Coping with Loss & Grief

Why is Grieving so Hard?

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If you suppress grief too much, it can well redouble Moliere


Recovery from the loss of a loved one depends on the development and renewal of relationships that satisfy the basic hunger of the human heart.

One of the factors that creates grieving difficulties in our society is the transference of employees by institutions, large industry and government bodies. Some families are always being moved and every move pulls up human roots. The children of bank managers, teachers, clergymen, and the like, are constantly being hurt through the loss of friends when they move. Eventually they defend themselves from the hurt by refusing to put down deep roots. They can easily flounder in a major crisis because they have no circle of supporting and intimate relationships .

We all need someone we trust to lean on in times of crisis
Grief can be like a terrible nightmare to a person or a family who fails to reach out or get close to others because of fear of interferance with one's roots.

In the past the church was traditionally the centre of comfort and relationships. But transitions in modern urban society have brought changes in congregational behaviour and attitudes. Once the church was the centre of village activity. People lived close to it. When they were born their names were registered in it, they were married in it, attended it regularly and finally were buried in its precincts. The church was the meeting and comforting place for friends and family. But all of this has changed.

People have become privatised
They are scattered every where because of suburban sprawls, economic necessity and numerous other reasons. Personal contact that allows rich personal relationships to develop is much more difficult.

Today, we are becoming the products of a sterile environment. Our society has removed dying from the home. Once people died in the privacy of their home with family and friends about them until the end. Now, they are placed in intensive care units where they die hooked up to machines under the supervision of technicians. Their families are relegated to little comfortless waiting rooms where anxiety levels skyrocket every time a medical attendant approaches. After death occurs, and the body is prepared, then they are invited to view their dead loved one.

Most of this is necessary, particularly in the case of accidents. However, modern practice makes family members and friends feel helpless and useless. Grief turns to guilt produced largely by separation from dying loved ones.

Funeral parlours now compete with the the church which traditionally was the comfort zone, and today funeral companies are offering post funeral grief counselling but without the long term 'follow-up' once provided by the church pastor and congregation.

All grieving people need long term attention and follow-up
An old man was slowly dying in a long term facility. His wife complained that she was being discouraged by nursing staff from attending to her husband. She desperately wanted to rub soothing lotion on his dry arms, but she was not allowed to do so. Without touching him, she felt that her husband was becoming a complete stranger to her. Because of this, after his death her grieving would possibly develop complications.

We need an acceleration of the hospice movement to become an integral part of the health care system so that family members can be taught how to care for their dying loved ones in conjunction with adequate professional medical assistance. This would definitely help facilitate the grieving process, reduce the fear of death and make it much easier for friends and family to be in the company of their dying loved one.

Grief counsellor, Larry Yeagley, had just finished classes with a group of hospice consultants in Orlando and was riding back to the airport in a limousine. The driver looked over at him and said, "I don't know an awful lot about hospice, but I do know that I've never been afraid o' dying."

"Why is that?" Yeagley asked.

"Well you see," He drawled, "I was reared in Appalachia where we do what is called 'sittin up with.' A feller never dies alone where I come from ... never."

"Could you tell me what 'sittin up with' is all about?" Yeagley asked.

"Well , when a feller's dyin', all the family, friends, and neighbours take turns 'sittin' at the bedside until he dies. You're never afraid o' dyin, 'cause you know you'll never die alone. and after a feller's gone it's not near as hard to take, 'cause you know you did all you could."

Grief is hampered in our society by the tendency to deny death The very word death is substituted by euphemisms like 'passed away, expired, left us, etc.

Death is so well managed in our hospitals that the average visitor would never observe that it happens there except for the newspaper obituaries. Australians are masters at denying death, but this does not help those who grieve. It cripples them.

What steps do parents take to teach their children how to express their emotions about grief and loss? Their little losses are not allowed to be expressed. Loss after loss is minimised and when major losses through death occur, the expression of grief is silenced.

Modern medicine has reduced early death significantly in the western world and many reach the age of 40 without the loss of a close family member. If we add to this the fact that our western society keeps death in places isolated from us, it is easy to see why many people have a grief handicap.

Graphic visual reporting of death on television news daily brings the horrors of death and dying into the home. However it is not experienced in the viewer's home in reality. Death can be seen but it is happening to someone else and it goes out of sight quickly, replaced in an instant by the next-in-line news story. Our society has learnt to gasp at the horror of the sight of it, but feelings are electronically anaesthetised. It is just TV. The medium that vividly presents viewers with intimate scenes of death also insulates them from it. Because of this psychological cocoon effect on TV viewers, real grieving becomes a prisoner of the mind when an actual death of a loved one takes place. Such subconscious conditioning promotes the denial of death and inhibits and often prevents the grieving process.

Sudden and violent death has always been with us, but the nature of our high pace society makes occurrence greater. Increased consumption of alcohol and drugs has brought a break-up in family life and an increase in suicide. Tragic death usually means more difficulties in grieving.

A secular society contributes towards unresolved grief
People who have an intimate and meaningful relationship with God maintain a sense of worth and purpose in life as they pass through experiences of pain, loss and grief. Although there may be a temporary loss of faith, generally there is an easier adjustment on the part of people who know God intimately.

However, a wrong concept of God can play havoc with a mourner.

A grieving person who knows the Great Physician as a Friend discovers that His support brings a personal growth experience after the death of a loved one.


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