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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor
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Stages Of Grief:
Thomas F. Fischer,
Elizabeth Kuebler Rosss work on death and dying in
which she describes the five stages of grief are almost a household word among
Ironically, however, little has been disseminated
to ministry professionals
regarding the stages of grief experienced by pastors during major transitions.
Five Stages Of Grief
Predictably, there are stages of grief for pastors
to work through painful ministry transitions. The work of Ralph Hischowitz and J.S.
Typhurt have indicated that the experience of loss in transition in organizations follows
a four stage process. Further consideration causes one to add a fifth stage to their
These stages may give insight into what one can expect
during major congregational crises and change processesplanned or unplanned,
controlled or out-of-control.
Loss: After the pretending that its
not painful, the preferred and familiar ways of getting strokes and attention vanishes.
Dependency needs which have been taken for granted, go unmet. The more psychologically
important the lost object, the greeter the grieve. The sense of helplessness, inability
to master oneself and environment get threatened. Anticipate it and prepare to develop
ways to work through the loss.
- Painful Grief
Impact: When the news and
recognition of the loss is received. Daze and shock are typical reactions; they can be
very intense is the change is undesired and unexpected. Emergency responses
typical of "flight-fright-flight" ("They cant do that to me, Help!"
it to me!" "Ive got to get out of here!") dominate ones thinking causing a wide
variety of stress responses such as disorientation, erratic behavior, freezing, impaired
perception, acute confusion, etc.
The duration may depend on many factors
intensity of the event, the relative psychological importance of the loss, the personality
of the griever, the effectiveness of coping mechanism, etc.
This can be measured by the
Holmes-Rahe Stress scale. Originally published by T.H. Holmes and R.H. Rahe, in their
article entitled, "The Social Readjustment Rating Scale, Journal of
Psychosomatic Research 11:2113-218 (1967), most pastors may have seen this scale in
Suggestion: Anytime the total score reaches 100, seek
professional assistance. Consult it weekly. The impact phase can almost imperceptibly
cause any number of other chain-reaction consequential effects on family, personal
attitudes, work associates, sleeping patterns, etc., all of which have ratings on this
Holmes-Rahe Stress scale indicating significant impact on individuals in loss.
Recoil-Turmoil: After experiencing the
impact of the loss, individuals will go through an intense, pervasive, and
all-encompassing effort to search or regain what has been lost. Recognizing the painful
implications of the change or loss, and detaching from the familiar, the individual will
do everythingand anything possibleto either recover or make up for
Coping mechanisms are tested, stressed, and depending on the intensity and personal impact
of the lossthey may fail. Erratic and obsessive seeking behavior may appear as do
various crisis-oriented emotions such as rage, anxiety, depression, guilt, shame,
uncontrollable weeping (openly or concealed).
Seeking for alternate sources of relief
(e.g. addictive and obsessive behaviors) may emerge. Often these emotions may be hidden
behind facades of over-control and detachment.
Over time, normal mental patterns may resume, but regaining the sense of vitality and
confidence may be difficult due to the effects of diagnosed or undiagnosed depression.
Adjustment: This stage marks the beginning
point when the person begins to recover from the negative effects of the change. By this
stage, most of the "detachment tasks" relating to "letting go"
expectations, friendships, etc., have been completed
or at least have begun a sense
of resolution and acceptance.
The challenge of this stage is to begin exploring new relationships, examine solutions for
the problems in the new environment, and testing solutions. As the
"Fright-fight-flight" response diminishes, a sense of hopefulness and a
feeling that not all is lost begins to emerge.
Time and energy are spend in seeking and learning new ways, acquiring new knowledge,
skills and routines.
Reconstruction: Begins when the person
gains a sense that "it is time to move on." Much of the grief has been dealt
with by this time, though some significant trauma may remain.
What has been lost has been
tentatively replaced and is subject to testing and worthiness of attachment.
There is a desireand an accompanying emergence of
energy levelsto resume optimum functioning.
Often this reconstruction comes about by
planning and achieving small victories to restore the confidence in larger issues.
until this sequence has been completed can people begin reaching optimal performance
For Further information see
Levinson, Harry. Psychological Man. Cambridge, MS. Levinson Institute, Inc., 1976.
Index Articles 1-49
Articles 50-99 Articles
100-149 Articles 150-199
200-249 Articles 250-299
Articles 300-349 Articles
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was revised on:
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:04:01 PM