Focusing on “remembering” practices is new to grief counseling. Traditional approaches to grief counseling are guided by the concepts of stages or tasks, usually to move the person toward accepting the reality of loss and to say “good-bye” to their deceased loved one. This alternative approach to grief counseling, driven by social constructionism and the narrative perspective, works to keep dead loved ones close and their voices alive. Here the process of a grief counseling group for students at middle and high school levels based on these principles is outlined along with some preliminary responses from participants.
“It’s not a club, it’s group counseling. There’s individual counseling and there is also small group counseling. So we meet for six sessions and we have different activities that we do. The main difference between this and traditional group counseling is that traditional group counseling is based on the work of Elizabeth Kubler Ross and she has this idea that when somebody has lost somebody, they go through stages like anger, denial and certain stages. And the idea is that once you get past these certain stages you get over it and move on with an identity that’s severed from that person,” said middle school counselor, Ms. DeWitt.
“Grief and loss is also individual and personal, and I think that a lot of times when students go through something that significant when they lose a friend, when they lose a brother, when they lose a parent, when somebody dies, they feel like they’re the only ones going through that. So group counseling is different than individual counseling because you’re in a group with some other members, usually five to eight other people, who have gone through something similar. And so our first meeting, we just get to know each other, we talk about the fact that we’re going to have complete confidentiality, we’re not going to talk about things outside of the group; we’re not going to talk about other people. We just introduce each other the person that we’ve lost.”
There are certain activities that they do like making “Remembering Cards” where you write down all the things that you really loved about the person that you’ve lost.
If you’re interested in joining the group, you can meet with Ms. DeWitt in the counseling office. She can meet with you individually, answer any questions you have, and she has permission slips that you’ll need to fill out saying that you want to participate. Sessions will start in the middle of March and will be once a week with alternating periods, so you won’t miss the same class twice. Ms. DeWitt has done this twice before at school, proven by her research that she did with VITAS Innovative Hospice Care with other counselors. For further information, her research is called “Grief Counseling Groups for Adolescents Based on Remembering Practices”.
“The basic idea of the group is that the relationship you have with a person doesn’t end when they’re no longer physically here and that’s what we try to convey.”