Grief Counselling, Bereavement & Jack Layton
The sad early passing of beloved Canadian political leader Jack Layton teaches us much about bereavement and grief counselling as archetypal experience. Millions felt personally connected to Jack. His warmth, deep personal conviction and love of Canadians made him a beloved figure on our political landscape.
We feel deep sadness and personal loss at his sudden decline and passing. As a nation, we have experienced some of the key characteristics of grief reactions.
1) Even if Foreseen, Grief is an Incredible Shock
We saw Jack Layton on TV when he stepped aside in July. We must have been aware that he did not look like his former self, and was obviously a very sick man. We really knew he would not turn over the reins of the NDP without an extremely good reason. Yet we experience deep shock upon his passing.
This is characteristic when people lose a loved one. When the reality finally hits, we are absolutely stunned. It’s incredibly hard to accept that the loved one is actually gone. We find ourselves saying, “You know, I just keep expecting him/her to come through that door at any moment.”
2) We’re Outraged by Death
We feel outrage in the face of death, when someone passes at an age that seems far too young, as with Jack Layton, aged 61. On a level that I believe is archetypal, we have a sense of what is a complete or full life. When someone dies before that time, we feel that it is bitterly wrong. It should somehow have been different.
3) We Want to Do Something — but We Don’t Know What
The death of a loved one fills us with a sense of powerlessness, even despair. We’re overwhelmed with the desire to do something to make it better, to remove the sense of loss. But there seems so little that concretely can be done. The loved one’s absence is so formidible and so unavoidable.
4) Finding Meaning in the Life of the Loved One — and Our Own
With time, we begin to find ongoing value and meaning in the life of the lost loved one. We realize the ways in which we still carry the loved one within us, and how that brings meaning. Through recall and ritual, we find ways to keep the person’s memory alive.
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© 2011 Brian Collinson
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