Aim of bereavement care

Paul J Moon, PhD, is Corporate Bereavement Coordinator at Alacare Home Health and Hospice, Alabama, USA. Here he explains the background to his longer article published in the May/June edition of the European Journal of Palliative Care.

Paul J Moon

Paul J Moon

During my 15 years of practising grief counselling and programming, I’ve been a witness to grievers’ stories. In the process, I have also provided supportive counsel. The conceptual foundations of my counsel have varied. For instance, psychodynamic principles of so-called grief work can be valuable sometimes in describing general characteristics of personal loss and grief. The thrust of grieving, per psychodynamic view, is to supposedly sever the relational tie (bond) to the deceased in order to establish new relationships. Then, there are cognitive-behavioural perspectives of grief, which remain helpful in that loss responses are seen as great stressors that may be handled by exercising coping skills. More recently, a constructivist view popularized subjective (personal) interpretations of life losses. This approach explains that mourners can strive to reconsider and rewrite their personal life stories, after important losses, so their private worlds make sense again.

Clearly, multiple theories attempt to clarify the complexity of grief (as well as bereavement), including the goal(s) of grief process. However, I became dissatisfied with grief process aims being merely of returning to baseline status, or coping with stress and ‘surviving’ the loss, or constructing new personal life stories. I thought these to be rather incomplete.

Some years ago, I published a paper on Pedagogy of Mortality, which depicts our mortality as a source of learning instead of something only to be feared or despised. While working on this concept and labouring in hospice care, a bereavement-grief care aim was conceived with the goal to support grievers in developing a meaningful sense of need for active preparation for future death events, including one’s own. This aim involves processing a current loss, reflecting on one’s personal past, and taking action in areas of personal life as preparation for future losses (i.e., making amends, prioritizing life goals, etc.). In short, bereavement-grief care can have the aim of encouraging grievers to soberly recognize future losses and take intentional actions now to prepare.

You see, the phenomenon of grief, including bereavement, goes beyond just coping, or surviving losses, or finding new relationships. Rather, a deeper aim of grief process can include an honest preparation for the next grief event as well as one’s own assured death. Not a cheerful outlook, I know, but this is our human condition. Indeed, is it not wise to get ready for what cannot be avoided?

A useful bereavement care agenda, in my humble opinion, not only focuses on immediate loss and methods of care delivery to grievers, but also a clear eventual aim of such care. Among bereavement care aims can be the supporting of grievers in seeing the sensibility of composing a plan to prepare for future death events, including one’s own.

So I ask: How are you actively preparing for your next grief event? How are you preparing for your eventual demise and death?

Much courage to us all in meaningfully planning lest we be caught unprepared, which only adds to the sense of loss.

Moon PJ. Pedagogy of mortality: a concept in progress. J Loss Trau. 2010; 15:325–38.

EJPC23.3coverRead the full article in the European Journal of Palliative Care
This post relates to a longer article, Aim of bereavement care: Considerations by Paul J Moon, published in the May/June 2016 edition of the European Journal of Palliative Care (vol. 23.3).

If you have a web-based subscription to the journal you’ll be able to download this issue, plus all articles in the journal archive. You can also browse the archive and download articles by taking a 10-minute or 30-minute subscription. Members of the EAPC receive discounted subscription rates to the journal – click here to subscribe online.

Paul J Moon email.


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This entry was posted in BEREAVEMENT, EAPC-LINKED JOURNALS, European Journal of Palliative Care and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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