Creating Meaning from Loss

Heather L. Servaty-Seib, PhD, HSPP
[email protected]
Types of Losses
Physical Losses
Psychosocial Losses (Rando, 1995)
Secondary Losses
Disenfranchised Grief (Doka, 1989; 2002)
Can be connected with the griever, the relationship,
and/or the loss itself
 Multidimensional reactions—emotional, cognitive, physical, social,
behavioral, spiritual
 Passive and involuntary
 Experienced as...
Continuing development
Natural and expectable
Reaction to all types of losses
Unique perception (Rando, 1995)
 Mourning
 Actions through which we incorporate death losses into our ongoing
lives—engaged process rather than reaction. Will involve individual
coping behaviors , social/cultural customs, etc.
 Active and voluntary
 Experienced as…
Reorientation, integration, adaptation (Rando, 1995)
Mourning as Meaning Making
 Human beings …
 construct their own reality,
 live in a narrative way, and
 make sense of the world in a narrative fashion.
 A death results in the loss of one of the main
characters of our life novel and the story must be
 According to Neimeyer (2000), “meaning
reconstruction in response to loss is the central feature
of grieving” (p. 47).
Contexts of Meaning Making
 Sense-Making
 How does death fit into our understanding of the world?
 How do we need to change our understanding of the world
now that it as occurred?
Shattered assumptions (Janoff-Bulman, 1992)
Relearning the world (Attig, 1996)
 Benefit-Finding or Lessons Learned
 We would not ever have wished the death—and yet what
good if any can come from the death?
 Lessons might include greater self-awareness, valuing of
relationships, enhanced appreciation for life and clarity
regarding what is important in life
(Neimeyer & Anderson, 2002)
Contexts of Meaning Making
 Identity Reconstruction
 Who am I now that this death has occurred?
 Who will I become as I develop and age—knowing that
this person will not physically be here?
 Reconstruction might include maturity, independence,
existential growth, and resilience
 Competing identities (Heidt, 2005)
(Neimeyer & Anderson, 2002)
Ideas for Meaning Making
 Doing and resting (Heidt, 2005; Seah & Wilson, 2011)
 Compelling vs. not compelling
 Engagement vs. avoidance
 Multiple vs. singular approaches
 Self-review vs. self-judgment
 Realistic expectations vs. perfectionism
 Life purpose vs. life paralysis
 Relating vs. isolating
 Remembering vs. forgetting
Two-Track Model
 Biopsychosocial functioning (Rubin, 1999)
 Visible emotional, cognitive, psychological and physical
 Relationship to the deceased
 Manner in which relationship is continued and how that
continuation/connection changes and shifts over time
 Wholeness of that relationship
 Examples of continuing bond approaches (Klass, Silverman,
& Nickman, 1996)
Talking, writing, and texting
Integrating elements of his/her identity
Engaging in connecting activities
Important objects
Recurring rituals
Other Mourning Ideas…
 Writing—using any format that fits for you
 Intentional conversations with others who knew your
loved one well
 Documenting dreams
 Recognizing symbols—openness to points of meaning
 Ideas from Lessons of Loss (Neimeyer, 2000)
 Biographies, painting and drawing, epitaphs, using
metaphors, personal pilgrimage, photos, poetry, unsent
Mourning is Relational
 Family context
 Importance of identification and respect for differences
 Elements of shared sense-making
 Broader definition of family—finding mentors in
extended family or beyond
 Peer context
 Who do you share in depth with versus who do you just
hang out with? Best to limit interactions with some
(which is truly ok), but critical to find your supports.
 Connecting with other grieving students can be so
powerful-what AMF is all about!
Attig, T. (1996). How we grieve: Relearning the world. New York: Oxford University Press.
Doka, K. (Ed.). (1989).Disenfranchised grief: Recognizing hidden sorrow. Lexington, MA: Lexington.
Doka, K. (Ed.). (2002). Disenfranchised grief: New directions, challenges, and strategies for practice.
Champaign, IL: Research Press.
Heidt, J. (2005). Processing loss, constructing identity: Young adults experiencing bereavement in the
collegiate setting. Unpublished thesis, Willamette University, Salem, OR, USA.
Janoff-Bulman, R. (1992). Shattered assumptions: Toward a new psychology of trauma. New York: Free
Klass, D., Silverman, P. R., & Nickman, S. L. (Eds.). (1996). Continuing Bonds: A New Understanding of
Grief. Washington, DC: Taylor & Francis.
Neimeyer, R. A. (2000). Lessons of loss. Clayton, VIC: Centre for Grief Education, Inc.
Neimeyer, R. A. (2001). Meaning reconstruction & the experience of loss. Washington, DC: American
Psychological Association.
Neimeyer, R. A., & Anderson, A. (2002). Meaning reconstruction theory. In N. Thompson (Ed.), Loss
and grief: A guide for human services practitioners (pp. 45-64). New York: Palgrave.
Rando, T. A. (1995). Grief and Mourning: Accommodating to Loss. In H. Wass and R. Neimeyer
(Eds.), Dying: Facing the Facts. Washington, DC: Taylor and Francis.
Rubin, S. (1999). The Two-Track Model of Bereavement: Overview, Retrospect and Prospect. Death
Studies, 23, 681-714.
Schultz, L. E. (2007). The influence of maternal loss on young women’s experience of identity
development in emerging adulthood. Death Studies, 31, 17-43.
Seah, C. H., & Wilson, A. (2011). A phenomenological study of university students’ grieving experiences.
Illness, Crisis, and Loss, 19, 3-25.

similar documents