Grief, Loss and Bereavement
Valerie “Billie” Klayman, M.A., LMFT
As we have learned through our training and education, everyone grieves differently, and there is no cookie cutter model. In my own experience working with those that are experiencing grief and loss from a recent death, the best session is where I have just listened. When the patient feels that resonance and attunement from me, that is where I have noticed in their non-verbal communication they are starting to feel heard and understood. Remember, the body holds a great deal of stress, tension, and memories. If the patient is becoming overwhelmed during the session, then my intervention is to gently encourage the patient to stop and breathe with me in order to slow down the escalation and increase resiliency. My experience over the last eleven and half years as a therapist has also included a patient distraught and inconsolable over the death of a loved one, which could also be a pet. At times patients have ambivalence regarding their loss and/or an inability to articulate their feelings due to the intensity of what they are feeling. I cannot stress enough how important it is for the therapist to manage their counter-transference so they can just BE WITH their patient.
Later in the grieving process I have invited my patient to think about how they would like to remember or honor their loved one. We look at how they might create an altar, or a memory box so they can continue a sense of connection with the loss of a loved one. If there is resentment, bitterness, and anger involved towards the one who has died, then a great deal of process work is done. The patient might write a letter to that person who they feel treated them badly and so as to feel a sense of liberation by using their voice and being authentic and genuine to themselves. With those that feel a sense of anger, bitterness, and resentment, the goal is to help alleviate those feelings that have stood in the way of their happiness.
A question for therapists to consider is, should I refer my patient to a grief and loss group? It is important to process with the patient whether they are ready for a group setting or even feel that is the right place for them. The opportunity for the therapist to be tender and exercise their listening skills is vital for the patient. How has this patient processed their feelings in the past in therapy? What should the therapist be looking for when processing bereavement? There is a wonderful article I invite you to read on the Good Therapy website, I have included the link below.
There are many support groups available and I will give you a short list to get you started. Please make sure you research other resources as well to see if these are appropriate for your patient(s). It is very important that you know enough about where and whom you are referring; otherwise this could cause unnecessary ruptures between you and your patient(s).
Most of us are familiar with Our House, so I’ve included additional resources for you to explore:
Our House Grief Support Center: Home
Grief Support Meetups in Los Angeles — Meetup
Grief Support Resources — Department of Public Health — Los Angeles
publichealth.lacounty.gov/mch/sids/Grief Support Informations_complete.pdf
California Grief Support Groups — Grief Counselors in California
The Jewish Bereavement Project
griefHaven — griefHaven support group meetings
I hope this article has been helpful and I encourage you to write to me if there are any topics you would like to explore and/or discuss.
Valerie “Billie” Klayman, M.A., LMFT, an integrative Meaning Centered Therapist, became a supervisor at Antioch University Counseling Center in 2014. Billie initiated a partnership between AUCC and the Culver City Senior Center offering pro-bono therapy and group therapy to members of CCSC. December 2016, Culver City hired Billie to help residents of the community at the Culver City Senior Center. She’s presented on Substance Abuse and Addiction. Billie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.