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Mourning and Meaning
Advanced Psychology Seminar

Role of Meaning Making

What then might the role of religion be in other major crises, such as grief or relationship loss?

Introduce meaning making perspective in dealing with grief

Neimeyer, Prigerson, & Davies (2002)

Toward a sociology of grief
Rituals: must include the following to meet the needs of bereaved and larger social system
    Transformation of mourners’ sense of self, reflecting and recasting attachment to deceased
    Transition to new social status for both deceased and survived
    Connection to that which is lost

Local cultures – Cultural variations in mourning practices are not anthropological curiosities that characterize exotic peoples but instead penetrate all human collectives whether defined by ethnicity, tradition, or choice

Discourses – whether stages, spiritual journey, tasks, or other.

Psychological reconstruction in the wake of loss
Meaning making is pursued at the juncture of self and system rather than only in an individual’s private world

Self is constituted and reconstituted in relation to an embracing social world, on which individual draws and to which one returns for validation

Traumatic loss (homicide, suicide, or mutilating accident)
Chronically hyperaroused limbic system and susceptibility to intrusive memories alternating with avoidance
Invalidation of the assumptive world on which we rely; our taken-for-granted sense of security, predictability, trust and optimism are undercut.

Complicated grief: A psychiatric perspective
Diagnostic disorder
    Loss behavior on a daily basis
    Depressive and anxiety related symptoms
    Duration of above for least 6 month
    Impairment in social, occupational, or other demands

Association with attachment
    Excessive dependence, compulsive caregiving, defensive separation, and unstable or disorganized attachment style oscillating between approach and avoidance lead to greater risk of CG or PGD.
    Insecure attachments (serious abuse or neglect) in childhood lead to CG or PGD

Prolonged Grief Disorder
Evidence has supported the vulnerability of those insecurely attached in childhood to PGD in adulthood due to loss of life.

Interestingly, another finding has emerged regarding secure attachments in adulthood.
Widowhood following marriages that were security increasing, stabilizing, and relatively exclusive were most likely to have PGD as well as worse health, greater health service use, and higher health care costs.
Both security-increasing marriages and insecure attachment styles put partners at risk for PGD.

Growth Through Grief
Caregiver mothers of children who died reported becoming more patient, confident, empathetic, and nonjudgmental as a result of the experience.

Importance of family cohesion: when family members share their individual meanings, they tend to make greater sense of the experience and gain higher levels of comfort and growth.

To the degree that family members are able to redefine the situation, they are able to reconstruct a meaningful life, adjust, and psychologically grow from their experience of loss.

Discussion Questions
What event(s) have you experienced which “shattered your assumptions” about the world?

Life threatening illness
“close call” accident
Major breakup
Change of values
Parental divorce
Death of someone close
Death of a pet
Loss of physiological function
Friendship loss

What sociological understandings influenced your perspective?

How did you conceptualize the experience as an individual?

Did you experience major depression or anxiety? Did that impair you on a daily basis? How long did your grief last?

How did you rebuild your understanding of the world in the wake of shattered assumptions?

Other Interpretations

    FAAR or double ABC-X model

    Dual Process Model for coping with bereavement