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Controversial proposal would diagnose grief a mental disorder

This is a ridiculous proposal.

Grief is the emotional and psychological equivalent to the Measles. It makes you feel miserable, but it's rarely fatal. With the application of  support from family, friends (and if necessary from professionals) it can even become an experience that helps us to grow and mature both individually and as a society.

Death is a universal human experience. Everyone who lives into adulthood will lose people close to them; family, friends, acquaintances. To recast the experience of grief as a mental illness will only serve to deepen our current societal difficulties in dealing with death. We live in a society that strives to deny this reality. We've created an entire industry to separate families from the intimate experience of waking and burying the dead. Where once family members died and were waked in their own home, we now have transferred these events into hospitals and funeral homes. We spend billions on an endless variety of cosmetics, medical procedures and pharmaceuticals to help us maintain the illusion of youth. Further facilitating this vanity by re-defining grief from a universal experience into something that requires medication is a BIG mistake.  Reality needs to be addressed 'head-on', especially when it is something that is so common an occurrence as grief and loss.


  1. "Reality needs to be addressed 'head-on', especially when it is something that is so common an occurrence as grief and loss."

    Very specifically, what are the steps you recommend to others for "dealing with reality head on." This phrase has a meaning for you but is a generalization and therefore is not understand by everyone except you. Be Detailed and specific with your answer.

    Tim, be warned, I'm a rare breed, an English Catholic brought up in the Benedictine Tridentine tradition. (BTW, I think the new Missal to be an abortion, half English half Latin. It's neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring.) I'm also a psychotherapist/hypnotherapist, dream therapist and spiritual be on your toes...LOL!

  2. Dave: Welcome to the blog! Since we're putting our credentials on the table (thanks, BTW) I'll let you know that I am a graduate social worker (prior career) who worked in family, marital and play therapy. My particular expertise was in family assessments. I followed the Structural Family Therapy model of the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic which focused upon structural and affective deficient structures within families.

    As to the Latin issue... that's entirely yours! I never studied for so much as a day on that subject. I do know though that the new translation is far closer to the French missal which I use everyday than the one we use now.

    Now, to the meat of your question: 'dealing with reality head on.'

    Grief is a universal experience. It is a normal life event. To label such an experience as a mental illness is to render that diagnosis meaningless. Grief is as normal a human emotion and experience as joy, love, happiness or anger. We face these experiences without cringing because we have learned from our earliest years how to deal with them.

    Grief is also an experience that is best experienced head on because that is the only way that we can successfully traverse it to peace and acceptance. Think of it as keeping a boat pointed into the wind, or a branch being carried along by a torrent of water. We keep ourselves oriented to the truth of our emotions as we experience them (lest they 'swamp' the boat). We need to allow ourselves to acknowledge our powerlessness to absolutely control how we feel on any given day that we are caught in the currents of grief lest be become entangled and drowned in the attempt.

    Finally, for the overwhelming majority of people, (there are always exceptions) grief is not fatal. While we do not necessarily ever 'get over' the pain of the loss, we 'get on' with the business of finding joy and meaning in our life. Our heart will ache by times like an old healed fracture, but eventually the pain fades into the background of our daily lives.

    Hope this helps to explain what I meant.

    Fr. Tim

    P.S. Great hat! It suits you well.

  3. Tim: You've explained the first generalizations with a set of other generalizations.

    Now let's see if you can get'er done! Imagine you had to explain the steps you'd help the grieving person through to an alien from outer space. What specific steps would you offer, or would you let them just muddle through?

    Remember there are people that get through their grieving based on the passage of time i.e. six, twelve, twenty four months. There are others that, playing victim take a lifetime. This last is especially true of those who have lapsed or have no faith.

    My expertise is as a MP-NLP and MP-EH and to identify their chinks in their behaviour, criteria and belief systems as measured by their linguistic patterns----the Enneagram.

    It's all yours.

  4. Dave: Neural Linguistic Programming! I didn't know anyone practiced that technique any more. Salvador Menuchin was its principal advocate wasn't he?

    Specific steps:

    1. lead them to see grief as an ordinary life experience
    2. acknowledge the depth of their pain/loss
    3. give permission to 'feel' whatever they are feeling while helping them learn to 'stay afloat'(using my authority as 'expert' to help them effect cognitive and behavioral change)

    Simply acknowledging that grief is both profoundly intimate and unique while still being universal is often all that people require. I modicum of compassion and concern, mixed with hope. For believers, the hope is in the resurrection. For non-believers, hope can simply be the assurance that millions of people go through the experience every day. That part of the mystery of grief. It is universal and yet each loss is personal to the bereaved.

    Grief lasts as long as it lasts. I still grieve the death of my parents and they've been dead for quite a few years. But my grief no longer contains the devastating effect that it had when they each died. Rather than crippling me, it now strengthens my hope and belief that the love shared with intimate family memories lives on past death. I try to communicate that hope - once a person is able to accept that it might be true for them as well.

    I have seen people crippled by the death of a pet. I've also seen people survive and thrive after the death of their entire family. But in only the rarest of instances would the experience lead to a mental illness - and usually then it really a pre-existing condition that manifests in the psychic stress of intense bereavement.

    Fr. Tim

  5. Dave: BTW, I remember reading a clergy guide to grief which stated that an indifferent celebration of rituals associated with death was the most significant factor to a complicated grief.

    Do you agree? If my experience as a priest is common, it would seem to match what I have witnessed. How about you?

    Fr. Tim

  6. Tim:
    Having given a very lengthy answer it wouldn't up load it. I'll have think about doing it again probably tomorrow.

  7. Tim: ( I have to split this response no several parts)
    It’s called NEURO-Linguistic Programming. It was started by John Grinder and Richard Bandler. It is used world wide. My teacher was Annee Linden who started the first institute located in NYC.

    True, hope maybe in the Resurrection but that’s too far removed for what they need. They need to live in the immediate future. Let’s put the Resurrection on hold for a minute.

    Grief is nothing more than a repeating Pity Party. Woe is me, alas and alack the day! Nobody loves, even God doesn’t love me He took my loved one away. Nobody will ever love me again. I’m useless, hopeless and helpless. Any or all of these apply. The grieving process is repeated a certain number of times or over a certain period of time. Assuming that they are ready and willing, my function is to both act as a catalyst and a witness to their pain contracting their grieving time to the shortest amount of time.

    On top of which, everybody that is grieving still brings with them their unresolved baggage from the past. So how do we resolve this.? I use the perception of time. For time is all we have and we don’t even know how much.
    We need two Timelines, an In-Timline and a Through -Timeline. For some people, their future In-Timeline begins at the centre of their chest and moves forward in a straight line and the past moves from a place directly behind them moving in a straight line backward. Their Through-Timeline is tangentially connected to them in the front of their chests with the past moving off to the left at a 45 degree angle while the future moves off to the right at a 45 degree angle. There are, of course, many other shapes of Timelines most of which are not supportive of the person and who they really are. The In-Timeline is used for being in the present, in the moment, while the Through- Timeline is used for planning the future. With the Through- Timeline, having both the past and the future in front of you allows you to see where you’ve been and to know where you’re going. This isn’t possible

  8. with the In-Timeline. There all you get is a kick in the ass by the past catching up to you.

    So now working with the past of the Through-Timeline, I elicit all of the person’s major traumas in chronological order. This usually only takes an hour. I have the person put their past Timeline on the floor. Standing in the present moment I have them turn their back on the past Timeline. I then acting as a witness to their pain I put them into the current death trauma. This is done only this one time and is done quite deliberately.
    I have them, in this traumatic state, walk backward over their past Timeline regressing them as they go until they reach their original unconscious trauma. It is their trauma state that releases this unconscious trauma to their conscious. As soon as that is identified I have them step off their Timeline and into a disassociated state. Then I have them gather current internal resources that they have now but were missing in the original unconscious trauma together with the internal resources of those others that participated in the original unconscious trauma. I have them stack them one atop the other. In this commanding resourceful state I have them step back on their past Timeline and walk slowly forward reliving all their traumas including the current one. In modified form this is repeated twice. The result is that all their traumas fall like dominoes. Remember, the original unconscious trauma was the removal of unconditional love by the parents. It is the ORIGINAL ABANDONMENT. Well, what do you think death is to the survivor? It’s the same song sung in a different key, as are all their traumas. This is not the end but the end of the beginning. This process usually takes two session each of two hours each.

    I think you have enough to chew on, but if you’re interested I can do a follow up dealing with the residual stress from some of the more traumatic episodes, internal conflicts, the double -bind dilemma, re-prioritizing criteria, expansion of beliefs and adoption of more appropriate behaviour in response to future stress. Finally, my unique and fast process to reconnect the person to the Infinite Love....the Resurrection. They are not normally ready for this until most of the work I’ve described is completed.

    Have fun with this.

  9. Tim:
    As to whether Grief should be counted as a mental disorder I’m of two minds. OTOH, it is something that most everyone experiences in their lifetimes as Grief is not defined by death alone but by Abandonment. This comes in many varies including divorce, loss of job, loss of income, loss of mobility etc. So yes it’s common place and most people don’t think they need therapy to work through it. OTOH, most people I know have either not worked through it or think they have when they actually haven’t. BTW, there’s an easy way to test, put them back into the traumatic situation and observe the response, but take them out fast if the response itself is traumatic.

    So considering both hands I have to put more weight on the mental disorder side.


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