grief … an opportunity for growth? … or a disease?

February 28, 2012

in Hospice & Palliative Medicine,Journal Club,Spirituality

The Widow (1882) by Frank O'Meara

“… a serious change is afoot and not just in the meaning of profound loss. Technology’s attendant rational technical practices of classifying, diagnosing, and intervening do not just change the world; they carry the potential to make up new people. So does the cultural sensibility of new generations to use psychoactive substances to manage the moral and emotional discomfort of financial and social problems change the habits of the heart and create new subjectivities. With what unintended consequences?”

Arthur Kleinman’s Culture, Bereavement and Psychiatry discusses the current proposal to medicalize the grieving process …

“My own experience, together with my reading of the literature, suggests caution is needed before we answer yes and turn ordinary grieving into a suitable target of therapeutic intervention. My grief, like that of millions of others, signaled the loss of something truly vital in my life. This pain was part of the remembering and maybe also the remaking. It punctuated the end of a time and a form of living, and marked the transition to a new time and a different way of living. The suffering pushed me out of my ordinary day-to-day existence and called into question the meanings and values that animated our life. The cultural reframing—at once subjective and shared with others in my life-world—held moral and religious significance. What would it mean to reframe that significance as medical? For me and my family, and I intuit for many, many others such a cultural reframing would seem inappropriate or even a technological interference with what matters most in our lives.”

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