some people? It all varies based upon the level of attachment. Attachment theory is a theory that was used in great depth with widows or widowers in their loss of a spouse. The same can be applied to broken relationships that do not involve death, but separation. The attachment will determine the length of the adaptation to the person. So, if someone was in a relationship for many years and suddenly the relationship ceased, one should expect a greater withdrawal and more intense and lengthy adaptation period. The opposite can be said for a short two month affair where there is little attachment and hence less adaptation.
As a grief counselor, it is important not to only deal with death but also every day pains of the heart. Proper understanding of attachment can help one assess the situation and lay a ground work for eventually adaptation and assimilation of the past into the person’s present. One can never give a time frame for recovery, but with a special guidance, a grief counselor can help a person understand the phases and steps and help them take the necessary steps for a happy future with someone else. You can learn more about grief counseling, including available grief counseling courses and online study and training programs by doing an internet search for the American Academy of Grief Counseling.
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C
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