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Module 4Lack of knowledge about the grief process - age old wisdom

A Journey of Feelings: John Bowlby's Ebb and Flow Grief Model

Bowlby explains that the stages of the grieving process can shift and overlap, and utilizes an ebb and flow description. In explaining his model, the psychiatrist notes that all stages of the grief process may even take place at the same time and that the amount of time spent in each may be influenced by a huge number of factors including age, personality, and the circumstances surrounding the death of the loved one.

When people experience a loss, they will experience a range of feelings. Understanding these feelings may help you support families more effectively. Think back about your own experiences. Did you have any of these feelings? When? For how long?

Shock and Numbness. Shock and numbness is most often seen in the initial stages of grief (accepting the reality of the loss) but can occur whenever a person becomes overwhelmed. Many describe it as a fog or walking in slow motion. People say (usually in looking back) they had trouble functioning normally, couldn’t concentrate, didn’t have any concept of time. Shock can be a protective mechanism to hold reality at bay until the mind and heart can cope with the loss. You may see parents experiencing the following:

  • Failure to accept reality
  • Time confusion
  • Impaired functioning
  • Disbelief
  • Short attention span
  • Lack of concentration
  • Difficulty with decisions

Searching and Yearning. Then, a very long and complicated phase typically takes hold and doesn’t let go until many emotions are resolved (experiencing the pain of grief). The “would have, could have, should have” obsession is common; trying to come to grips with the fact that this reality occurred, how it could have happened, why it happened, what it means inspires anger, bitterness, impatience, helplessness, guilt, shame, futility, hopelessness, and on and on. This phase is very tiring and draining. People often talk about being exhausted. Your may see parents experiencing:

  • Restlessness
  • Impatience and irritability
  • Resentment and bitterness
  • Anger and guilt
  • Sleep difficulties/nightmares
  • Preoccupation with deceased
  • Lack of energy/fatigue

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