Grief: Adaptive, maladaptive, and transformational

I think most of us would readily admit that we avoid pain in our lives to the best of our ability. After all, it’s a response that’s built into our very nervous system! However, healthy individuals are also able to accept the fact that some pain in life is inevitable and unavoidable. When it comes to the pain associated with grief, we may sense a desire to rid ourselves of that pain as quickly as possible, but the truth of the matter is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” timetable for grief and there are certainly no quick fixes. When we experience grief or recognize it in others, one of … [Read more...]

Bereavement, Grief, and Mourning

No one should underestimate the importance of the words we use to understand the world around us. In Genesis, we read that “the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof” (Genesis 2:9). According to Saint John Chyrsostom, this was written in order that “we might learn not only of his wisdom, but also in order to show the symbol of dominion through the assignment of names” (Homily 14 on Genesis, PG 53.116). Certainly, it was important … [Read more...]

Knowing the Symptoms and Signs of Grief

“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed Intellectually, we all realize that eventually we will lose our loved ones. We try not to think about that too much as if guarding it as a remote notion in our minds staves off this inevitability. After all, as Saint Gregory of Nyssa observes, “There is an instinctive and … [Read more...]

Stages of Grief

Before the dawn of the internet, AAA (American Automobile Association) used to offer its “Trip Tiks” or helpful booklets that would detail one’s journey.  In addition to providing the best route to a given destination, it would also suggest places to stay or visit along the way.  At the time, they were very popular and I suspect their popularity was related to the human need to know beforehand about a journey’s particular details such as what to see, what to avoid, and most importantly, what to expect. If we adopt the journey metaphor to describe the phases or stages of grief, we recognize … [Read more...]

Finding Meaning in Grief

In the plethora of human experiences, grief is perhaps the most universal and most likely the most difficult with which to cope. The very nature of grief demands that the event that precipitated the grief become meaningful. Yet how can the loss of a person that held together one’s inner world possibly become meaningful? How can a meaningless loss ever become a meaningful gain? Somehow, one needs to find a thread of meaning that can allow one to be grateful for the past, to accept the present, and have hope for the future, but where can that golden thread be found? The philosopher Friedrich … [Read more...]

Is Forgiveness Essential?

I think it should be clear from what we have discovered about forgiveness in earlier posts that forgiveness is beneficial at many levels of human life, physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually.  Is it at the same time essential to human existence?  This is one of the important questions posed by E. Wayne Hill in his article, “Discovering forgiveness through empathy:  implications for couple and family therapy” published in the Journal of Family Therapy.  Is forgiveness more analogous to an enjoyable sunset or a restful vacation, a beautiful moment that brings refreshment? Or is … [Read more...]

Forgiveness of Wrongs and the Remembrance of Wrongs

Statements such as “I will forgive, but I won’t forget” and “Forgive your enemies but never forget their names” are oft-quoted phrases that remain popular to this day.  They represent a tip of the hat to the virtue of forgiveness while reserving the full rights to nurse the offense well into the future.  While some will view such an attitude as practical in a world where self-preservation is paramount, these sentiments aren’t supported by psychological research and are even further from the spirit of the Church. In fact, holding such attitudes has been found to be detrimental to … [Read more...]

The Way Towards Forgiveness and the Way of Denial

Genuine forgiveness requires rigorous honesty. That is why there is perhaps no greater obstacle to forgiveness than denial, for when we deny that an offense has occurred, when we refuse to admit that the offended is a valuable human being, or when we minimize the consequences of our wrongs, we are denying ourselves the possibility of looking within, of taking responsibility for our actions, of amending our misdeeds, and of changing in a direction that leads to peace and to love. We are denying the very possibility for forgiveness. Why do we give into denial? The primary culprits are a fear of … [Read more...]

Fostering Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a source of many blessings. Through forgiveness we gain a brother or sister who was lost. Through forgiveness, it is as though we who were dead through resentment once again become alive through a mended relationship. Through forgiveness, we touch the living Source of all forgiveness, our most forgiving Lord. In reflecting upon forgiveness, I’ve written about the positive effects forgiveness, which are bestowed upon the one who forgives as well as the one who is in need of forgiveness. It is highly beneficial physically, psychologically, socially, and most importantly, … [Read more...]

Being Conscientious, Being Warm, and Being Forgiving

How we approach problems in our relationships with others and whether or not we are inclined to seek forgiveness depends not only on our free will and our openness to the teachings of the Gospel, but also on the virtues we hold most dear. Some people value warmth that translates into showing compassion, demonstrating empathy, and exhibiting altruism. Others tend to prize conscientiousness that means exercising self-control, manifesting integrity, and championing justice. The set of virtues that we allow to be the primary guide of our actions will play a direct role on our disposition to … [Read more...]