Grief isn’t just in the head

Modern Western approaches to grief

There are of course many different approaches to counselling and coaching out there, each seeking to understand and support through their own lenses or set of theories about how the world is, what causes different problems, and what cures us of them. Coaching and counselling approaches are all influenced by our social and cultural worlds. It’s no surprise then that we often notice grieving being talked about as if it’s all just a cognitive experience, a challenge to one’s thinking, and a process of re-jigging one’s thoughts. Yes, there is also a history of the grief support professions treating grieving as if it’s a purely emotional experience too, but with the rise of cognitive behavioural therapy and ideas about thoughts causing emotions, we’re seeing a lot of focus on the grief experience as a cognitive process. Our Modern Western world does tend to treat people as “neck-ups” and forget that we exist in bodies that act and interact within multiple relationships, and that there are also multiple different ways of experiencing life and grief through a sense of spirituality!

Diverse grief experiences need diverse support approaches

In our Certification in Creative Grief Support, we teach that grief experiences are diverse. What matters more than your theoretical training of the how and what of grief is finding out how your client is experiencing their grief. Some clients may notice how grief has changed how they think. Others may experience grief as a powerful feeling in the body. Others may be more concerned about the social effects of their loss and grief. Still others may feel that grief’s impact has been greatest in the realm of their spirituality. How can we begin with first noticing how our client talks about their grief experience? And then how can we begin exploring and noticing with our clients the spaces where grief is having strong effects, which they can bring more awareness, agency, and creativity to?

Reflect on your practice

  • Does your training and theoretical orientation prioritise seeing grief as a cognitive, emotional, social, physical, or spiritual experience? Or a combination of any of these lenses? Are there any of these lenses on grief that you tend to forget about, or have never attended to very much?
  • In your own experiences of loss and grief, have you noticed a tendency towards one of these lenses more than others? Have all your grief experiences been similar in this regard, or did you notice one loss having more social effects while another had more physical or spiritual effects?
  • What kinds of questions might support your clients to explore their grief experience and support needs across these many different lenses?
  • Do you have a network of specialist professionals you can refer to clients to, should you and your client notice that there is a lens on grief that is important to them, yet you’re ill-equipped to help them to explore it and bring more agency to it?

Our approach at The Creative Grief Studio

We cover a variety of different lenses for exploring and supporting your client’s grief experiences in our Certification in Creative Grief Support: cognitive and meaning-making approaches, emotional expression, physical agency, social and social justice aspects, and more. If this more diverse approach to grief support intrigues you or is aligned with the way you prefer to practice, then you can find the full course curriculum and apply to join us here.

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