Narrative Therapy For Grief

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Grief is the multifaceted response to a change in a customary pattern of living. Thoughts and emotions are usually all over the map and there is also usually a great deal of ambivalence. The ephemeral, hard to pin down nature of grief makes narrative therapy, with its emphasis on externalizing conversations, ideally suited to help people make sense of what they are going through.

Narrative therapy uses externalizing conversations to separate the person from the problem in order to see the problem clearly and objectively, as something distinctly separate, something that can be dealt with on its own terms. When we separate the person from the problem we can say, in all honesty, “You are not the problem. The problem is the problem.” It’s a liberating feeling to suddenly achieve that distance, to realize that your personality is not synonymous with the issue you are facing, that you don’t necessarily need to change anything about yourself you just need to activate a skill set that you already have.

Externalizing grief means no longer seeing yourself as a ‘griever’ but instead seeing grief as its own complete entity, as something with a name, face, personality, and behavior patterns, something with a past, present, and future, something with strengths and weaknesses, something with goals and aspirations, something that interacts with you and others, something that has specific designs on the way your life will unfold from here on out.

The more you learn about how your grief operates, how, when and why it puts different thoughts and emotions into your head, the more will you clarify a process that is by its very nature difficult to understand since grief usually includes the full spectrum of emotions and a lot of conflicting thoughts and feelings. Grief is overwhelming, it’s easy to get lost in the maze, to sink down into the muck. Externalizing grief increases clarity. You create a sort of map for yourself, you make sense of where you are and where you’re headed by defining it in a way that is real to you since you’re using your own language, your own words, phrases, images, and ideas.