Embodied Grief: A Curriculum for Bereavement Groups in Evangelical Churches
Traditionally, in the western world the collection of post-loss internal bereavement experiences after a loved one dies are understood in the context of linear sequential stages. These stages describe the emotional/ mental resolution of the griever’s sense of loss (Kübler-Ross, 1969). This conceptualization has been helpful for many as it normalizes the griever’s experiences, and provides organization and articulation around their distress. For others this way of understanding bereavement is not descriptive of their experience that is marked by chaotic upheaval in their psychic world. Nuance is needed to capture a wider breadth of the possibilities after loss, in an effort to treat those that feel “stuck” in their grief. This paper suggests that grievers’ bereavement is understood as subjectively dependent upon the embodied metaphors that make up their understanding of relational intimacy. Bereavement is understood as dissonance in this primary metaphor and resolved through the ability to amend/ reconstitute the disjointed metaphor. To accomplish this rejoining, this paper describes a 12-week curriculum for bereavement therapy groups used in ecclesial settings that seeks to re-align the metaphor through leaning into the griever’s felt sense of relational intimacy with the deceased, thus resolving the dissonance without prescribing what this looks like in a universal sense. The curriculum pulls from literature on grief, group psychotherapy, embodied cognition and philosophy, embodied theology, and intersubjectivity to build a semi-structured psychotherapy group that guides the bereaved towards a resolution to the primary metaphor, and provides for affect regulation and distress toleration in the process.
Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (PsyD)
Group psychotherapy, Bereavement, Suffering, Cognitive learning, Grief