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Death, Adulthood, and a Parent’s Tears 2007 Summer II Dusana Rybarova.

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Presentation on theme: "Death, Adulthood, and a Parent’s Tears 2007 Summer II Dusana Rybarova."— Presentation transcript:

1 Death, Adulthood, and a Parent’s Tears 2007 Summer II Dusana Rybarova

2 Adulthood and Death 25 to 60 years 25 to 60 years Increased awareness of aging and death Increased awareness of aging and death –Experience with death (parents, spouse, friends, etc.) Erik Erikson http://www.learningplaceonline.com/stages/organize/E rikson.htm Erik Erikson http://www.learningplaceonline.com/stages/organize/E rikson.htm http://www.learningplaceonline.com/stages/organize/E rikson.htm http://www.learningplaceonline.com/stages/organize/E rikson.htm –Generativity vs. stagnation Bringing to fruition our goals (productivity and creativity) or becoming anxious, dull, conformist and resentful Bringing to fruition our goals (productivity and creativity) or becoming anxious, dull, conformist and resentful Importance of resolving crises of previous stages Importance of resolving crises of previous stages

3 Adulthood and Death Carl Gustav Jung: Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933) http://www.muskingum.edu/~psych/psycweb/history/jung.htm Carl Gustav Jung: Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933) http://www.muskingum.edu/~psych/psycweb/history/jung.htm http://www.muskingum.edu/~psych/psycweb/history/jung.htm –Moving from ego to the essence of self Our values more directed inward Our values more directed inward Psychological growth, realization of our human potential, spirituality is refined Psychological growth, realization of our human potential, spirituality is refined –Mid-life crisis Cognitive evaluation of our life choices and patterns, self- examination possibly leading to questioning, criticism and rejection of our current life-style and values Cognitive evaluation of our life choices and patterns, self- examination possibly leading to questioning, criticism and rejection of our current life-style and values Challenge of overcoming our fear of death is central to it Challenge of overcoming our fear of death is central to it

4 Fear of Death Peak of fear and worry over death and dying occurs during the central years of adulthood (between 35 and 60) Peak of fear and worry over death and dying occurs during the central years of adulthood (between 35 and 60) Greater fear associated with Greater fear associated with –Loneliness –Stagnation –Despair in adulthood –Experience with death of a loved one

5 Death of a parent Death of a parent –A powerful and symbolic life event hat strips away any past illusions of immortality –Developmental push – forces us to face the fact of our own mortality –High and low-intensity grief Death of a spouse Death of a spouse –Particularly difficult during the early and middle adult years (older widows and widowers seem to adjust better) –The broken heart phenomenon – widows and widowers are more likely to die within a year or two following the death of a beloved spouse Death of an animal companion Death of an animal companion –Grief that can be as intense as grieving a loss of a close human being –Experiences of searching behavior after the death of a pet –Missing the unique qualities of the animal

6 The Death of a Child Our child brings powerful and profound forms of meaning to our lives Our child brings powerful and profound forms of meaning to our lives A Child’s sudden Death A Child’s sudden Death –Accidents PTSD in parents, survivor guilt, blame by the family, accidents seen as preventable PTSD in parents, survivor guilt, blame by the family, accidents seen as preventable –Murder Majority of murders committed by relative, friends, or acquaintances – complication to grief Majority of murders committed by relative, friends, or acquaintances – complication to grief Grief also complicated by the legal system procedures Grief also complicated by the legal system procedures

7 A Child’s Anticipated Death Anticipatory grief (the grief experienced prior to a death) Anticipatory grief (the grief experienced prior to a death) –Acknowledgement Realizing the inevitability of the child’s death Realizing the inevitability of the child’s death –Grieving Emotional expressiveness that diminishes in the course of child’s dying Emotional expressiveness that diminishes in the course of child’s dying –Reconciliation Working towards acceptable interpretation of the death, often in religious and spiritual terms Working towards acceptable interpretation of the death, often in religious and spiritual terms –Detachment from the parent-child bond May lead to disinterest toward the child if this phase is experienced before the child dies May lead to disinterest toward the child if this phase is experienced before the child dies –Memorialization Positive characterizations of the child are solidified into parent’s inner representation of the dead child Positive characterizations of the child are solidified into parent’s inner representation of the dead child

8 Fetal, Neonatal, and Postneonatal Death Fetal Death Fetal Death –Stillbirth – fetal death btw 20 th week of gestation and the time of birth Neonatal Death Neonatal Death –Death during the first 4 weeks following birth Postneonatal Death Postneonatal Death –4 weeks and up to 11 months following birth

9 Stillbirth Stillbirth –May be unexpected, often sudden –Mothers can sense there is something wrong –Cause of the death may be difficult to ascertain –Majority of mothers are anxious to see their babies, to touch, hold, name them, and take part in the arrangements for the burial Neonatal Death Neonatal Death –babies from unwanted pregnancies (as expressed by the mother during the first trimester) are more than twice as likely to die than those from wanted pregnancies –Sadness, depression and anger predominant in the reaction of the mother; father often taking on the role of protector and nurturer of the grieving mother

10 Abortion Spontaneous Abortion Spontaneous Abortion –20% of all pregnancies (3/4 before 12 weeks) –Significant grief reaction immediately, or delayed until the date when the baby would have been born –Often complicated by the fact that there are no remains to be buried and no funeral to acknowledge the loss Induced Abortion Induced Abortion –Women’s grief and morning pattern similar to that for spontaneous abortion –Cognitive denial and emotional repression of the loss are much more likely, sometimes anger towards the self –Under some circumstances (saving mother’s life, China) the grief response might be limited

11 Phases of Parental Mourning Parental grief is considered the most inconsolable, incurable of any kind of grief Parental grief is considered the most inconsolable, incurable of any kind of grief Facts about grief reactions to death of a child in families (Littlefield & Rushton, 1986): Facts about grief reactions to death of a child in families (Littlefield & Rushton, 1986): –Mothers grieve more than fathers –Healthy children are grieved more than unhealthy children –Maternal grandmothers grieve more than other grandparents –Parental despair and depression are profound and long-lasting

12 The Cognitive Restructuring Phase Death of a child viewed as untimely and unnatural interruption of the normal life course Death of a child viewed as untimely and unnatural interruption of the normal life course Initial reaction marked by disbelief Initial reaction marked by disbelief Feelings over the first few days or weeks Feelings over the first few days or weeks –Fear of going insane –Sensations of whirling around, pressure in the head, heartache, stomach pain –Sadness, profuse weeping, sighing, insomnia, restlessness –Period of account making Shadow grief Shadow grief –Unresolved grief that becomes part of the parent’s sense of self and their existence –Manifests as a consequence of freezing in cognitive denial, repression and passivity

13 The Emotional Expression Phase Anger and blame towards hospital personnel, the other parent or others who may have contributed to the death Anger and blame towards hospital personnel, the other parent or others who may have contributed to the death Survival guilt Survival guilt –‘Better I should have died than my child’ Death-causation guilt Death-causation guilt –Parent believes that he/she directly or indirectly caused the death Cultural role guilt Cultural role guilt –Belief that they did not fulfill their role as parents Grief guilt Grief guilt –Parent’s belief that he/she failed to grieve correctly or to behave appropriately as a grieving parent

14 The Emotional Expression Phase Gender differences Gender differences –Mothers manifesting more depression than father who take on the responsibility for managing the grief of the family –Men more likely to hide their distress (less likelihood to diagnose depression in a truly depressed man than in equally depressed woman) –Problems in marital relationship Husbands frustrated about the intensity and duration of their wives’ emotional expression Husbands frustrated about the intensity and duration of their wives’ emotional expression Wives angry over their husbands’ not sharing grief feelings Wives angry over their husbands’ not sharing grief feelings Temporary breakdowns in communication Temporary breakdowns in communication Loss of sexual intimacy Loss of sexual intimacy General irritability between spouses General irritability between spouses

15 The Psychological Reintegration Phase Coping with the actual loss Coping with the actual loss –New goals, aspirations, regaining self-confidence and self-esteem, optimism and hope Coping with the symbolic loss (hope for the future, a part of the self) Coping with the symbolic loss (hope for the future, a part of the self) –Memorialization of the virtues of the dead child into the parent’s own sense-of-self Disenfranchised grief Disenfranchised grief –Loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, publicly mourned, or socially supported (ex-spouses, former friends, homosexual partners, foster parents, etc.) –Often applies to prenatal and neonatal loss Parental support Parental support –Support groups useful if combined with moving beyond grief work into deeper and longer-lasting work of mourning

16 The Psychospiritual Transformation Phase Unique and sacred bond between parent and a child Unique and sacred bond between parent and a child –Other human relationships are contractual and can be abandoned –Pledge to love and care not contingent on reciprocal behavior –Sacred bond as with religious obligations to God or higher principle, or to abstract principles of goodness Spiritual justifications of the child’s loss often include but are more complex than: Spiritual justifications of the child’s loss often include but are more complex than: –Reunion in heaven in the future –Reverence – inspiration for parents to do good works –Retribution – punishment for sins of the parent Profound psycho-spiritual transformations Profound psycho-spiritual transformations –Integral part of the healing process –Reinterpretation of previous religious and spiritual beliefs –Dramatic transformation of the sense-of-self and assumptions about the world, new religious and spiritual beliefs


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