VIRTUAL-Understanding, Managing, and Learning from Grief in a Period Immediately Post-Covid


VIRTUAL TRAINING-Tuesday, October 26, 2021, 1:00 PM-4:00 PM-
$99 including CEUs
Understanding, Managing, and Learning from Grief in a Period Immediately Post-Covid
Barent Walsh, Ph.D.

People have recently experienced unprecedented, complex forms of grief in both their personal and professional lives. Human service professionals have lost individuals (clients, patients) at high rates previously considered unimaginable. These same persons may also have lost family members, friends, and colleagues. Other losses have included reduction of companionship and collegiality at work and diminished contact with extended family members. Youth have been separated from their peers, teachers, and mentors in school for an entire academic year. And adults have missed out on meaningful recreational activities such seeing friends, dining in restaurants, exercising in gyms, and attending concerts.

The specific features associated with Covid make grieving more difficult. Elders have died alone without personal contact or the physical touch of loved ones. News reports continue to be grimly dominated by death rates every day. The loss of an individual family member may have seemed minimized by the sheer volume of decedents everywhere. And the standard rituals of funeral rites and ceremonies have often been cancelled or postponed due to associated health risks.
This presentation looks at these diverse forms of grief using the empirically informed, seminal work of O’Connor (2019) and Bonanno (2019). They have debunked previous theories of stages of grief (e.g., Kubler-Ross, 1969) as empirically unsupported. Instead, they both point to findings that suggest “resilience” is the most common reaction to grief. And that unnecessary interventions with resilient individuals may do more harm than good.
More specifically, Bonnano cites evidence for four types of grief trajectories:

  1. Resilience – Generally about 60% of people who experience major losses recover very well within a short period of time with no need for professional intervention
  2. Recovery – An additional 20-30% may experience acute grief for a more extended period of time with some impaired functioning. However, these individuals recover within one to two years and show no serious long-term impairment
  3. Prolonged – About 10-15% show prolonged suffering and inability to function, usually lasting several years or longer. These individuals may have had a compromised level of functioning prior to the loss(es).
  4. Delayed grief or trauma - When adjustment seems normal but then distress and symptoms increase months later. Researchers have not found [clear] evidence of delayed grief, but delayed trauma appears to be a genuine phenomenon.
This presentation will also focus on what to do in response to grief, including:
  • Realizing that grief is normal, universal
  • Seeking support from those who can give it
  • Recognizing that some are uncomfortable with grief and that’s their limitation, not yours
  • Recognizing we’re in the helping professions; it’s okay to seek help. It’s a sign of strength and wisdom.
The presentation will also discuss “Meaning-Making” in relation to losses such as:
  • Honoring the legacy of the deceased with symbols, signs, rituals, and recognition
  • Reviewing and replaying positive memories in detail, such as using a photo/ digital album or scrapbook. This way one can reminisce but also put aside.
  • Communicating with/ asking for guidance from the deceased - if helpful
  • Carrying on positive aspects of that’s person identity in your own behavior: A living tribute
This presentation will prioritize audience participation re: the shared experience of the Covid pandemic and the myriad of losses associated with it.

Following this training the participants will be able to:
  • To identify different types of losses associated with the pandemic, including those which have been especially difficult
  • To explicate four types of grief trajectories per the expertise of George Bonanno and others
  • To elucidate different ways to manage grief including seeking support, obtaining professional help, and finding ongoing meaning in relation to the deceased

 

Barent Walsh, Ph.D. has written extensively and presented internationally on the topic of self-destructive behavior. He is the author of three books on non-suicidal self-injury, including Treating Self-Injury: A Practical Guide 2nd edition, Guilford Press, (2014). This volume has been translated into Japanese, Korean, Dutch and Polish.

Dr. Walsh is Executive Director Emeritus and Senior Clinical Consultant at Open Sky Community Services, a human service agency headquartered in Worcester, MA. Dr. Walsh is also a Lecturer on Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School at Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge, MA.

Dr. Walsh received the following recognition in 2021:

“On behalf of the International Society for the Study of Self-Injury (ISSS) Board of Directors, we would like to honour your extensive contributions to the field by inviting you to be an Invited Fellow of ISSS. This invitation reflects the highest recognition of your many contributions to the field, notably your seminal work and publications in the areas of assessment and treatment of self-injury.”

> back to Clinical Experts series