This is part two of a four-part series on the grief archetypes. Read part one, Exploring the Pilgrim Archetype.
I created the archetype quiz as a tool to help my grieving clientele take their first tenuous steps into the what I call the wilderness of grief. It’s a vast and enormous landscape that demands our entrance after loss makes its sudden appearance in our world. But remember this – the wilderness may be foreign, but it’s an ancient place that every culture, generation, and creature capable of love and connection has wandered in before. And anyone who has journeyed here has left a path – faint trails that we can follow as we make our own journey through grief.
The Villager Archetype
The second archetype we are going to explore is that of the villager. Villagers are very methodical and always like to have a plan in place for whatever may come their way. Thus, when grief makes an unsolicited visit into their world, their first order of business is to look for the map so that they can place a few pins down and begin a forward route out of the woods.
Dave was a Villager who found his way to my practice after the loss of his 90-year-old father. Dave was a successful businessman who had always been close to his dad. His father never wanted to end up in a nursing home, and Dave had gone to great lengths to keep round-the-clock caregivers with him at home for the last year of his life. Dave had really focused on the goal of keeping his dad at home during his prolonged illness, Dave felt a great sense of peace at accomplishing this goal. When Dave’s father died unexpectedly in his sleep, it hit Dave really hard. He had envisioned meaningful last moments with his dad, and even though his dad was 90 and ill, the loss felt sudden and unexpected.
As Dave and I explored his grief, one of the things I asked him was to tell me more about his dad. What was he like? How did he live his life? How was your relationship?
Dave began to share with me that his father was a quiet and humble man. He was intensely proud of Dave, his only child. He had been a mechanic by trade and although he made only a modest living, he had put all he had into giving Dave the education he was never able to pursue himself.
Dave described his relationship with his father as very good. They spent a lot of ‘guy time’ together throughout his life, but rarely showed displays of affection. He said that his dad was intensely private and not one to engage in long conversations or to put his emotions on display. Although they never talked directly about death, Dave felt his dad was in a place of peace in the last years of his life.
So where was Dave’s sense of unease at the way his father passed coming from? With some prodding, we were able to identify that Dave had created an expectation of what his Dad’s death would be like, and it was this expectation that was causing his pain. Because Dave had hired round-the-clock caregivers, he had envisioned that his dad would not be “alone” when he died. And while he was not alone – his favorite caregiver was asleep in the bedroom next to him when he passed – this still did not match the picture Dave had formed in his own mind about what his father’s dying moments would be like. It was this discrepancy between Dave’s vision of how his dad’s death would be and the actual event itself that was causing his current pain.
Knowing that Dave, as a villager, appreciated logic and information, I asked him if he would be willing to spend an hour listening to an audio course I had created on the dying process. At first he bristled, feeling that looking squarely at death was only going to add salt to the wound, but when I assured him that the information I was sharing had helped hundreds of my grieving clients feel better about their loved ones’ dying process, he agreed.
When Dave returned for his next therapy session, he was eager to talk about what he had learned. Dave had immediately grasped one of the tenets of the course – that we tend to die the same way we live. It helped him see his father’s ‘lonely passing’ with new eyes.
Dave’s father was a private and unassuming man. He enjoyed the company of those around him, but routinely kept his innermost thoughts to himself. He was comfortable in his quiet and rather solitary life, and his death reflected this.
Dave was able to see that his vision of sharing his father’s last moments was really not reflective of how he and his dad had related to one another through their lives. They loved each other fiercely, but quietly – and neither of them were comfortable with raw displays of emotion. Dave was able to see how his father being in his own home, sound asleep with his favorite caregiver in the bedroom next to him (and his dog asleep at his feet) was really the perfect reflection of how his dad had lived his life. This realization did not take Dave’s grief away, but it did take away the unnecessary burden of guilt that Dave had about the feeling that someone should have been with his dad in the final moments of his life.
For villagers, grief is both an emotional and an intellectual journey. And villagers are better able to deal with their emotions when they understand where their feelings and responses to grief are coming from. Dave was a perfect example of a villager who was able to take the lantern of education and light his forward journey with the wisdom it offered.
Click here to learn more about my grief kit.