2-26. DYNAMICS OF GRIEF
If one is to integrate a loss, he must come to terms with his objective loss and
with the threat that loss poses for his life and well being. He must also contend
successfully with the fear and anger which results. There are both positive and
negative aspects of every relationship so that in bereavement, both positive and
negative feelings will be present. The "unacceptable" feelings of anger toward a person
who has been valued, loved, and now lost may make the expression of grief a very
difficult task, complicating it with guilt. Also, a person may be afraid of any deep
feelings. Although grief is trying, it is a healing phenomenon. It is our way of being
separated from someone or something with which our life is intimately entwined. It
involves the process of withdrawing ties and establishing new ones. All the rituals
surrounding death and burial are designed to help us do this important work of
2-27. HELPING THE BEREAVED
a. One central question concerns the expression of feelings. Most people can
express some of their feelings, but still deny and repress others. Some will recoil from
any strong feelings. After the initial period of shock, these feelings will have to be
expressed or the person's well being may be gravely compromised.
b. Frequently, it may be important to consider whether the person feels
adequate to face life and go on, whether he feels valuable or worthless, or whether he is
optimistic or pessimistic about the future. If he feels that things will work out and that he
is a person of value who is adequate in dealing with life, he is more likely to be able to
abandon himself to grief and do the work of mourning without panic. It is also important
for him to see that his pain has purpose and is useful in some way.
c. The bereaved person should bear the responsibility for making decisions and
choices, although he may need considerable support. Making decisions about funeral
arrangements helps the bereaved to face the fact of death.
2-28. MEDICAL PERSONNEL AND HOSPITAL AS SCAPEGOATS
a. There are certain cases where the bereaved may justifiably blame the doctors
or the hospital and its staff for the loss of a patient. On the other hand, there are a great
many cases in which the doctors and hospital personnel have done all that was
reasonably possible to save a patient, yet are vehemently blamed for his death. A
malpractice suit may even result. This can be a baffling experience unless the
dynamics underlying this response are understood.