Parks & Recreation
| May 01, 1997 | Cappel, Mary Lou; Mathieu, Susan Leifer
Loss and grief are topics that are rarely addressed in the training of recreation professionals, and yet they are an inevitable facet in our lives and the lives of our consumers. Recreation therapists working in high-crime areas, hospitals, hospice, and nursinghomes and those advocating for battered women, abused children, and the homeless consistently face loss, death, and grief on a daily basis with their clientele. However, there is little, if any, formal training in the area of grief counseling for most recreation professionals. But the need to understand and assist with the grieving process is both reasonable and necessary.
The Grief Workshop is aninteractive training which has been presented with significant success and gratitude to recreation therapists and allied professionals at state, regional and district levels, as well as to university students. Before assisting someone with their loss, it is advisable that the professional fully examines his/her own loss(es), reads related literature, and contacts bereavement organizations. The keyconcepts for an introductory exploration are presented in the following overview.
Your Previous Experience with Loss
The role of a professional is to assist grieving individuals into a period of adjustment. Grief work is very difficult, but before we begin to help others, we need to examine our own losses. And often, the deeper we look at ourselves, the more effective we can be with others.When a friend or relative suffers from a stroke or loses a parent or child, we are reminded of our vulnerability and may become frightened that we could easily be in the same situation.
There are many forms of loss, some more devastating than others. Obvious forms of loss include the death of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, retirement, or financial impoverishment. Other losses which are notso obvious may include moving, illness, separation, graduation, or a wedding. Even numerous "mini losses" such es haying an argument with a co-worker, receiving a traffic ticket, or failing an exam may accumulate and cause fatigue, depression, emptiness, and despair. In addition, with significant loss, we may experience a decrease in concentration, and changes in appetite, sleep patterns or sexdrive. The effect of loss is ultimately an individual perception and may be temporary, or in some cases, permanent.
Mourning a Loved One
Have you experienced the loss of a loved one? Although everyone experiences loss of some type in their lives, losing a loved one can be a painful and traumatic experience. We may feel that we have lost a significant part of our life, and if only for a moment, wemay feel an immense loss of our identity.
The grief we feel is caused by our loss, and mourning is the process of adapting to the losses in our life. Through the complex and personal process of mourning, we acknowledge the pain of loss, feel the pain, and then live past it. How we each mourn depends upon our state of readiness and our perception of loss.
Kubler-Ross (1969), a pioneerresearcher on death and dying, categorizes the coping mechanism of death as a series of five distinct stages: denial and isolation; anger, bargaining; depression; and finally acceptance. Although it has been argued that each grieving individual may pass through these stages in different sequences and spend a different amount of time in each stage, psychologists agree that there are several stages whichmost individuals encounter.
Whether the loss is sudden or predictable, the first reaction to death is shock and denial. At the onset, we may weep silently or out loud, and the shock may be mild or beyond comprehension. Some people feel a severe gut-wrenching pain deep inside their stomach, while others may feel stunned or look bewildered, not believing that the loss has occurred. Although these...