Reflections on grief

Manu Keirse is a Clinic Psychologist from Belgium who specialises in grief. He has done a lot of research and has written multiple books. He is an inspiration in the psychology field. 

He has written a book in Dutch, a guide for professionals and families named: “Helpen bij verlies en verdriet”, which means “How to help with loss and sadness”. 

Grief is the emotional, physical and cognitive reaction of people who are confronted with a severe loss. Everything that has to do with “loss” creates a grieving process. Every form of loss, such as health issues, illness, losing a job, loss of faith, the ending of a relationship, death, divorce, failing at school, disabilities related to yourself or a loved one, being diagnosed. 

It usually is a confrontation with feelings of injustice, unfairness and/or a feeling of helplessness. 

Grief is not about saying goodbye or letting go but about learning to hold differently. Sadness about a loss is something that won’t change, but you learn to live with it. With death, a life ends, but the relationship never ends. Grief is like a fingerprint: recognisable to everyone, yet always different and unique. Death transforms relationships but does not end them. 

Important to know is that everyone grieves differently, and it is not something that has an end date. Everyone has their own process, their own pace and their own feelings. 

Manu Keirse mentions that to survive loss, you need to do “grieving work/mourning work”. He mentions grieving is not passive, but it is a heavy emotional active activity. Grieving is working to find meaning and rebuild your personal world that has been shaken by the loss. 

He has defined 4 tasks part of the “grieving work/mourning work”: 

1. Facing the reality of the loss. 
2. Experiencing the pain of the loss. 
3. Adjusting to the world after this loss. 
4. Learning to enjoy again and keep the memories. 

He mentions these tasks overlap. Unfinished tasks can get in the way of happiness in life.

My next blog will be on how to support someone with the “grieving work/mourning work”. “ How to support someone who’s going through grief? “ 

Keirse, M. (2017). Helpen bij verlies en verdriet. 

Written By:
Flo Westendorp
Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

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