What is Grief? How do we find peace after a loss? What do we do with the heartache? with Claire Willis, LICSW

What is Grief?
How do we find peace after a loss?
What do we do with the heartache?
[Episode 56 of The Intentional Clinician]

Claire Willis LICSW joins Paul Krauss MA LPC to discuss grief and coping with loss. Willis is a social worker with more than 20 years of experience in the field of oncology and bereavement. She is the author of two books which will be discussed: Opening to Grief: find your way from loss to peace, which she co-wrote with Marnie Crawford Samuelson, and Lasting Words: A Guide to Finding Meaning Toward the Close of Life. As a  co-founder of the Boston nonprofit Facing Cancer Together, Willis has led bereavement, end-of-life support, and therapeutic writing groups. As a lay Buddhist chaplain, she focuses on contemplative practices for end-of-life care. She has also co-taught Spiritual Resources for Healing the Mind, Body, and Soul at Andover Newton Theological School. Currently, she maintains a private practice in Brookline, Massachusetts.  OpeningtoGrief.com

Willis describes their book as “a companion to grief.” She wants people to understand that they are not alone in their grief and that all forms of expressing grief are appropriate. She describes grief as having both negative and positive expressions. Put simply, grief is a normal reaction to the loss of something or someone we loved. This can change us physically or mentally, and there is such a broad range of responses that can affect all aspects of our lives. Avoiding grief can backfire, so it is important to allow ourselves to express it–things that we do not deal with inside manifest themselves on the outside.

Secondary losses are also important to consider. The effects of them can be just as profound as primary losses since they signal life adjustment. Loss of identity, depression, and other effects can occur. One effect can be shame–many people are ashamed of some of their grieving behaviors. However, there is no “right” way to grieve, so it is important to continue reducing the stigmatization surrounding grief. Unfortunately, our society has socialized us to fight back tears and not ask for help.

For those who are grieving, Willis suggests being kind to yourself, spending time in nature, and journaling or writing. These are detailed in Opening to Grief, but the main idea is that they can bring comfort. Willis also discusses the loss of pets and how it is distinctly different from the loss of human life. In a society that avoids conversations about death, it is important to maintain adequate coping skills throughout the grieving process. For more information on Willis’ work or to preorder her book, check out this website.

Paul Krauss MA LPC is the Clinical Director of Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids, home of The Trauma-Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids. Paul is also a Private Practice Psychotherapist, EMDRIA Consultant in Training (CIT), host of the Intentional Clinician podcast, Behavioral Health Consultant, Clinical Trainer, and Counseling Supervisor. Paul is now offering consulting for a few individuals and organizations. Paul is the creator of the National Violence Prevention Hotline (in progress)  as well as the Intentional Clinician Training Program for Counselors. Questions? Call the office at 616-200-4433.

If you are looking for EMDRIA consulting groups, Paul Krauss MA LPC is now hosting weekly online and in-person groups.  For details, click here.

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