Ted Rynearson, M.D. is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington, a practicing, clinical psychiatrist, a national and international clinical teacher, and a consultant to the Survivors of Violent Loss Program. Now semi-retired, Ted has focuses on researching the effects of complicated bereavement and violent death. He is the founder of Violent Loss Bereavement Society and the author of Retelling Violent Death and the editor of Violent Death: Resilience and Intervention Beyond the Crisis.
You can almost liken grief to an amputation. Grief has a neurobiologic basis and that's important for people to appreciate because I think it's comforting to know that there is something going on at a level that's fundamental. We know that with physical amputation there's specific interconnections within our brain, that are responsible for registration of body parts. And I think what goes on with a grief reaction is that there are parts of ourself that are also registered neurologically. So when an important part of ourself, like a child or a spouse or close family member of friend is dismembered from us, we remember the presence of that person as a phantom presence in terms of narrative memory or story, a visual memory of their presence. And we go through an involuntary process of trying to reattach with somebody that we've been amputated from
There are really only two stages of grief, there’s who you were before and who you are after. So, grief it's a rite of passage that we go through, where to some extent it changes us and it's nothing we ever get over. I think it's something we carry forward forever.
Grief rarely involves clinical consultation. the greatest source of support are family, close friends and coworkers, and sometimes getting back to work provides a sense of meaning and a coherence. Then its spiritual sorts of beliefs, sometimes religious, so pastoral counseling is something that seems to be very comforting and supportive.
Another important resource of support are support groups, which have sprung up in almost every community, often based in a church and those can be very helpful at a certain point. And at the bottom of the list are clinicians. It's very rare, probably less than 5% of individuals that are going through a death experience will talk with a clinician. The vast majority find support and comfort through friends and family members and Coworkers.
“Our contemporary society doesn't respect the need for time. We're getting more and more rushed, more and more focused on consuming and less and less tolerance for listening. Less and less tolerance for respecting and during change. And so we hope for and anticipate easy answers and I think that's what stages and a lot of the popular books that are written on grief, can be very comforting. But they often don't respect the fact that things are forever changed and we can't go through steps to recover.”Ted Rynearson