Facing Grief: Week Three Materials

Facing Grief

Week Three Materials

Soul & Science Video

Presenter Wendy Howard discusses the importance of circles of support in the grieving process. In general, women more easily “tend and befriend” while men “defend and protect”. Wendy explains that all genders need to be able to connect with others when facing the pain of loss and offers meaningful best practices to find or provide these emotional resources. After viewing this video, use the “questions to ponder” to explore your relationship with group support.

Questions to Ponder & Journaling Exercises

1. How relevant do you find this teaching? “The number one thing a caregiver can do for another is to say ‘you are not alone’.” –Florence Nightingale. Use a 1-5 scale. 1- Not At All Relevant/5- Extremely Relevant

Not At All Relevant                                           Extremely Relevant

Knowing we all need care in times of grieving, when have you either given or received the above message in a time of suffering? When have you needed to give that reassurance or hear that reassurance and it was not offered? What was the impact?

2. “Was it you or I who stumbled first? It does not matter. The one of us who finds the strength to get up first, must help the other.” ― Vera Nazarian

Name someone who has shown you great support. What are the essential qualities of that support? How can you use those lessons in giving support to others?

3. “Reconnection to the natural world—whether through gardens, animals, nature walks outside, or nature brought indoors—not only alleviates these symptoms [anxiety, frustration, and depression], but also brings a larger capacity for health, self-esteem, self-relatedness, social connection, and joy” – Craig Chalquist

How might time with nature alleviate aspects of grief and provide connection and solace? What insights can it bring? Discuss a time you found nature to have healing properties.

Best Practices

1. This week, make a goal to grow your social network. The American Physiological Association offers the following advice on how to grow your support circle.

“Cast a wide net.  When it comes to your social supports, one size doesn’t fit all. You may not have someone you can confide in about everything  — and that’s okay. Maybe you have a colleague you can talk to about problems at work, and a neighbor who lends an ear when you have difficulties with your kids. Look to different relationships for different kinds of support. But remember to look to people you can trust and count on, to avoid disappointing, negative interactions that can make you feel worse.

Be proactive.  Often people expect others to reach out to them, and then feel rejected when people don’t go out of their way to do so. To get the most out of your social relationships, you have to make an effort. Make time for friends and family. Reach out to lend a hand or just say hello. If you’re there for others, they’ll be more likely to be there for you. And in fact, when it comes to longevity, research suggests that providing social support to friends and family may be even more important than receiving it.

Take advantage of technology.  It’s nice to sit down with a friend face-to-face, but it isn’t always possible. Luckily, technology makes it easier than ever before to stay connected with loved ones far away. Write an email, send a text message or make a date for a video chat. Don’t rely too heavily on digital connections, however. Some research suggests that face-to-face interactions are most beneficial.

Follow your interests.  Do you like to hike, sing, make jewelry, play tennis, get involved in local politics? You’re more likely to connect with people who like the things you like. Join a club, sign up for a class or take on a volunteer position that will allow you to meet others who share your interests. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t make friends overnight. Try to enjoy the experience as you get to know others over time.

Ask for help. If you lack a strong support network and aren’t sure where to start, there are resources you can turn to. Places of worship, senior and community centers, local libraries, refugee and immigrant groups, neighborhood health clinics and local branches of national organizations such as Catholic Charities or the YMCA/YWCA may be able to help you identify services, support groups and other programs in your community.” https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/emotional-support

2. Take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. On the first column write a list of labels or “identities” you feel define you. In the second column list the strengths behind those labels. For example “wife” might be your label, but “loyal, loving, supportive, and a good listener” might be the strengths behind the label. Write and reflect how your strengths ripple out beyond any labels you might wear.

Article Suggestions

1. Martha M. Tousley  “Understanding Different Mourning Patterns in Your Family” Griefhealing.com

2. Colin Murray Parkes “Bereavement in adult life” BMJ. 1998 Mar 14; 316(7134): 856–859.


Recover From Grief Website

Recover From Grief provides valuable information about the grieving process as well as coping strategies. Site visitors can view a comprehensive “grief guidebook” and participate in a seven-part grief work e-course. Recover From Grief also provides a space to create memorials for loved ones or tell personal stories, and offers a “grief relief” audio program.

Robert A. Neimeyer Website

Robert A. Neimeyer, Ph.D., is Professor in the Department of Psychology, University of Memphis, where he also maintains an active clinical practice. Since completing his doctoral training at the University of Nebraska in 1982, he has published 30 books, including Techniques of Grief Therapy:  Creative Practices for Counseling the Bereaved and Grief and the Expressive Arts:  Practices for Creating Meaning, the latter with Barbara Thompson, and serves as Editor of the journal Death Studies. The author of nearly 500 articles and book chapters, he is currently working to advance a more adequate theory of grieving as a meaning-making process, both in his published work and through his frequent professional workshops for national and international audiences. His website contains his research, writing, support materials, and personal poetry.

Book Recommendations

The Tending Instinct: Women, Men, and the Biology of Relationships 

– Shelley E. Taylor, 2003

“A tour de force . . . The Tending Instinct elevates women’s natural strengths in caregiving and befriending to a long-deserved prominence in society. A crucial message for us all.” —Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence

For generations, scientists have taught us about the “fight or flight” response to stress. But is this instinct universal? Renowned psychologist Shelley E. Taylor explains that “fight or flight” may only be half the story. Humans—particularly females—are hardwired to respond to stress differently. As Taylor deftly points out in this eye-opening work, the “tend and befriend” response is among the most vital ingredient of human social life.

Ranging widely over biology, evolutionary psychology, physiology, and neuroscience, Taylor examines the biological imperative that drives women to seek each other’s company, and to tend to the young and the infirm, bestowing great benefits to the group but often at great cost to themselves. This tending process begins virtually at the moment of conception, and literally crafts the biology of offspring through genes that rely on caregiving for their expression.

In the tradition of groundbreaking books about the science of human nature such as Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence and Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct, Taylor’s book will change forever the way we talk and think about ourselves.

The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing 

– Kevin Young, 2013

“Kevin Young has thoughtfully gathered many of these sorrowful perambulations and grievous plummets.” -Billy Collins

The Art of Losing is the first anthology of its kind, delivering poetry with a purpose. Editor Kevin Young has introduced and selected 150 devastatingly beautiful poems that embrace the pain and heartbreak of mourning. Divided into five sections (Reckoning, Remembrance, Rituals, Recovery, and Redemption), with poems by some of our most beloved poets as well as the best of the current generation of poets, The Art of Losing is the ideal gift for a loved one in a time of need and for use by therapists, ministers, rabbis, and palliative care workers who tend to those who are experiencing loss.

Among the poets included: Elizabeth Alexander, W. H. Auden, Amy Clampitt, Billy Collins, Emily Dickinson, Louise Gluck, Ted Hughes, Galway Kinnell, Kenneth Koch, Philip Larkin, Li-Young Lee, Philip Levine, Marianne Moore, Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver, Robert Pinsky, Adrienne Rich, Theodore Roethke, Anne Sexton, Wallace Stevens, Dylan Thomas, Derek Walcott, and James Wright.


– Kim Rosen, 2009

Can someone really be saved by a poem? In Kim Rosen’s book, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Poetry, the most ancient form of prayer, is a necessary medicine for our times: a companion through difficulty; a guide when we are lost; a salve when we are wounded; and a conduit to an inner source of joy, freedom, and insight.

Whether you are a lover of poetry or have yet to discover its power, Rosen offers a new way to experience a poem. She encourages you to feel the poem as you might an affirmation or sacred text, which can align every level of your being.

In an uncertain world, Saved by a Poem is an emphatic call to cultivate the ever-renewable resources of the heart. Through poetry, the unspeakable can be spoken, the unendurable endured, and the miraculous shared. Weaving teaching, story, verse, and memoir, Rosen guides you to find a poem that speaks to you so you can take it into your life and become a voice for its wisdom in the world.



Moonlight Mile – 2002

A young man grieves with the parents of his fiancée after her accidental death. As he is drawn into issues presented by a district attorney seeking justice for the family, he finds himself falling in love, against his own best intentions.

The Adventure of Grief: Dr Geoff Warburton at TEDxBrighton

Published on Nov 15, 2012

Psychologist, writer and innovator, Geoff Warburton has spent the last 25 years studying love and loss. Geoff challenges conventional apathy about grief and loss by offering an approach that evokes curiosity, openness and compassion. His approach synthesises Eastern wisdom traditions, in-depth psychology and common sense. The emphasis of his message is towards thriving after loss — and not merely surviving. He presents a perspective that challenges Western thought by saying there is no ‘right’ way to grieve and advocating that grief can be ‘the ride of your life’. Working from both his personal and professional experiences of bereavement, he goes so far as to say that loss through bereavement can become an adventure to be had, rather than a problem to be solved.



"Let it Be" - The Beatles

“One night during this tense time I had a dream I saw my mum, who’d been dead 10 years or so. And it was so great to see her because that’s a wonderful thing about dreams: you actually are reunited with that person for a second; there they are and you appear to both be physically together again. It was so wonderful for me and she was very reassuring. In the dream she said, ‘It’ll be all right.’ I’m not sure if she used the words ‘Let it be’ but that was the gist of her advice, it was, ‘Don’t worry too much, it will turn out OK.’ It was such a sweet dream I woke up thinking, Oh, it was really great to visit with her again. I felt very blessed to have that dream. So that got me writing the song Let It Be. I literally started off ‘Mother Mary’, which was her name, ‘When I find myself in times of trouble’, which I certainly found myself in. The song was based on that dream.”

-Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

"Beam Me Up" -Pink

“The singer said on a 2010 episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show that she was reluctant to share about being pregnant with her daughter Willow because of a previous miscarriage. ‘I was just really nervous, and I have had a miscarriage before,’ she said. She eventually wrote the song *Beam Me Up *about her experience, which includes the lyrics “Just beam me up, give me a minute, I don’t know what I’d say in it. I’d probably just stare, happy just to be there, holding your face.”

-Self Magazine