The Myths of Coping with Loss

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (Impact Factor: 4.85). 07/1989; 57(3):349-57. DOI: 10.1037/0022-006X.57.3.349
Source: PubMed


Drawing from theory and clinical lore, we consider how individuals are assumed to cope following irrevocable loss. Several assumptions are reviewed reflecting beliefs concerning the grieving process. Specifically, we examine the expectation that depression is inevitable following loss; that distress is necessary, and failure to experience it is indicative of pathology; that it is necessary to "work through" or process a loss; and that recovery and resolution are to be expected following loss. Although limited research has examined these assumptions systematically, available empirical work fails to support and in some cases contradicts them. Implications of our analysis for theoretical development and research are explored. Finally, we maintain that mistaken assumptions held about the process of coping with loss fail to acknowledge the variability that exists in response to loss, and may lead others to respond to those who have endured loss in ways that are unhelpful.

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    • "Since Sigmund Freud wrote Mourning and Melancholia (Freud, 1917), such 'grief work' has typically been understood to result in 'leaving the deceased behind', terminating the relationship with the deceased person. However, in recent decades the value of continuing the bond with the deceased has been increasingly documented and acknowledged by academics as well as in the clinic (Wortman and Silver, 1989; Walter, 1994, 1999). Several authors have underlined that the variety of rituals and actions following the death of a family member may contain aspects of separation as well as aspects of continuation of the social relationship with the deceased (Danbolt, 2002; Walter, 1999; Valentine, 2008; Hadders, 2011). "
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    • "However, within the current paper, the participants have placed more emphasis on their sense of privilege being due to having special gifts or talents that allow them to communicate with the deceased. Wortman and Silver (1989) have described how professionals may have developed mistaken assumptions about grief that are not supported by empirical evidence. In order not to perpetuate potentially unhelpful ideas about bereaved people and their sense-of-presence experiences the following discussion provides explicit recommendations for practitioners working with bereaved populations with regards to how they can support people in relation to these experiences. "
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