Article Published: 1/19/2023
Debi Jenkins Frankle, LMFT, was only 7 years old when her infant sister passed away, a loss deeper than she could comprehend at such a young age. Her mother later died after a short illness when Frankle was 32 years old, and she remembers her world turning upside-down.
“At that point, I had just finished graduate school and started seeing grief everywhere,” she says. “That is what spurred me to go beyond my own counseling and seek specific education in loss and grief.”
She later founded Private Practice Grief Workshops and Trainings for Mental Health Clinicians in Calabasas, California, where she has trained other clinicians to counsel clients experiencing grief and loss for more than 20 years. Frankle recently shared her insights on grief and what counselors can learn from helping others who are struggling to overcome losses in their lives.
The Multiple Causes of Grief
Loss, transition, and change are what create grief, Frankle says, adding that the contributing scenarios are far more complex than what may initially be perceived by others.
“Some losses have more meaning than others to each person. There is the loss of or change in a relationship with a person—and pets count as people—which can be due to death, but can also be due to divorce, breakup, the last child moving out, adoption, being ‘ghosted,’ or estrangement,” she says. “The loss can also be health-related, such as with dementia, disability, infertility, mental health, or aging.”
One loss sometimes results in another, Frankle says.
“There is loss of identity that comes with job loss, retirement, financial changes, or gender transition,” Frankle continues. “Loss of safety and trust experiences often include loss of freedom, justice, and the right to respect. There is grief with moving, perhaps due to a disaster, or foster care, or going into a board and care home. When someone experiences a primary significant loss, there can be many secondary losses that are created. When the primary loss is the death of a partner, there can also be financial loss, loss of confidence, loss of hopes and dreams, loss of co-parent, loss of identity, loss of friends, and loss for child’s innocence, to name a few.”
Types of Grief
In addition to understanding the causes of an individual’s grief, it’s important to understand the types of grief, Frankle says, offering the following insight.
Stages of Grief and Well-Known Theories
One of the best-known models of grief was developed by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and features stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
“In my experience over the last 30 years, this model tends to be passive, and dependent on time to move from one ‘stage’ to the next,” Frankle says. “Often clients grieving a significant loss report feeling like they must be doing something wrong or say that they’ve ‘accepted’ it but are still having a hard time ‘moving on.’ Acceptance then becomes a goal, implying that grief will then end at a certain date in time.”
Several grief theories have developed since then, and Frankle notes the following as examples.
People often struggle with what to say to others experiencing grief. Frankle says it’s imperative for counselors to realize that comments such as the following remarks, though intended to provide comfort, can do more harm than good.
Debi Jenkins Frankle, MS, LMFT, is the founder of Private Practice Grief Workshops and Trainings for Mental Health Clinicians, an NBCC Approved Continuing Education Provider. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and her master’s in educational psychology from California State University-Northridge. She is an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University in The Graduate School of Education and Psychology.
Private Practice Grief has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider No. 7071. Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. Private Practice Grief is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.
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