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A Columbarium Program Offers Compassion

Your group is excited it has made the decision to include a Columbarium on the campus. The committee chose the perfect design and construction partner, loves the master plan. Enough niches have been sold so construction of the first phase has been completed. The tracking of the sales online is easy and everything is going great! There is a death of a member and the family approaches you needing help. You are ready to offer guidance in selecting a niche, but realize their grief is deep and they really need your help and compassion.  The idea that grief has specific stages is a popular belief. Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, suggested that mourners pass through five stages:
• Denial or numbness – not believing this is happening
• Anger- blaming someone or ourselves for what has happened, feeling of helplessness or powerless
• Bargaining – to try to have the situation return to before, or thinking about the “what ifs”
• Depression – empty feelings, intense sadness
• Acceptance – accepting the reality of our loss loved one.

It was thought that if a mourner was not able to work through a stage was a sign of psychological difficulty and therapists were encouraged to help people pass through each of the phases. But the evidence for these stages has evaporated.
Psychologist George Bonanno has studied people course of grief from before they were bereaved to months afterwards. His research determined that there was little evidence for a progression through specific stages of adjustment, and even the belief that most people are plunged into despair and gradually "get better" turned out to be a cliché. Sadness is a common response to loss, but an experience of deep debilitating anguish tends to be the exception rather than the rule. People are sorrowful but they are neither depressed nor disabled by their experience. He also concluded that there are a small percentage of people who do suffer a complicated or prolonged grief; this is when the feeling of the loss is intense and causes significant impairment. But in terms of the traditional concept of grief, most people experience their loss differently.

Dr. Phil says, "Although the experience of grief in some form or another is universal, our reactions within the overall process vary widely. Newer research and my own experience tell me that, really, there are not stages of grief but an array of feelings that arise." He continues, “These emotions don't pop up in a specific order, and it's rare that one set ends completely before another begins. More likely, you'll experience a number of emotions perhaps one at a time, perhaps three at a time.” Dr. Phil suggests that the people who experience a loss should let their emotions rein. To cry if they need to cry or don’t worry if you don’t cry. The spectrum of emotions they may experience is huge. It can range from shock and numbness, to fear and panic, to anger and resentment. Dr. Phil says, “they may think being alone will ease the pain, but it rarely does." So encourage the family member you are talking with to not be alone. Let them talk about the life of their loved one. Help them see what a wonderful life they had. Celebrate their life with the family. He continues to tell us that some people may questions their faith, especially if it is a death of a child or if it was due to an accident. He also feels that guilt may arise. Guilt for being able to live their life, or for not being able to save their loved one from death.
So be prepared to meet different people with different emotions. Don’t judge of person if they don’t seem deeply sadden by their loss they may be feeling something different at that moment. Be encouraging, compassionate, and take each individual as they come.


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