As we have experienced many losses as a nation recently, grief is a topic that naturally comes up. From the losses of public figures to losses from tragedies near and far, grief can impact us personally whether or not we have lost someone in our own lives. We can be filled with sadness of what the world has lost or be reminded of our own mortality and the mortality of the people we are close to in our lives. If we have experienced a loss, either recent or long past, a current loss can reconnect us with strong emotions from the other losses. Also, death is not the only type of loss that is grieved. Loss of relationships, career, home, hopes, or the known and familiar can all have significant impacts as well.
How does one cope with or move through grief? There are many theories that continue to shift and be developed over time. Theories regarding grief can create the idea that there is a correct or healthy way to grieve. However, as grief is explored, it has been found that there is no one right way to grieve or to cope with grief. One of the most well-known theories is the stages of grief developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. This theory indicates that there are various emotional stages that people transition through as they deal with a loss. While some people notice that their emotions pass through different stages, others do not have this experience. Another theory indicates that it is helpful for an individual to experience and express their emotions through "grief work"1. One person may find it helpful to work through thoughts, memories, and emotions while another may find that this complicates their natural grieving process1. There have also been theories stating that healthy resolution of grief requires one to sever ties with the deceased, but many researchers have now noticed that continuing bonds with the deceased is often a part of healthy adaptation1.
"Today, the predominant view of bereavement grief recognizes the complex and highly individualized nature of this process1." There are many "healthy responses to loss" based individual differences in personality, experience, and culture1. While some people may experience extreme distress, others may not. The types of emotions one experiences are very individual and the process of coping with these emotions is individual as well. Some people may find support in family or friends while another person may seek counseling. Some people may find individual counseling supportive while others may prefer a group setting. This list is by no means exhaustive as people may find solace in work, nature, or in a multitude of other places or experiences. If you would like support in seeking the best fit for your experience of grief, please reach out to me. I would also like to inform you of an offering by another Kesher social worker, Tara Watkins, LICSW. She is welcoming congregants of any Kesher synagogue to a monthly grief support group at Temple Emanu-El in Providence. If you feel you are living with grief and think a support group might be helpful in your grief journey please contact me and I will explore this option further with you.
1 Doughty, E. A., Wissel, A., & Glorfield, C. (2011). Current trends in grief counseling. Retrieved from http://counselingoutfitters.com/vistas/vistas11/Article_94.pdf
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Amy Small, LICSW, is the new Kesher social worker at the synagogue. Kesher is the congregational outreach program of Jewish Family Service of Rhode Island, funded by the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, and currently active at Congregation Agudas Achim, Temple Torat Yisrael, Temple Am David, Temple Emanu-El and Congregation Beth Sholom. Amy may be reached at email@example.com or