"The Standard of Care Is the Provider of Care"
When I write about what it takes to be an effective grief care provider I come back again and again to the above statement. When I train people to be grief counselors I view this as covering three tracks.
(1) Who am I as a person who has had losses and has grieved them and knows that somewhere inside there still is material which can be brought to the surface by external cues and signals -- words, sounds, sights, smells, and touch. These are my "Cowbells" and they are vulnerable to recall into my conscious awareness at anytime and drown out whoever I am speaking with. Therefore, I must develop a keen sense of this material and engage in some processing in order to limit their sudden surging into the space between myself and clients.
I have found that strong knowledge of what grief is and the range of behaviors we can expect from grieving people, as well as a good repertoire of intervention skills to be absolutely necessary but must be accompanied by a clarity of my own countertransference material associated with grief. The knowledge and skills will be partially or not used at all when the "Cowbells" ring and limit my availability. The standard of care truly is the provider of that care.
(2) What to expect from grieving people is a critical part of the training. Here we give the trainees not only the origin and functions of human grief but also the typical and atypical variations of grieving behaviors.
(3) How to help grieving people is the other area of focus. There are several ways to organize the learning of intervention skills. Many students and trainees want to go here first without a grounding in why and how we grieve and why it is more comfortable for them to work with the death of an older person versus a young mother or . . . a child!
We will talk more about the complexities and dynamics of human grief -- its variations and changing nature -- in our next blog.