Grief is an experience we all go through in our lives and can be experienced due to many factors.
Factors that contribute to parents’ complicated grief
Grief is an intense emotional state in the face of loss. The level of grief felt can be gauged by the intensity of the relationship. The more connected and in depth the relationship the more severe the level of grief will be. The intensity of the grief experience will also vary depending upon the level of maturity, mental health, age, and the status of the relationship. Grief can leave an emotionless flatten affect often associated with depression. This flatten effect makes it difficult to express to others the emotional concerns one is facing. Difficulties in accepting the loss of another is often experienced by those that are closest to the dead. This state can leave a person feeling erratic, emotionally distraught, or unable to move forward in their daily lives. In addition one may feel unable to return to the things they once enjoyed or experience positive emotions or enjoyment of others do to grief. A person may become bitter of the loss of their loved one causing an emotional or personality shift that displays angry demeanor in most aspects of their lives. An intense desire to see or be with the deceased may be present and complicated the recovery from one’s grief. Complicated grief is where one is experiencing extreme difficulties in recovering from the loss of their loved one whether a child or parents. In the case of a parent complicated grief can be extreme. A primary factor that affects a parent’s grief is the memories of their life together ([No title], n.d.). These factors may exacerbate the loss of a child is the domicile (home) that the family unit resides within. Though the child has been lost a parent will still have the memories of the time shared within the home. Memories such as bedtime routines, or games, the joy of bringing their child home from the hospital upon birth for the first time may plague a person’s emotion causing complication in the grief process. Another factor that inhibits a parent’s grief due to the lose of a child are school routines, a parent may not be able to handle the disruption in the traditional routing and be able to approach certain aspects of routines that were previously associated with school activities. This can also be expanded to all other location where share events have occurred. This could be parks, stores, or contact with other parents. Another factor that is often associated with complicated grief from the death of a child is improper understanding or support from their spouse. In this situation a parent often becomes angry with their spouse over the death of their child this is due to improper emotional handling and redirecting their grief in the form of anger towards their support element. Often couples grieving over a loss seek divorce or separation from their spouse due to what is perceived as poor support (3 Grief Counseling Therapy Techniques & Interventions, 2018).
Emotions and Reactions
Complicated grief over the loss of a child can be experienced in a variety of ways. A parent may find themselves longing to be with their child and becoming increasingly depressed by the realization that they will never return. A parent can experience a level of emotional flatness, to where they are unable to express themselves properly to their spouse or others in an effort to recover from grief. In addition, a parent may not be able to accept the loss of their child. This could lead to an upheaval in their ability to function on a regular basis. A parent may find themselves wishing to exchange their lives instead of their child’s. Parents will typically experience social withdrawal from their family or friends, they may also find it hard to return to work within a reasonable amount of time. Guilt is consistently an unending feeling that parents will experience regardless of how the child passes. They may find themselves constantly questioning their action in what “could have” or “might have” saved their child’s life. Through this reflection they are demonstrating an intense level of complicated grief (Complicated grief – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, 2017).
Treatment Goals and Interventions
Bereavement counseling is the practice of providing support for emotional distraught through existential, individual, and group therapy. During therapy a counselor may seek to have their client cover the death of their loved one through a safe environment that offers trust, support, and understanding. A counselor may then address the relationship through description of the development and the bond that brought them together. During counseling a therapist will address any guilt that is being experienced, anxiety, depression, and helplessness. A counselor will look for healthy coping skills and create new coping skills that the client can use to assist them during stressful moments. A counselor will also seek to identify negative coping skills such as substance abuse or self harming (Kvarnstrom, 2018).
Suicide and Teen Substance Abuse
Teen suicide numbers in American compared to other nations is quite high. Of these teens that commit suicide it is highly likely that substance abuse played a factor in the death of a parents child. 90 percent of all teens will try alcohol or drugs. Of teen suicide 50 percent of all attempts have been diagnosed with a mental illness. The teenage years of one’s life is a natural and erratic shift from childhood to adulthood where one is developing social, emotional, and physical changes during their transition into becoming an adult. This transition can lead to antisocial behavior, depression, or anxiety. For parents of teens who commit suicide it is (The Link Between Substance Abuse & Suicide in Teens, n.d.)important to remember it is not your fault, there are environment, genetic, and social factors that contributed to a child mental status that led to suicide. The continued use of substance led to an alter mind state that sought suicide as a potential solution to their problems
Questions to ask a Grieving Family
There are several question parents may want to ask their child when it comes to substance abuse. These questions may gauge who they are associating with and their knowledge of substance abuse. Do you know anyone that has been arrested for substance abuse?; Are any of your friends abusing drugs? (Yasgur et al., 2018)
Debrief the Counselor.
In the realm of counseling it is in evitable that a client may attempt to commit suicide. Client suicide often occurs due to a permanent or temporary mental illness that has over taken the person and they are no longer able to properly function and see self-termination as the only solution. Suicidal symptoms are displayed through comments of death, anti-social behavior, donating or giving away personal belongings, even ones that are held dearly to one, hopelessness, risky behavior, substance abuse, creating or obtaining the means to self-end, or saying goodbye. Typically a person who is committing suicide will develop a plan for their demise and make arrangements for their personal affects when their gone. They may seek out a place where they cannot be interrupted, depending upon their gender they may seek the end in a certain particular way. Most men commit self-harm through abrupt/ abrasive means, while women seek less destructive methods in self harm. A person that is developing a plan seeks to assure their loved one has access to their accounts and personal belonging. A client suicidal thoughts are the result of permanent or temporary mental illness were life’s stressor have overwhelmed their coping abilities and their mind become narrowly focused as death is the only plausible solution. A counselor reacting to a client who commits suicide may demonstrate depressive behavior at the loss of their client. Though professionally it is considered taboo to demonstrate a level of sorrow for a loss of the client. It should be expected to only naturally to experience a level of bereavement for the loss. A counselor will spend substantial time with a client developing a bond of trust which can be broken upon the knowledge of the client death. A counselor may feel that this was their fault for failing to see all of the signs, a sorrow feeling may over take them, the counselor may feel they are a failure for not being there for the client, a counselor may feel worthless, angered, or inadequate. In addition, the counselor may potentially face legal action from the survivors who entrusted the therapist to provide treatment for their loved one’s mental illness. This can add an extra layer in addition to the bereavement process that the counselor is experiencing. A counselor should seek the assistance of a peer or supervisor to address the bereavement process as well as consult with an attorney upon any legal action that may arise.
Kvarnstrom, E. (2018, March 5). Treating Complicated Grief After the Death of a Child – Bridges to Recovery. Bridges to Recovery. https://www.bridgestorecovery.com/blog/treating-complicated-grief-death-child/
The Link Between Substance Abuse & Suicide in Teens. (n.d.). American Addiction Centers. Retrieved June 14, 2020, from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/blog/link-between-substance-abuse-suicide-in-teens
Yasgur, B. S., MA, & LSW. (2018, October 4). Those Left Behind: Working With Suicide-Bereaved Families – Psychiatry Advisor. Psychiatry Advisor. https://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/home/topics/suicide-and-self-harm/those-left-behind-working-with-suicide-bereaved-families/