Care, Not Cure

IMG_5681smallerThe Journal of the American Medical Association reported several years ago that if an individual continues to experience the stages of grief after six months and has not reached the final stage of acceptance, they should consider getting an evaluation and possible treatment.

A summary of this study was printed in national newspapers under the title, Study Confirms 5 Stages of Grief. Articles like this one reinforce the idea that the experience of grief should follow a predictable course and be time limited. If the “symptoms” of grief exceed that time limit according to this information, then there may be a mental health “diagnosis.”

Many people come to see me because they fear their grief is mentally unhealthy. They are reassured to learn grief is not an illness. It is a normal and painful response to loss that requires care, not cure. As the monk Thomas à Kempis suggested, humans must at times experience “proper sorrows of the soul.”

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Dr. Patrick O’Malley is a psychotherapist in Fort Worth, Texas, specializing in grief counseling. For 35 years, he has counseled individuals, couples and families in his private practice. Dr. O'Malley has recently published a book, "Getting Grief Right" about grief recovery.

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