The clash of metaphysics and empirical science the last two centuries has created two divergent
thoughts. One thought accepts an afterlife and the other denounces anything spiritual. Modern psychology as a science venerates the mind as a masterpiece of evolution while theology reveres it as a metaphysical organ that bridges the soul and the body. As Christian counselors and grief counselors, one will encounter two schools of thought concerning the deceased. One school emphasizing that visions are delusions or pathological conditions and the other school accepting the reality that bonds continue beyond the grave and our loved ones do and can communicate with us.
Grief Counselors and How They Should Deal with Continued Bonds of Clients
One agreement is certain between both schools of thought and that is that the Freudian view that attachments and bonds with the deceased is pathological is simply not true. Attachments are important and are never broken. One must readjust his or her life narrative without the loved one, but the importance of the bond continues. Whether one is from the metaphysical school of thought or the secular, one cannot dismiss this. Even the secular school would contend that the brain is helping the body cope with the loss and the cherishing of the bond as a memorial is healthy. From a metaphysical view though this bond is more than a mere memorial but an actual bond that is only temporarily broken and restored in the next life.
One may ask if these continued bonds with the grave ever pathological? The answer would be yes. Not
all cases are truly metaphysical in nature. Some visions are indeed delusions and can even be pathological in nature due to complicated grief reactions. This is where discernment is very important and where faith must allow science to diagnose if any pathology is present. Regardless, metaphysical encounters usually bring peace and joy but sometimes can also bring sadness.
Some cases of continuing one’s bond remain in the realm of the five senses. Again some of these attempts to continue a bond are healthy and some are unhealthy. From a healthy perspective, many people keep various objects of a loved one or create a memorial. Some also begin various family traditions that honor the deceased. Yet despite these healthy continued bonds, others can form unhealthy bonds that become more like chains that imprison the living. These people become obsessively fascinated with objects of a loved one. Some individuals will cease to remove or touch anything of the loved one after his or her death. The person is unable to incorporate the event of death into his or her new life narrative. In these cases, one can on many occasions see a room of the deceased left completely the same as it was the day before the person died. The room becomes a “museum” for the deceased but in reality becomes a “mausoleum” for the living. In some extreme cases, the bereaved person may even wear the clothing of the deceased to help keep the connection at any cost. These severe cases represent an unhealthy example of a continued bond.
From this, I would contend that there is a benefit in continuing one’s bonds with the deceased. However inability to adjust to the new relationship with the deceased can cause pathological grief reactions that are not healthy. One must be able to move on to the next chapter of life. This does not mean the previous chapter of the story was not critical to the book, but it does mean, new chapters must be read to complete the entire book of life.
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