Archived Story

New program dispels old ways of dealing with loss

Published 5:00am Saturday, April 3, 2010

Niles Daily Star

It can be a delicate subject.
When struck with grief, many revert to the well-established belief that those suffering with loss respond in a set of five stages.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross developed the method of counseling based on those stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

And as is all too often felt by those who suffer a sudden or detrimental loss, feelings of grief both complex and deep-rooted can last long after loved ones are gone.

Now, a new 12-week program based on the Grief Recovery Outreach Program is giving people a chance to take a new approach when dealing with their feelings of loss.

The program, being administered by Rebekah Westerbeek a coordinator with Lakeland Hospice Bereavement, will among other things help guide people in “how to cope with grief and challenge some of the myths and misinformation that we’ve learned.”

Some of those myths and misinformation, she said, includes “the idea that time heals all wounds, that we should grieve alone and be strong for other people and that we need to keep busy and replace that loss.”

Westerbeek said using a handbook specially designed for the program by the Grief Recovery Institute of Sherman Oaks, Calif., “the first few weeks are spent looking at these myths and understanding where we learn them (and) how they can hinder our recovery from grief.”

She has used the program in other 12-week sessions around the area but this is the first time Westerbeek has offered it in Niles.

“This is the first time I’ve offered this particular program” in the area, she said.

Participants will focus on one particular loss, she said and look at what feels “unfinished” when it comes to that specific incident.

Westerbeek credits the handbook with being very easy to use and something participants have had a positive response to.

“It’s written in language they’re able to understand,” she said.

The program is designed to work with various losses, including death and divorce, the loss of a career, a pet, health issues or major financial problems – and though the idea is to find a way to work through that grief, Westerbeek said, “any time you do grief work it can be tough emotionally.”

If participants focus on the program, however, she said many have concluded the 12 weeks and “feel a weight has been lifted off their shoulder.”

“(They) can enjoy positive memories and not feel that wounds are still open,” she said.
The lasting effects from grief “can take a big toll on us emotionally and physically,” Westerbeek said.

Those effects can include exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, sleep and appetite disturbances.

Oftentimes, she added, “unresolved grief is misdiagnosed as depression.”

Going through the program can also equip participants with skills that will help them in handling loss in the future, she said.

“Grief is normal. It’s a normal and natural reaction to loss and many of us have been raised to believe that our reactions to grief are not normal, are not natural. So a lot of this class is about changing that mindset,” Westerbeek said.

The 12-week long program is being offered at no cost but registration is required. It begins Monday, April 12 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Greater Niles Senior Center, 1109 Bell Rd., Niles.

For more information or to register, call Westerbeek at (269) 985-4496.

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