4 bereavement counselors discuss different types of grief

12 September 2019 /

Tears. Inability to focus. Intense feelings of despair. Grief is arguably the most desperate state of being that a person ever has to go through in life. Sometimes grief can get messy. For certain individuals, it’s not as easy picking up the pieces and moving on with life following the death of a close loved one.

There are many different factors that contribute to the degree and length of grief, such as the age of the person who died, if it was sudden, or if it involved a very traumatic experience. Another reason people might have a hard time handling grief is if they had unresolved conflicts with the loved one who died. Words that were never spoken. Bottom line, grief is hard and there are varying degrees of how it’s experienced by the person.

As a manufacturer of cremation diamonds, our team at Heart in Diamond works with people every single day who are in bereavement. In order to better understand our customers, we decided to get in touch with professional grief counselors to learn more about this very important topic.

4 grief counselors who help people navigate bereavement

Before we dig into the topic of grief, we would like to take a moment to introduce the four different grief counselors who were so kind as to share some valuable information with us.

  • Jill S. Cohen, a family grief counselor in NYC, was kind enough to provide us deeper insights into the difference between grief and complicated grief. According to her website, Jill has been offering specialized bereavement counseling for children and adults for well over a decade. She has helped give people from age three to 73 the “I’m not alone” experience. Jill is certified in Thanatology from the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC), which is the study of death, dying and bereavement. Grief counseling is truly her passion which she gladly shares with others.
  • Author, speaker, and grief counselor Harriet Vogel also shared some valuable knowledge about the different types of grief. Ever since 1991, Harriet has felt privileged to counsel and accompany many hundreds of grieving children and adults as they navigated the murky waters of grief. Her career as a bereavement counselor and assistant bereavement coordinator began at the very first hospice on Long Island. She left in 1997 to help establish a new hospice where she became the bereavement coordinator. She was there until 2007 when she began teaching both “Death and Dying” and “Hospice and Palliative Care” at Nassau County Community College then later at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. She had simultaneously begun her own practice in 2001 as a grief counselor. “Sad is Not Bad” is a book she recently published and she continues to operate her private practice now in Florida.
  • Robyn Hubbard, D. Min. (Doctor of Ministry) is a grief counselor that runs the Core Healing Arts practice. According to the website, “Core Healing Arts is dedicated to the renewal of spirit and awakening of soul through the body, heart, and mind.” This professional is a spiritual companion, grief counselor/certified compassionate bereavement care counselor (MISS Foundation), certified professional dreamwork facilitator (Main Institute for Professional Dreamwork), certified massage therapist (ABMP), and Reiki master. She offers a unique, holistic practice of grief counseling that emphasizes a somatic, or body-centered approach. When she began her career as a physical therapist, her intention was always to integrate body healing and emotional tending. After her mother died in 1989 and she was diagnosed with cancer in 1995, she felt inspired and personally drawn into the world of inner healing, spirituality, and grief work.
  • “Rising Above, In Memory Of,” is the website that markets Karen Camerato’s grief counseling services, “From Grief to Gratitude.” Karen’s grief counseling services are unique in the respect that they are geared towards mothers who have lost a child. Tragically, Karen is no stranger to this type of heart-wrenching pain, because she lost her eight-year-old son Nicholas in 1996 when he fell through the ice of a frozen pond. It took her a long time to recover, but eventually, she found that pure happiness was entirely possible. She made a decision to have an obligation to live her best life in memory of Nick, and she was transformed. She explains that by becoming a grief coach, she now has true purpose and fulfillment. Other moms go to Karen to find that comfort and to fill the empty spaces in their own lives.

What’s the difference between grief and complicated grief

The first question on our minds we wanted answers to, was “What is the difference between normal grief and complicated grief?” Jill Cohen explains:

“Grief is an absolutely normal and innate response to a painful event such as the death of a loved one or special person. That’s a given. However, when there is a passage of time and the griever is still finding it difficult to move forward and resume his or her normal life, this is the sign of something more problematic. This would be considered a complicated grief.

“But we can’t be too hasty to call a grief complicated. Even normal grief is not one single emotion or feeling. It is a way of being — and it shows up physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally in many shapes and forms. Grief is unique to everyone. How we grieve, for how long we intensely and actively grieve and what it looks like and what it affects, differs from one person to another.”

She also went on to explain that most grief includes some of the following:

  • Tears
  • Crying
  • Too little or too much sleep
  • Lethargy
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Being less socially engaged with others
  • Lack of concentration
  • Questioning one’s own faith and belief system
  • Lots of feelings – anger, guilt, loneliness, depression, sadness, loneliness, fear with occasionally experiencing and acknowledging moments of happiness

Cohen also says that “If these usual responses to grief don’t fade or lessen over time and begin to interrupt their ability to lead their own lives and function, they may be experiencing complicated grief.”

Harriet Vogel breaks down normal grief, complicated grief, aborted grief, and cumulative grief

Harriet Vogel explained to us the different types of grief, and here are her explanations:

  • “Normal Grief – Actually my mentor coined the phrase “Normal/Unique Grief” that is, normal for the way one grieves and unique for the relationship. For example, one grieves differently for each loss and even identical twins may grieve differently for a parent inasmuch as each might have inherited and observed the same grieving styles, each would have had a different relationship with that parent.
  • “Complicated Grief may be caused by other recent losses, the type of death such as murder, accident or a missing person, the griever’s past history of grieving and one’s coping skills. I have found that first, the counseling has to deal with the trauma and be supported by medicine to help the person begin the processing of the event.
  • “Aborted Grief can occur when someone is dealing with other current issues and responsibilities, a legal issue like medical malpractice or family dysfunction related to the death and will.
  • “Cumulative Grief is when there are multiple deaths, one after the other. For example war casualties, during the AIDS crisis, now the Opioid Crisis, or within one’s family or friend’s circle due to normal causes like illness.”

At what point does grieving become a disorder?

Robyn Hubbard has a very interesting perspective on grief and whether or not it could/should be considered a disorder. The following are her insights on the topic.

“My personal and professional experience has come to reveal to me that our individual experience of grieving is not the issue that becomes disordered, it is our culture’s difficulty in accepting and acknowledging grief and loss as a normal part of a soulful life that creates challenges in our ability to integrate grief fully into our individual and collective lives.

“Grieving is an active experience of moving the emotions that accompany the loss of a loved one or life as we have come to know it. In my experience, when grief is properly acknowledged, supported and honored, the inner experience of complex emotions has the opportunity to move and follow the natural and normal course of its integration and evolution. This looks different for everyone. In a culture where grief is often shunned and relegated to the dark and avoided corners of our life experience, we often find ourselves without the compassionate and accepting support of others who are willing and/or resourced enough to support us in the midst of painful and messy feelings. In this way, grief is always complicated, and never a disorder.”

How a great loss can lead to tremendous personal growth

Because Karen Camerato experienced intense grief that accompanied the loss of her child, she knows first hand how such a devastating tragedy can actually send you down a path of self-exploration and personal growth. The following is her perspective on this transformative time in a person’s life.

“Life-shattering trauma has the ability to give a new perspective on how you are living your life. So I challenge those who are at the point to ask themselves ‘Do I really want to waste this experience on simply trying to return to the person I was? Or can I use this to bring me to a level of meaning and understand that just wasn’t possible before?’

“It’s not surprising to find that many who have suffered a profound and horrible loss have been diagnosed with PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We most often associate PTSD with military combat veterans, but its symptoms can be developed by anyone confronted with a physical or emotional trauma. The effects of PTSD are debilitating.

“But what I’ve learned is that PTSD does not have to be a lifelong sentence. Learning about a fairly new concept – PTG – Post Traumatic Growth, changed not only my coaching practice but also my life.

“It has been scientifically proven that positive personal transformation can occur in the aftermath of PTSD. It doesn’t happen overnight and it certainly doesn’t make everything better, but it has been shown time and time again that many of those who suffer from PTSD experience radical and life-changing growth.

“Five key areas where growth has been identified are personal strength, improved relationships with others, appreciation of life, new life paths and possibilities, spiritual change and a new understanding of lIfe’s meaning and purpose.”

At Heart in Diamond, we are extremely grateful for all of these professionals who took time out of their day to provide further insights into the dark and often misunderstood world of grief. We encourage anyone who has been recently bereaved to reach out to an excellent grief counselor, like these four incredible women, to talk about your experience and help you work through the complicated feelings that accompany grief.

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