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Severe grief: talk therapy may be the best treatment

June 1st, 2005 · 4 Comments

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I just heard this story on NPR this morning: Research Points to New Method of Treating Severe Grief

A new study describes an especially intense form of bereavement that lasts for years and is difficult to treat. But researchers think they may have found a way to treat it, involving intense therapy in which patients were asked to recall the specifics of the death and imagine talking out their feelings with the loved one.

Notes from the report:

Some people are not able to pull their lives together even ten years after the death of a loved one.

It’s estimated 1 million Americans a year have severe grief.

When it’s over the therapist gives the recording to the patient and asks them to listen to it at home. (so they become desensitized to it)

Half of the patients got cognitive therapy and others received the specialized treatment.

If they could have gone through the grief on their own or with the help of family and friends, they would have done so.

The idea that talking through the severe grief brings better healing resonates with me. I’m glad to hear the research. I wonder what we can do to help each other. Listening to this report also helped me realize how powerful listening may be to the healing process.

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rod K // Jun 1, 2005 at 10:06 am

    I heard that story too, and the part you mention about desensitizing reminded me of when I first was over on the WidowNet message boards. There was a topic that would regularly come up where we would all write about our reason for being there. I remember the first time I wrote about it I was in tears and could hardly write more than a few words. After that topic came up 5 or 6 more times I got to the point where I was able to write out a long description of the events of that day. It makes me wonder what I would have done or where I might be right now if I didn’t have that opportunity.

    Some of the new members don’t like it when that topic comes up these days. I posted an item linking to the NPR story and some news sites referencing the research in the hopes that more members might be able to understand the mechanisms behind some of the therapy we get from talking about our experiences.

  • 2 Evelyn Rodriguez // Jun 1, 2005 at 11:04 am

    Thanks so much for this piece. I have been having an internal debate in my head about how much value there is in writing about traumatic events in our lives as a form of healing. Or the value of compassionately listening to another in an interview a year after the initial grief. Part of the internal debate wonders about the value of dredging up the past and poking around at wounds -but I guess if it’s unresolved and undigested there is value in facing it. And if it helps others that are facing similar situations cope…

    One reason I thinking about this is because I’m planning on going back with other bloggers – and MSM journalists too – to tsunami-struck countries during the one year anniversary this December. Part of the plan is to enable locals to write/blog about the last year in their own words.

    Just this past Monday I met another tsunami survivor. I assumed because of his profession that he had dealt with it by now…but surprisingly it was still a raw wound and difficult for him to talk about. It got me thinking about the folks with much less psychological and spiritual resources at their disposal and the great gentleness and wisdom that will be needed to do this blogging project.

  • 3 Nancy White // Jun 2, 2005 at 8:22 pm

    I help out at a site called http://www.shareyourstory.org — for parents who have had babies born very sick or premature.

    I think they would totally agree that talking about it helps. Read some of the threads in the Share Your Story section, or in the heartfelt advice in the message boards.


  • 4 Julie // Jun 3, 2005 at 1:07 am

    Thanks Rod, Evelyn and Nancy.

    Sharing our stories is powerful – by that I mean the site Nancy linked and the general conversations we can have.

    Thanks for being part of the healing process.

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