The major difference surfaces in what we think about grief, which seriously influences how we navigate the unfolding process of the work-of-grief. The critical distinctions are most obvious in the roots which ground it, the model that defines it and the process which transforms it. The different way:
- roots grief in a philosophy, belief system and language that is qualitatively distinct from the predominant dualistic system of thinking. It proposes a different perspective of what grief is and locates it within the historical relevance of centuries of recorded stories of human loss, suffering and renewal.
- shifts the defining metaphor from the medical model of curing illness/managing disease to a learning model emphasizing choice, growth, transformation and rebirth.(N.B. this is not an indictment of the medical profession or of the medical model but a model, with its unique language, must be appropriate to the purpose and goals it addresses: the medical model is appropriate to diagnosis and treatment of disease.)
- describes the process of transforming grief through the crucial work-of-grief (not to be confused with the psychological concept of “working through issues”). The process–definitively not a linear trajectory of “stages”–unfolds slowly over time in what is described by many as a “rollercoaster” experience. The transformation surfaces in the intense struggle of the work-of-grief to create and discover different meaning, purpose and direction in the changing rhythm and flow of one’s familiar pattern of living.
So, if “our thinking makes it so”……what then, is grief? What grief is must begin with what grief is not. If grief must once again claim its rightful place within the historical context of the human condition, we must recognize that: Grief is not a sickness or a disorder to be treated, an issue to be worked through, a problem to be solved, a condition to be managed or “something” to be fixed. Grief is a vital aspect of the inherent life-force: nature’s gift that offers the opportunity to grow in the midst of the terrible intimacy of the pain of loss. In the “different way”, Grief is the very essence of the human condition in whose wake we learn to live. So, grief, as the essence of the human condition, defines who we are as human beings. We are connected with people, with animals and with things; when any of these connections change–through death or other–we experience the profound phenomenon we recognize as the pain of loss. But the universe has not thrown us naked into this sea of loss: because loss is inevitable and pervasive throughout our lives, we have been given the gift of grief….yes, a gift!
We will explore the significance of this “gift” in my next blog but my first blog will launch with a timely post (at Sarah’s Corner) about what has happened to grief in the revised edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5). A significant change in this revision speaks directly to how your grief will be approached, i.e. a disease/disorder to be “treated”. There was considerable controversy about this while in the planning phase and it will continue to be a topic for discussion. For many of us who, through dedicated study and work, have come to respect grief as the time-honored mystery and wonder inherent in the life-death spiral there is much sadness for what has happened to grief….but the struggle for a different way will continue.
We begin our “webversations” with these three pages as background…meet me at Sarah’s Corner with your thoughts, questions and comments as we continue to explore griefadifferentway.