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On the last track we discussed displacement reactions. Two topics regarding displacement reactions that we discussed are why displacement reactions occur and identifying patterns and triggers of displacement reaction. We also discussed the I Think, I Feel, I Want technique.
On this track we will discuss delayed grief work. We will discuss how grief gets delayed and techniques for delayed grief work. Three techniques we will discuss are talking, cemetery visits, and drawing. As you listen to this track, you might consider playing it for the parent of a grieving child you are treating.
How Grief Gets Delayed
George involved the children in the funeral and explained to the children what had happened when they had found their mother slumped over the steering wheel of her car in the garage. The only thing George had omitted was that the death was a suicide. George had explained their mother’s death to the children as an accident.
As George tried to restore a normal life to his children over the next year, he found them irritable and prone to arguments, leading to frequent family fights. When George finally sought therapy, he told Evelyn, my colleague, that he had never mentioned suicide. Because the suicide remained a secret, Evelyn felt that the unspoken truth of suicide may have been causing some of the children’s problems. Evelyn asked me to sit in on one of the family’s sessions.
In that session, Evelyn asked the children, “What is it called when somebody purposely kills herself?” The 10 year old daughter, Tessa, instantly replied “Suicide.” Would you agree that Tessa’s instant reply revealed an awareness of suicide, and possibly a realization that it was acceptable for her to use that word? In the ensuing discussion, George was able to explain to his children that their mother had committed suicide. George also explained why he had told the children that their mother’s death was an accident. George stated, “I thought it would be easier for you kids if you didn’t know the real cause of your mother’s death.”
Other ways I have found that grief gets delayed include additional life changes, such as relocation or parents who remarry. Also, if the parents of the grieving child are having difficulty working through their own grief, they may overlook the importance of the child’s grief. Have you treated a grieving client whose grief work was delayed by misinformation, life changes, or a parent’s grief? If so, here are some techniques for delayed grief work.
Techniques: Delayed Grief Work
Next, George talked to his children about their feelings. By asking how they felt when they found their mother, how they felt at the funeral, and how they feel now, George realized that for some time his oldest two children suspected suicide.
Justin’s drawings contained question marks, revealing his questions about what happened and why. This insight into Justin’s concerns gave George and Evelyn a starting point for Justin’s delayed grief work.
On this track we have discussed delayed grief work. We discussed how grief gets delayed and techniques for delayed grief work. Three techniques we discussed are talking, cemetery visits, and drawing.
On the next track we will discuss resolving childhood grief as an adult. The two main topics regarding resolving childhood grief as an adult on the next track are latent signs of childhood grief and why childhood grief spills into adulthood.
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