Grief: Loose Ends by Rea L. Ginsberg, LCSW-C, ACSW, BCD

Saturday, 26 Sep 2015 02:38


Change is part of the texture of life itself,

But it is often hard to bear

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks


Everyone grieves in a different way.

No way is the right way.

No way is the wrong way.

No one has a proven rule for the right way.

No one has a prescription for all.

Our personal way is the only way.

Each human is unique and uniquely thought-full.

You are not alone.


Each of us has our own timelines for grieving.

No one has the right to impose his charts and patterns on those who grieve.

No Association or Committee has that right, either.

Take the necessary time, no matter the length.

That is the healing path.

When you need me, I will come.


Grief is not a mental illness.

Grief is not a mental disorder.

Tears and fears are not pathology.

The last Goodbye is so hard to say.

Grief is imperative wherever love existed.

There, grief is urgent and important.

Good Grief.

You will need me. I will come. Friendship can be an anchor.


Children are not small adults.

They grieve differently.

We must acknowledge and respect those differences.

Death understanding is self-referenced: “I caused the dying.”

Omnipotent thinking belongs to every early childhood.

It is not wrong. It is normal. Don’t try to change omnipotent thinking. We can’t!

We would only humiliate, causing loss of dignity and self-respect.

We CAN temper death guilt/anger by calmly talking and explaining and loving.

You are not alone. Whenever you need me, I will come – to comfort, protect, and redirect.


Guilt is not confined to childhood.

Every griever feels some guilt, whether spoken or held in silence.

It insists, “I did that wrong and it is my fault.”

It cannot be avoided because it is the way of the human mind.

It is a vestige of childhood omnipotence and an effort to be in control of our environment.

(“If I did it, then I also have the power to undo it.”)

Guilt causes pain and then anger.

What? How can we be angry at someone who is already dead?

Anger causes shame and embarrassment.

Pain and anger, shame and embarrassment – all are hard to manage.

They make grief worse, surely at first, surely later as well.

“Loss of a loved person is one of the most intensely painful experiences any human being can suffer. And not only is it painful to experience but it is also painful to witness…”   [John Bowlby]

You are not alone. When you need me, I will come.


Talk about it!

That could help a lot.

Smart people say so,

And it also works for me:

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.” [Wm. Shakespeare]

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” [Maya Angelou]

Sigmund Freud’s “talking cure” became the foundation for innumerable subsequent forms of psychotherapy. — Talking therapy: the purchase of friendship.

“In our experience, we found that one of the best ways [to help survivors] is to…talk about the loss.”   [J. Wm. Warden]

“I write to understand as much as to be understood.” [Elie Wiesel]

“Talking is part of healing, not because it cures physical illness, but because it gives us the strength that comes from knowing that we are not alone. Pain shared is pain halved…” [Rabbi Sacks]   Sometimes talking does also help to cure physical illness.

Even a smile or a single kind word can return to someone the will to live.

It is a great achievement to be an agent of hope.

Give sorrow words.

You are not alone. You will need me. I will listen.


Positive Psychology has a legitimate place in our dialog and literature.

It must. It promotes personal growth. Post-traumatic growth – PTG.

It fosters health and wellness, mental wellness. “Flourishing.” [B. Fredrickson]

The term “mental wellness” is strange for us, something like a foreign language.

Sometimes we are too focused on mental illness and blind to mental wellness.

Usually, when we talk about “mental health,” we intend to emphasize mental illness.

We need a concept of mental wellness to balance our entrenched views of mental illness.

“Beautiful people don’t just happen.” [Kubler-Ross] We can grow from adversity.

Grieving and healing can bring greater kindness, caring, gentle confidence, and hope.

“It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.” [Theodor S. Geisel]

You are not alone. When you need me, I will come.

We are responsible for one another.

We have more courage in the company of others.

Together we are stronger.

We can turn tragedy into mastery.

Together we win.



Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,

Love leaves a memory no one can steal.

— A Headstone in Ireland



A Headstone in Ireland

Maya Angelou, ­I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, 1969.

John Bowlby, MD, Attachment and Loss, Vol. 3, Loss: Sadness and Depression, 1986.

Film: “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” released 2014.

Barbara Lee Fredrickson, PhD, Positivity, and many professional articles

“Flourishing” is defined as living “within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience.” It is the opposite of pathology. 2005

Sigmund Freud, esp. The Clark Lectures (Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis), Worcester, MA, Sept., 1909

Theodor S. Geisel, The Lorax, 1971.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, MD, Death: The Final Stage of Growth, 1997.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan H. Sacks, PhD, Celebrating Life: Finding Happiness in Unexpected Places, 2004.

William Shakespeare, Macbeth, 1623.

Elie Wiesel, source/date unknown.

William Worden, PhD, Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, 2001.


Rea Ginsberg is a retired director of social work services, hospice coordinator, and adjunct professor of clinical social work


#eol #hpm #loss #grief #childhood #talking #GiveSorrowWords #MentalWellness #hope

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