Grief therapy has always been my clinical niche and it has delivered a very predictable clientele to my therapy practice through the years. For more than 25 years, grieving widows, bereaved parents, and many varieties of others who have lost someone to death have regularly made their way through my office doorway seeking solace.
Yet in the last six months, as the year 2020 has unleashed its fury on the masses, the demographic of those I serve has changed markedly. No longer is my waiting room exclusively for the widowed and the “typically” bereaved – although there are exceedingly high numbers of people experiencing classic grief due to the death of a loved one — right now, the world at large is my identified clientele. The amount of existential grief that humanity is experiencing is vast. And whether we are facing the death of a loved one, the loss of an ideology, the breakdown of long-term relationships, or the losses that accompany forced social isolation and economic decline, the grief we are collectively experiencing is real.
A Light in the Dark
I call this the other pandemic. And as we head into these dark months of winter, it is more important than ever to find a way to strike a match in the inky darkness with which 2020 has blanketed so many of us. Grief by nature is mercurial – one moment elusive and non-assuming and the next barreling forward like a tidal wave. This ever-changing dynamic can make it hard to feel well equipped for the journey that grief demands we take.
And that’s why I designed the Grief Archetype Quiz — a simple tool to help clients understand where, or how, they are traveling on their grief journey. I find the term “grief journey” to be so applicable, because grief really is the trip that we are forced to take when loss comes into our world and strips away something essential. And remember, this is 2020, so for millions of us, that “something” that makes us qualify to be “officially grieving” has expanded well beyond the death of a loved one.
When grief hands us our marching orders, there is not a lot of wiggle room. We must accept the itinerary and proceed forward. I have often used the metaphor of the wilderness of grief to describe what it feels like to suddenly be standing before a looming loss knowing that you must travel forward through terrain that feels untenable. But imagine as you stand before those dark woods that you can see four faint clearings… different entry points where you can begin your trek. Most of us will eye all four thresholds and after sizing them up, choose one place to begin. Those beginning points are the grief archetypes, which I wrote about for mindbodygreen, and each of them offers its own special form of light for the journey through grief.
Exploring the Grief Archetypes
Over the next month in a series of articles, I will explore each of these archetypes in depth: The Villager, The Pioneer, The Pilgrim, and The Voyager. I hope you will join me — each travel type has its own set of gifts and graces that can help us on the journey and learning about each of them allows us to be versatile and adaptable to the terrain that this season of grief is commanding us toward. If you’re struggling in the meantime, I hope you’ll learn more about my grief kit.