Toward a More Generous Space for Grief: Advocating for the Bereaved

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The loss of a loved one is an immensely painful experience that leaves many clients, and their helping professionals, struggling to know how to respond to the depth of their suffering. In western society, death is frequently avoided among community members and professionals alike, and grief has become increasingly understood as a disorder to be diagnosed and treated rather than a profound existential reality that requires personal accompaniment. The aim of this paper is to provide a critique of these dominant attitudes towards death and grief and to outline an alternative, existential approach. Drawing upon the model of grief accompaniment proposed by Existential Analysis, we describe the ways in which we can make space for grief in ourselves and our relationships by turning-toward our loss. Such an approach is not only accepting of a wide variety of responses to loss, but also encourages more authentic emotional engagements with our own suffering and other bereaved persons. This attitude and approach to grief is illustrated through four recent qualitative studies, which explore how individuals, families, and communities made space for grieving in their lives. These research examples give rise to suggestions for how professionals and lay communities alike may advocate for the bereaved by participating in the shaping of more generous personal and social spaces for grief.
grief, existential-analysis, phenomenology, death anxiety, qualitative research
Klaassen, D., Bartel, B.T., Bentum, B. (2019) Toward a more generous space for grief: Advocating for the bereaved. Proceedings from the 2018 Canadian Counselling Psychology Conference, 56-67.