Journeying Toward Wholeness

Vibrant Jung Thing Blog

4 Healing Truths About Loss & Bereavement Counselling

August 16th, 2013 · bereavement, bereavement counselling, counselling

The experience of deep loss is more common than we often realize; the need for bereavement counselling is greater than we often suppose.

bereavement counselling

Often, bereavement counselling issues arise in depth psychotherapy that was begun for other purposes.

Loss is Very Individual

Everyone grieves differently.  Differences in personality type, culture, life experience, and many other factors all directly bear on how an individual grieves.

Every relationship that an individual has with another is a unique combination, and this uniqueness also colours the character of each grief.

Grief and Bereavement: a Journey

Grieving individuals often fear that they will be “stuck” in bereavement forever — that the pain will never diminish.  Certainly, loss is permanent, and the sense of loss of a loved one is always in a person’s life.  But the acute pain of an initial grief reaction is something that, in his or her own time, and in his or her own way, the individual’s unconscious transforms into another way of holding the person who has passed.

Grief has a course in our lives.  Although Kubler-Ross was right about the range of  emotional states and stages that a person can experience in grief — Denial; Anger; Bargaining; Depression and Acceptance — it appears that the order and intensity of these stages can vary, and not all of them are necessarily experienced by every grieving person.  The path of grief is indeed a journey, as individual as each of the people who travel it.

bereavement counselling

Grief, Emotion and the Unconscious

Grief goes on in both the conscious and the unconscious minds, and is reflected in the meaning of dreams.  Jungian Mary Mattoon tells of a middle-aged woman who dreamt of visiting her deceased mother, who was unaccountably “crabby and inhospitable” in the dream.  In therapy, she began to realize that she had been quite depressed for many days leading up to the dream.  It turned out that the dream occurred almost exactly on the first anniversary of her mother’s death.  Due to the very serious illness of a child, the woman had been unable to be psychologically present to her loss.  The unconscious mind summoned her back to do her own grief work.

Grief, Healing and Individuation

I believe it is the master work of human life to be able to look  at grief and death, and to say: soul is here; meaning is here.

Grief makes us acutely aware of the human condition.  With its keen pain, it sharpens our awareness of the way in which human life is finite, bounded by the mystery of death. Yet, it simultaneously makes us powerfully, achingly aware of the miracle that is life — our own personal, individual life — and the imperative need within each of us to live and become the one we carry within us, as much as we possibly can.  Mark Knopfler expresses these realities powerfully in his fine song, Haul Away  (video by  ThePhil909 ):


Bereavement counselling from a depth psychology perspective is about accepting, ultimately making peace with, and finding meaning in, loss.

PHOTOS: Attribution Some rights reserved  by familymwr ; Nicholas_T   VIDEO: “Haul Away” Musical copyright Will D. Side Limited under exclusive licence to Mercury Records 
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)



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9/11, 2011, & Jungian Bereavement & Grief Counselling

September 14th, 2011 · bereavement, grief, grief counselling

grief counselling

Ten years on, changes in the ways 9/11 is commemorated can teach us a great deal about bereavement, about grief counselling, and about transformations and processes in grief.

The Globe and Mail article “After 9/11: for some it’s time to move on” highlights ways in which, 10 years on, the grief of relatives and survivors is undiminished, yet undergoing transformation.

  • Grief Changes

Grief counselling teaches us that grief evolves.  Particularly where loss is sudden or unexpected, it can result in feelings often as overwhelming as complete despair and hopelessness.  But the feelings can and do change, as the work of grief gets done over time.  The loss is not felt any less, but felt in a different way.

  • Experiences of Grief & Bereavement Differ

Interviews with 9/11 survivors show that grief is experienced differently by different people.  For some, the grief reaction is as keen and raw as on the original 9/11; for others, not.  Grief counselling shows no one “right way” to respond to grievors: we have to listen to their stories, and respond individually.

  • There is Healing in Grieving, but It’s Not the Same as “Getting Over It”

For some 9/11 grievers, a kind of healing has come with the passage of time.  The impact of their loss has not diminished.  But, there is some way in which they are starting to come to terms with it, and to find ways to move back into their lives.  They have found some kind of meaning and life energy that draws them.

  • Grief Counselling Lesson: Re-Traumatization is Not Grieving

In his 9/11 address, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said,  “We can never unsee what happened here.”  That’s true.  No one who has seen them will ever forget the dreadful images which the media with seeming relish keeps unrelentingly inflicting on 9/11 survivors and bereaved loved ones.  One clear lesson: that’s not the way to help anyone heal from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jungians recognize that, if a grieving individual can put the loss of the loved one into a meaningful context, and find a way to relate to the memory and personal reality of the lost loved one, life can go on.  Often, this return of life is experienced as the re-awakening of the desire to be in life.

I wish all of you, and especially those who may currently be carrying the burden of grief, the gift of meaning on your journey towards wholeness.

PHOTO: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved Brendan Loy
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, ON (near Mississauga)

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Grief Counselling, Bereavement & Jack Layton

August 27th, 2011 · bereavement, counselling, grief, grief counselling

grief counselling

The sad early passing of beloved Canadian political leader Jack Layton teaches us much about bereavement and grief counselling as archetypal experience.   Millions felt personally connected to Jack.  His warmth, deep personal conviction and love of Canadians made him a beloved figure on our political landscape.

We feel deep sadness and personal loss at his sudden decline and passing.  As a nation, we have experienced some of the key characteristics of grief reactions.

1) Even if Foreseen, Grief is an Incredible Shock

We saw Jack Layton on TV when he stepped aside in July.  We must have been aware that he did not look like his former self, and was obviously a very sick man.  We really knew he would not turn over the reins of the NDP without an extremely good reason.  Yet we experience deep shock upon his passing.

This is characteristic when people lose a loved one.  When the reality finally hits, we are absolutely stunned.  It’s incredibly hard to accept that the loved one is actually gone.  We find ourselves saying, “You know, I just keep expecting him/her to come through that door at any moment.”

2) We’re Outraged by Death

We feel outrage in the face of death, when someone passes at an age that seems far too young, as with Jack Layton, aged 61.  On a level that I believe is archetypal, we have a sense of what is a complete or full life.  When someone dies before that time, we feel that it is bitterly wrong.  It should somehow have been different.

3) We Want to Do Something — but We Don’t Know What

The death of a loved one fills us with a sense of powerlessness, even despair.  We’re overwhelmed with the desire to do something to make it better, to remove the sense of loss.  But there seems so little that concretely can be done. The loved one’s absence is so formidible and so unavoidable.

4) Finding Meaning in the Life of the Loved One — and Our Own

With time, we begin to find ongoing value and meaning in the life of the lost loved one.  We realize the ways in which we still carry the loved one within us, and how that brings meaning.  Through recall and ritual, we find ways to keep the person’s memory alive.

So it will be for us, remembering, celebrating and living out the spirit of Jack Layton, a man who, now forever, is “Le Bon Jack“.

PHOTO: ©  All rights reserved by thankyougravity
© 2011 Brian Collinson
2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)