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How we process grief is influenced by our knowledge of death and the support provided during and after death. When grief is not processed, it can lead to physical, emotional, and psychological illness. In the past, it has resulted in deaths caused by suicide. This study aims to investigate the significance of grief processing and how to process grief healthily. Elizabeth Ross, Rando, and Worden are well-known scholars who have blazed the path in dealing with grief, sharing knowledge, and guiding people through the various stages of grief. Despite this beneficial information, Africans continue to struggle with grief, some of the hindrances are; cultural practices, religious practices, and perceptions. Africans face challenges in grieving due to a lack of knowledge about grief and unwillingness to seek professional help in times of loss mostly perceived as a sign of weakness. In the study, we use secondary data analysis and archival records to demonstrate the importance of assisting clients with grief processing.

This study is expected to demonstrate the importance of assisting clients in grieving; share knowledge of various approaches from which clients can seek assistance; Learn about the obstacles to grief healing and how to overcome them, guided by William Worden’s stages of grief processing. Finally, the study intends to educate and enlighten participants on the value of counselors assisting clients and psycho-educating them on various self-help techniques for dealing with grief.

Keywords: Grief, Loss, behaviors, emotions, culture, psycho-education, bereavement

Introduction

Today’s study focuses on the importance of using the Worden stages of grief to assist clients in navigating the stages of grief. Many people suffer from depression or commit suicide after losing a loved one due to a lack of this knowledge. Scholars have previously explained various ways in which people process death and grief; for example, Kübler-Ross (2014) used the five stages of grief, namely denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Bowlby and Parkes (1970) distinguish four stages of bereavement: numbing, yearning and searching, disorganization, and reorganization. Rando described the mourning process using the Six R’s: recognize the loss, react to the separation, recollect and re-experience, relinquish old attachments, readjust, and reinvest. This research will center on psychologist William Worden, who identified four mourning tasks: accepting, acknowledging, adjusting, and reinvesting.

William Worden categorized and described common grief reactions in acute grief into four broad categories: feelings, physical sensations, cognitions, and behaviors.

Worden recommends that these mourning tasks can be tailored to any grieving process situation and that once completed, the bereaved can return to any or all of the tasks to make any necessary changes.

What remains to be investigated is the impact of cultural practices, beliefs, religious practices, death perceptions, a lack of exposure to grief knowledge, and a refusal to seek professional help in times of loss. This has a significant impact on the African way of dealing with death.

When exposed to the triggers, a stuck grief client who has never been able to process their loss may experience emotional reactions (anger rush out, meltdown) and physical pains (headaches, body pain, breathing strains). There is high chance of experiencing depression for grief client who never negotiated the grief 

A grief client, who has successfully negotiated their grief, may live a more productive life.

The study aims to clarify the significance of the relationship between the grief client and grief healing process.

Clients who are experiencing loss and bereavement can often benefit from a variety of interventions, including: 

  • self-care routines (acknowledging emotions through journaling, sharing, or talking; physical exercise routine)
  • Ceremony and ritual participation (burial or memorial services, anniversaries)
  • Join a support group (for example, a widow’s group, rainbow moms, or parenting dads).
  • Psychological counseling (individual therapy, grief group therapy, and grief peer counseling therapy) 

Findings 

Cultural perspectives can influence how people react to a traumatic experience. Jane Rose (M. Njue et al., n.d.) conducted research on the relationship between religion, culture, and grief in Kenya and found no rituals in place to support individual mourning, leaving little room for grieving at the individual level. Choabi, Elizabeth (2009) “The African Christian widow is believed to be in a difficult disposition as she may be torn between African beliefs and cultural practices and Christian values regarding death during the grieving process,” she wrote in her research. In this regard, it is suspected that cultural prescripts can negatively influence the grieving process from a Christian perspective, resulting in a complicated grieving process. With this understanding, it is critical that counselors consider African culture, beliefs, and their influence on grief when assisting clients, lest they obstruct the healing process.

Counselors are helpers who psycho-educate their clients, on how they can help themselves. They use counseling skills to help clients develop their capacity to use their human potential now and in the future, as well as to process what they are going through. We discuss the importance of assisting clients negotiate grief. and assisting clients in finding meaning in their lives. Following the death of a loved one, the client may question the meaning of life. 

  1. Clients heal the pain of losing a loved one by accepting reality and, allowing themselves to process their emotions. This helps in successfully navigating this grief stages. Clients who are unable to find meaning in their lives are more likely to become depressed, lose their jobs, or commit suicide. Counselor assistance is critical in preventing additional deaths.
  2. To help client to explore their loss and find a sense of closure. When a person suffers a loss, their mind wonders what they could have done differently to change the outcome. Counselor’s help clients explore their feelings of guilt and self-blame, as well as find closure in areas that are beyond their abilities. For example, if a client’s child was died in an accident and he was the one driving, he may feel guilty for speeding. Culturally it’s the man’s role to protect; in such instance, the man feels he failed to protect and he may feel he disappointed self and the society. They may not share or talk about it. the counselor can assist the client in investigating the accident, including how it occurred, where the client was at the time, quick decisions that had to be made, and why the client feels guilty. All of this aids in the grieving process. Some information may not be shared with family members for fear of being judged, but the counselor can help client process the loss as positive regard is also guaranteed. Culturally its man role to protect and in such instance that the man feels he failed to protect this hinders negotiating grief due to feeling of disappointment to self and society. They may not share or talk about it 
  3. To assist clients in achieving stability in the four areas identified by William Worden: Feelings: The following are the most common emotions experienced following a loss: sadness, anger, guilt, and self-reproach; anxiety, loneliness, fatigue, helplessness, shock, and so on. When clients’ emotions go unmanaged for an extended period, they are more likely to develop depression. Being able to assist clients in processing grief in a healthy manner prevents the development of other mental issues or substance addictions in their search for relief. In African setup emotions were not acknowledged but mostly viewed as sign of weakness. This was engraved deeply in child’s life that even as adults is normalized not showing emotions. When clients come for therapy and they are asked to connect with their emotions the dilemma is usually on how will be see or think of me. Counselors helping Africans overcome the cultural definition of strength and weakness will greatly contribute to grief negotiation process. Sensation: Lack of energy, tightness in the chest, sensitivity to noise, hollowness in the stomach, and tightness in the throat are some physical sensations. Headaches, the feeling that nothing is real—or that one is not themselves—breathlessness, shortness of breath, muscle weakness, dry mouth, and so on. The situation for this client is that their health is jeopardized if no assistance is provided. Supporting someone grieving allows them to cope healthily before their body succumbs to pain. In a African set up most people are not able to connect how an loss occurrence may result to physical manifesting pains. Some of them would rather have medication administered than talking to someone. They have a perception that none can help them with their issues. I have had statements like “ I can’t go tell a stranger my issue, what will they help me with?” 

Cognitive: Following the death of a loved one, one may experience shock, confusion, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, preoccupation, and obsessive thoughts about the deceased or what was lost. Sensing the deceased’s presence, believing the deceased is still present, having hallucinations, and seeing or hearing the deceased are all examples of “sensing the deceased’s presence.” All of this bothers the person’s mind, causing her to sleep poorly or not at all. Helping clients healthily process their grief keeps them from going insane.

Behaviors: Some symptoms seen after a significant loss include difficulty falling asleep or waking up too early. Overeating or undereating Distracted behavior, Withdrawing from others and losing interest in the world Dreaming about the dead, Keeping the deceased’s memory at bay, Looking for and calling out the name of the deceased, Sighing, Being agitated and hyperactive, Crying, visiting places or carrying objects that remind one of the deceased person, holding objects that belonged to the deceased, and so on. Helping the client process grief in a healthy way allows the client to maintain control of their behavior and avoids depression. Prolonged engagement in the aforementioned behaviors is a sign of depression.

  1. As counselors, we provide grief therapy through a variety of interventions. According to Worden (2009), for bereaved people to heal from grief, they must first complete four grief-related tasks:

Accept the Reality of the Loss: William encourages the client to accept that the person is dead and will not return, which is the first task a grieving person must complete. Clients can’t proceed through the mourning process unless you do this. In this stage, the grieving client is still in disbelief, according to Elizabeth Ross she refers to it as denial. The ability to confront reality is the first step in the healing process.

Work Through the Pain of Grief: When a loved one dies, you often experience a wide range of emotions, including anger, guilt, fear, depression, sadness, and despair. This task is time-consuming. The bereaved must acknowledge their emotions, rather than suppressing or avoiding them. They can choose to work through them. People in our cultures frequently ask mourning families to be strong and prevent them from crying. Other beliefs in force the bereaved to rejoice because the loved one was either old and has served their time or because they have gone to a better place. This becomes the biggest hindrance to negotiating this task. Allowing clients to go through their emotions and talk is part of healing.  

Adjust to an Environment in Which the Deceased is Missing: Aside from emotional and psychological adjustments, this task may necessitate taking on a role or function that the deceased once held, which will vary depending on the nature of the relationship. For example, if your spouse or partner dies, this task may require you to handle household finances, raise a child alone, find work, or return to a career. It’s difficult because each day’s activities remind you of her absence. Accepting the role and doing your best, even in the absence of a loved one, aids in the grieving process

Find an Enduring Connection With the Deceased While Embarking on a New Life: Most people perceive this task as a way to forget their loved one, but on the contrary, it is to help us treasure the memories of our loved ones in our hearts without stopping our life activities, even in their absence. Moving on in a relationship with another partner may feel like a betrayal to a client who has lost a partner, but the ability to separate the two and treasure the memories they shared without allowing it to hinder their progress in other relationships is a healing process.

  1. Counselors also psycho-educate clients about self-care routines like journaling, sharing, talking about their feelings, and exercising physically. This helps the client negotiate grief. Counselors psycho educate clients who are hesitant to participate in ceremonies and rituals (burial or memorial services, anniversaries) on the importance of such ceremonies and assist them in finding closure. When supporting a bereaved person or family, the counselors ensures they have an understood client of their particular customs and funeral rites. Helping clients find support groups (e.g., a widow’s group, a rainbow mom group, or parenting dads) helps them find other people with common losses and encourages each other through this journey of grief.

The main tool that assists us in navigating grief is therapy. It could be Individual therapy, grief group therapy, and grief peer counseling therapies are all options. This tool helps the client to acknowledge pain; here, the counselor assists the client in expressing all emotions felt without judgment or blame. When assisting clients in accepting grief, they may experience a range of unexpected emotions, and they should seek out a safe space to express or even cry them out. By helping the client understand that their grieving process is unique to them and that comparison is the enemy of healing, they will be able to walk their path at their own pace. Assisting clients in receiving or requesting help from those who love and care for them People who are bereaved may isolate themselves and refuse to accept help from others. Dealing with grief entails allowing oneself to be served without feeling guilty.

A counselor can also assist the client in self-help ways to negotiate grief. Clients can giving themselves time and space to grief. Grieving clients may become engrossed in their work and forget to make time for themselves. This busyness suppresses grief emotions, which may manifest later as anger. When a client is experiencing anxiety and shortness of breath, the counselor can teach them some slow and deep breathing techniques. Assisting clients in receiving or requesting help from those who love and care for them. People who are bereaved may isolate themselves and refuse to accept help from others. Dealing with grief entails allowing oneself to be served without feeling guilty.

Conclusion

Most Africans would benefit from counselors psychologically educating clients on the integration of grief with culture, beliefs, and practices.

Grief negotiation is important in helping people find life meaning after the loss of a loved one. With the consideration of their culture & believes counselors can help client negotiate the process better without hinderance.

Most men in grief are affected by masculinity because they are afraid of being labeled weak and emotional. This makes it difficult for them to move through the stages of grief. Pain of grief doesn’t select male or female, it’s not a sign of weakness to show emotions after a loss it’s the process of grief.

Though grief fades, the loss of a loved one is never truly forgotten. However, the primary goal of most grief counseling is to assist the client in integrating the reality of their loss into their future lives and in maintaining a healthy bond with the loved one who has died (Neimeyer, 2013).

References

Worden, J. W. (1996). Children and grief: When a parent dies . New York: The Guilford Press.

Worden, J. W. (2009). Grief counseling and grief therapy: A handbook for the mental health

practitioner (4th ed.). New York: Springer Publishing Company;2008

Rando TA. Treatment of Complicated Mourning. Champaign, IL: Research Press; 1993.

M. Njue, J. R., Rombo, D., Lutomia, A. N., Smart, L. S., Mwaniki, L. M., & Sore, I. L. (n.d.). Death, Grief and Culture in Kenya: Experiential Strengths-Based Research. Death, Grief and Culture in Kenya: Experiential Strengths-Based Research | SpringerLink. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-13945-6_1

Kbler-Ross E. On Death and Dying. New York, NY: Macmillan; 1969.

Neimeyer, R. A., & Burke, L. A. (2013). Complicated grief and the end of life: Risk factors and treatment considerations. In J. L. Werth, Jr. (Ed.), Counseling clients near the end of life: A practical guide for mental health professionals (pp. 205–228). Springer Publishing Company.