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  • Dr. Marie Dezelic




An Existential Approach for Addressing the Lifelong Phase in Grief

Trauma Treatment – Healing the Whole Person, Dezelic & Ghanoum, 2016, p.70-80) For More Information About This Book, CLICK HERE

The Meaning-Centered Grief Model, “Processing Through Loss, Grief, Transitions and Transformation: A Meaning-Centered Existential Approach,” based on Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy & Existential Analysis, is depicted in a “Conceptual Pictograph” to offer clinicians and grievers a guide to and an education about the ongoing process of grief. This model incorporates previous grief models, stresses important considerations that impact grief, and proposes a “Continual Phase” of grief—a lifelong journey of recovery and meaning-discovery. The Continual Phase encompasses key concepts from Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy & Existential Analysis, specifically, healing and recovery through the discovery of meaning and the ability to change our attitude in the face of unavoidable suffering.

Introduction The Meaning-Centered Grief Model, developed by Marie Dezelic and Gabriel Ghanoum, the authors of this manual, is an existential approach for understanding the ongoing changes that typically occur during the grief process. The underpinnings of this Model are based on Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy & Existential Analysis (LTEA), a meaning-oriented theory and existential therapy (Dezelic, 2014; Frankl, 1978, 1986, 1988, 2000, 2004, 2006; Graber, 2004; Lukas, 2000). This new model combines the grief models and conceptualizations of theorists and clinicians John Bowlby, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Terese Rando, Robert Neimeyer, and Ashley Davis Bush (Bowlby, 1980; Davis Bush, 1997; Kubler-Ross, 1969; Kubler-Ross & Kessler, 2005; Neimeyer, 2006; Rando, 1993). The theoretical models of these theorists are part of the foundational processes and stages of grief and mourning that form the basis for the Meaning-Centered Grief Model. This new model expounds upon these previous theories to incorporate the ongoing lifelong grief phase (derived as a meaning-centered concept). Grief, the process a bereaved individual goes through to mourn and assimilate any significant loss, such as the death of a spouse, child, any family member or friend, the loss of a parent or significant caregiver, the loss of a parent’s everyday involvement due to divorce, a diagnosis of life-terminating illness, a significant trauma that changes one’s life forever, even the loss of a one’s home due to a natural disaster, is a unique and individualized process. We can certainly say that no two displays of grief are exactly the same. Since all of theories and models are, by their very nature, conceptual constructs, it is unlikely that one model alone will work for every individual. The more knowledge, understanding, language, and tools clinicians have, the greater the benefit that can be provided for clients who have entered into the unchartered territory of grief. Having various models and conceptualizations to draw information from offers clinicians a more comprehensive map and guide to follow when walking with the client in this new unknown world—life after the loss. This multi-faceted meaning-centered model builds upon the pre-existing stages and models, and moves toward an ongoing “lifetime phase” through an existential perspective.

Untangling the Ball of Emotions in Grief

The Meaning-Centered Grief Model, “Processing Through Loss, Grief, Transitions and Transformation: A Meaning-Centered Existential Approach,” is depicted in a Conceptual Pictograph—Client Handout. Conceptual Pictograph, a term coined by Marie Dezelic (Dezelic, 2014), is a visual display of information, and can be used as a concrete tool and handout that illustrates the concepts of any model. In our model, we have incorporated the well-known concept of the “Tangled Ball of Emotions,” which is often used as a visual aid to help clinicians and clients understand how the many emotions, and layers of these emotions, are experienced (inwardly), and expressed (outwardly). We have conceptualized that the various models designed by pioneers in the field of Grief Work, Death and Dying apply to “untangling the ball of emotions in grief.”

Viktor Frankl’s depictions of the Tragic Triad and the Neurotic Triad (Dezelic, 2014; Dezelic & Ghanoum, 2015; Frankl, 1978, 1986, 1988, 2000, 2004, 2006; Graber, 2004; Lukas, 2000), also helps us to understand the tangled ball of emotions that is experienced and expressed. These two triads, and their components, are often preceptors to existential crises. They can manifest as despair or even as a sense of meaninglessness, what Frankl termed an existential vacuum. The Tragic Triad—Unavoidable Suffering, Guilt, and Death, and the Neurotic Triad—Aggression, Depression, and Addiction, have been included on the Conceptual Pictograph to help clinicians examine how these triads are experienced emotionally during the initial stages of grief.

“The Tragic Triad” and “The Neurotic Triad”: Inner Experiences and Outer Expressions of Pain

In The Tragic Triad (Unavoidable Pain, Guilt or Death), people in despondency experience Unavoidable Pain: Pain experienced from suffering which is unavoidable, such as in the case of a death of a loved one or an unavoidable trauma; Guilt: Responsibility, fault, or blame we may experience due to something we have done or have not done, or may have caused to happen, or in the case of survival where others have not also survived; and Death: The deep sadness, awareness or questioning we feel when we face the Continue Reading Here



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These Handouts are meant for Mind-Body-Spirit (bio-psycho-social-spiritual) awareness and self-help empowerment. ENJOY!

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