Interior Integration for Catholics

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If we love deeply, we're going to grieve deeply. It's inevitable. And it's that simple. So together, let's understand and experience grief better in order to love better. In this episode, I review the popular models of grief with their strengths and limitations, illustrating them through poetry, quotes, and evaluating them with the best of the psychological research.

Show Notes

  1. If we love deeply, we're going to grieve deeply.  It's inevitable.  And it's that simple.  So together, let's understand and experience grief better in order to love better.  In this episode, I review the popular models of grief with their strengths and limitations, illustrating them through poetry, quotes, and evaluating them with the best of the psychological research. 
  2. Lead-in:  We are going to start out with a simple truth.  We Catholics get close to people.  We get close to people
    1. We form deep, intimate bonds with our Parents, siblings, spouses, children, our friends -- all those we love.  
      1. Last weekend, I was at my grandson's baptism.  Tiny little guy, names William Peter.
      2. I'm not super sentimental, not one to just burst into intense emotion at the drop of a hat, but holding him and talking with him.  I could feel the bond developing.  He's really growing on me.  My first grandson.  William Peter.  I told myself I wasn't going to be one of those fawning grandfathers that shows the pictures around to everyone and prattles on about grandchildren, but here I am, bringing it up in a podcast episode.   I love that little guy.  I really do, I've been surprised at how quickly that all developed.  
      3. We form deep intimate bond with people.  
      4. And that's a great privilege, an honor, a sacred thing.  
        1. October 29, 2017 before the Angelus Prayer, Pope Francis
          1. Indeed, we were created to love and to be loved. God, who is Love, created us to make us participants in his life, to be loved by him and to love him, and with him, to love all other people. This is God’s “dream” for mankind.

    1. But in this life there's a difficult side to that.  The realities that entered the world with original sin. 
    2. Inevitably, we lose at least some of these bonds, these connections -- in our fallen world, they are not permanent, they are temporary
      1. Parents die
      1. Some experience a romantic breakup -- or a divorce
      1. Estrangements, ties being cut
    6. And we experience the loss of someone
    7. Jandy Nelson succinctly sums up the mystery when she writes “Grief and love are conjoined—you don’t get one without the other.” 
    8. My Constant Companion By Kelly Roper
Grief is my companion,
It takes me by the hand,
And walks along beside me
in a dark and barren land.
How long will this lonesome journey last,
How much more can my weary heart bear?
Since your death, I’ve been lost in the fog,
Too burdened with sorrow and care.
People tell me my sadness will fade,
And my tears will reach their end.
Grief and I must complete our journey,
And then maybe I’ll find happiness again.
  1. Talking to Grief by Denise Levertov
Ah, Grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.
I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.
You think I don't know you've been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your name,
your collar and tag. You need
the right to warn off intruders,
to consider
my house your own
and me your person
and yourself
  1. “So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.” ― E.A. Bucchianeri
  2. And we pay on a sliding fee scale as Orson Scott Card tells us
    1. “Life is full of grief, to exactly the degree we allow ourselves to love other people.” 

  3. Grief -- after five episodes on suicide, it seemed like the next topic.  Stay with me as we investigate grief…
  4. Intro:
    1. Welcome to the podcast Interior Integration for Catholics, I am so glad you are hear with me for these moments together, thank you for spending the time.  As you know, I am Dr. Peter Malinoski, clinical psychologist and passionate Catholic you are listening to the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast, where we don't hesitate to take on the tough topics that matter to you.  We bring the best of psychology and human formation and harmonize it with the perennial truths of the Catholic Faith.   Interior Integration for Catholics is part of our broader outreach, Souls and Hearts bringing the best of psychology grounded in a Catholic worldview to you and the rest of the world through our website
    1. Today's episode, number 81 is entitled "Grieving is the Price We Pay for Loving" and it's released on August 16, 2021
    1. We are broaching the big topic of grief.  We touched on it briefly way back in episode 15, but now we're getting into much more detail.  

    1. There is so much misinformation out there about grief.  So many myths, so many misconceptions to clear up.  Why is that?  We're going to answer that question with the professional research, the best of psychological theory, with Scripture, with poetry, with examples and with quotes to help you understand the experience of grief -- your grief and the grief of others.  

    1. Why should we learn about grief?  Earl Grollman sums it up like this:
      1. Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.
      1. If we love, we will grieve.  Part of loving well is grieving well.  
      2. If we flee from grief, we will also flee from love.    You can't love without eventually grieving.  
      3. Our Lord modeled this for us:
        1. Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
        1. John 11: 32-36 Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw him, fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; 34 and he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” ]
      6. Our Lady Modeled this for us.  Mary at Calvary looking up at her beloved Son, innocent, yet accused, mocked, reviled, slapped, spit upon, beaten, whipped. crowned with thorns, forced on death march, and then nailed to a cross, bleeding and dying.  His disciples save John had abandoned him, the people had turned against him. Flesh of her flesh, bone of her bone, but yet also Almighty God, the second person of the Trinity, Love Incarnate going through his grief.  
        1. What was her experience?  
        2. I can hear her asking, in the words of the Good Friday Reproaches, My people, what has he done to you?  How has he offended you? Answer me!
        3. Alice Von Hildebrand:  We gain a dolorous awareness that being as weak as we are, we cannot guard the loved one, hard as we try. We realize that this precious being is infinitely fragile. This is inevitably a source of profound suffering. The loved being whose beauty has wounded our heart is frailty itself, and we realize that, ardently as we wish to, we are ourselves too weak and too helpless to shelter him in this threatening and treacherous world where dangers are constantly lurking. 
      7. That's why we need to learn to grieve well.  We need to be able to understand something about grief and to grieve well to pick up our crosses, to bear our sufferings well, the suffering that is essential to love in this earthly life, in this fallen world.
        1. We are going to love and we are going to lose our loved one.  That is a reality.  I'm going to experience it -- you're going to experience it.  

        1. I'm taking a risk in loving my grandson William Peter --  I could lose him.  I've taken a great risk in loving my wife Pam -- we've playfully argued about who gets to die first, so as to avoid the pain of the loss of our relationship.  
          1. And yes, there's the Communion of Saints.  Yes there is eternal life.  But still… One of us is going to have to live on in this life first, without the other one present in the same way.  

  7. Many models of grief are based on a single, unified, monolithic, homogenous personality.  That's the problem.  
    1. That single, unified, monolithic, homogenous personality undergirds the stage and phase theories of grief.
      1. Swiss Psychiatrist -- Elisabeth Kubler Ross -- Death and Dying 1969 -- Discussed this in episode 17, will go into more detail today
        1. Kubler Ross gathered anecdotal evidence from more than 200 terminally ill patients as they were dying -- case studies.  Five stages of grief --  DABDA model
          1. Denial: is the first of the five stages of grief. It helps us to survive the loss.  Denial and shock help us to cope and make day-to-day survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle. As you accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process. You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade. But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface.
            1. Shock and disbelief: This initial phase, which may last from a mere few seconds up to six weeks, is marked by numbness, disbelief, and, often, alienation from others. The loss may be intellectualized and dealt with on a "rational" level, as opposed to a "feeling" level. This is the stage many people are in at the time of the funeral.
            1. Awareness: This next stage is an emotional and suffering phase that resides in the heart. At the same time that the chemicals (for example, adrenaline) released in response to the stress of our loved one's death are beginning to decrease, and the support of friends is lessening, the impact of the person's loss is beginning to be truly realized: the lonely bed, the lack of someone with whom to talk. 

          1. Anger -- from a deep sense of injustice -- of being wronged, of being violated.  Underneath the anger is the pain.  The anger can serve to suppress the intensity of the pain of loss.  
          2. Bargaining -- frantic attempts to control the outcomes
          3. Depression -- feeling the loss
            1. “You can’t truly heal from a loss until you allow yourself to really feel the loss.” — Mandy Hale
          5. Acceptance -- accepting the reality of the loss.  

      1. Colin Parkes -- 1972 Bereavement: Studies of grief in adult life.  1983 with R.S. Weiss: Recovery from Bereavement
        1. Argued that the bereaved must go through four overlapping phases of grief in order to adequately resolve the grief
          1. Shock and numbness
          1. Yearning and Searching
          1. Disorganization and Despair
          1. Reorganization and Recovery

        1. Phases
          1. Shock and numbness
            1. This can't be happening
            1. Struggling with comprehension -- numbing out
            1. Helps to survive emotionally, initially the shock of loss
            1. “There’s a fine edge to new grief, it severs nerves, disconnects reality–there’s mercy in a sharp blade. Only with time, as the edge wears, does the real ache begin.” ― Christopher Moore
            1. “Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” — Vicki Harrison

          1. Yearning and Searching
            1. Let's go back to the way it was
            1. Missing the person, seeking that person out, how can we be close again?
            1. Wishing the deceased would just come home
            1. Weeping, pining, sadness, anger confusion.
            1. Come back, fill the emptiness
            1.  “I know in my head that she has gone. The only difference is that I am getting used to the pain. It’s like discovering a great hole in the ground. To begin with, you forget it’s there and keep falling in. After a while, it’s still there, but you learn to walk round it.” — Rachel Joyce

A Call From Heaven
© Zeb Edington
Published: November 2018
I lie awake long into the night,
Hoping that maybe you just might
Give me a call to say you're okay
And let me know you made it through the day.
I would give everything that I have
To make you feel not so sad.
I know the pain is sometimes too great,
But the love was something you can never mistake.
I long for the day when I see you again.
Then we can talk about where all we've been.
We can think about all the times we had,
How we've missed each other ever so bad.
I feel like I've been cheated and robbed so blind.
God took you away when I thought you were mine.
Now I'm stuck here and feel so alone
As I sit and wait right beside the phone.
You gave me a life and everything I have.
I couldn't say no, even when I was mad.
You gave me my children that I hold so dear.
You took away everything that I ever feared.
As the hurt seems to fade but the memories are bright,
Maybe I'll see you in a dream tonight.
That's all I can hope for until the day
When were together in heaven for an eternity.
  1. Disorganization and despair
    1. Easily distracted, difficulty with attention and concentration
    1. Initial acceptance.  He is not coming back.  He is really dead.  

    1. Depression may set in, anxiety may set in, apathy, anger -- rebellion against the loss.  

    1. Withdrawal from others, disengaging from activities, isolation.  

    1. No longer searching -- yearning gives way to apathy, anger, loss of hope, and questions of meaning and purpose
  4. Reorganization and recovery
    1. Life can go on.
    1. Rebuild, renew, begin again. 

    1. Energy levels lift
    1. Concentration and attention improve
    1. Ability to enjoy good things.
      1. Positive memories of the person.  

    1. New normal achieved.   

  8. Criticism of Stage or Phase Models
    1. Not empirical studies
    1. Models were misused -  Kubler Ross' model based on those who were dying, not those with loved ones dying.  
      1. Not as relevant to losing a family member to death
      2. Still generalized to all kinds of situations of loss and grief.  

    1. Clinical observations the these stages necessarily go in order
    1. Not a lockstep process
      1. Danger of the stages or phases being taken as  a proscriptive model
        1. Proscriptive vs. descriptive.  

        1. You have got to feel the anger -- or the depression.  

      1. The five stages - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance - are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

  11. Research Studies
    1. Carol Barrett and Karen Scheweis 1981 article in OMEGA - Journal of Death and Dying
      1. 193 widows and widowers in Wichita, all 62 years of age or older, 

      1. did not confirm a stage process of adaptation to grief.  

    1. George Bonnano and colleagues in major article in the 2002 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology tracked trajectories of grieving the death of a spouse from before the spouse died and 6 and 18 months after the death.  205 participants.   Very low levels of correspondence with the stages of grief described by Kubler Ross.  

    1. 2007 Study in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Paul K. Maciejewski and his colleagues
      1. Set out to examine the relative magnitudes and patterns of change over time postloss of 5 grief indicators for consistency with the stage theory of grief.
        1. disbelief, yearning, anger, depression and acceptance of the death 

      1.  community-based sample of 233 bereaved individuals, near Bridgeport and Fairfield Connecticut.  

      1. Five rater-administered items assessing disbelief, yearning, anger, depression, and acceptance of the death from 1 to 24 months postloss.
      1. Did not fit the stage model . Acceptance was always higher than all the others, across all time intervals.  Yearning was the highest of all the others across all time stages.  

  12. Popularity of these stage models -- why after fifty years are they still with us?
    1. Reasons
      1. There was a huge need.  The need for something to hang on to, to help us make sense of an overwhelming experience
      1. Kubler Ross's model is simple -- DABDA  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance
      2. They are intuitive, they seem to make sense
      3. The stage models gave us a language, a way to  symbolize the experience of grief into words to make sense of it.  This is really a gift.  
      4. With the language Kubler Ross and Parkes gave us, we could communicate about grief more clearly, more readily, we could share the experience of grief.  
      5. Observation of real human experience.  

  13. Uniqueness of grief
    1. “Each of us has his own rhythm of suffering.” ― Roland Barthes
    1. “Grief is bizarre territory because there’s no predicting how long it’ll take to get over certain things. You just don’t know how long it’s going to resound in your life.” – Sam Shepard
    1. “I wasn’t prepared for the fact that grief is so unpredictable. It wasn’t just sadness, and it wasn’t linear. Somehow I’d thought that the first days would be the worst and then it would get steadily better – like getting over the flu. That’s not how it was.” Meghan O’Rourke
  17. So some clinicians have moved away from the Stages or Phases of Grief to discussing Signs or Signals of Grief -- 
    1. Sources
      1. 2017 online article by Crossroads Hospice and Palliative Care
      1. Mayo Clinic
      1. Vitas Healthcare website
      1. article on coping with grief and loss.  

    5. Categories
      1. Emotions
        1. Agitation – inability to relax, shaken up
        1. Anger – a strong emotion of displeasure with others or with an event
        1. Anhedonia -- inability to enjoy things, to experience pleasure.  

        1. Anxiety – feeling nervous and worried
        1. Apathy – things do not seem important anymore, not caring what happens
        1. Betrayal – feeling someone purposely chose to hurt you
        1. Bitterness about the loss
        1. Despair – to lose hope
        1. Disbelief – trouble accepting the loss really happened
        1. Emptiness –void inside, nothing to give.  Nothing inside. 
          1. “Losing him was like having a hole shot straight through me, a painful, constant reminder, an absence I could never fill.” ― Jojo Moyes 
          2. “Given a choice between grief and nothing, I’d choose grief.” — William Faulkner

        1.  Fear – the individual does not feel safe or worries for the safety of loved ones
        1. Guilt – self-blame, feeling regretful about doing or not doing something
        1. Helplessness – feeling like there is nothing one can do to make a difference in a situation
        1. Impatience – want things right away and have trouble waiting
        1. Isolation – removed or away from others
        1. Loneliness – feeling alone
        1. Numbness- can’t feel any emotion
        1. Powerlessness – having no control over what is happening
        1. Relief – to feel free from stress, pain or burden
        1. Sadness, intense sorrow  – feeling unhappy and sorrowful
        1. Shame – feeling dishonored or disgraced
        1. Shock – feeling surprised and disturbed by a sudden powerful event
        1. Strength – tough, powerful
        1. Thankfulness – appreciative
        1. Uncertainty – feeling unsure
        1. Uselessness – feeling worthless
        1. Weakness – frail, powerless
        1. Positive Emotions
          1. Opening up, accessing in a way never before.  

          1. Breaking down old ways of coping.  

      1. Cognitive Reactions, the way grief impacts our thinking, our mental processes
        1. “Grief can derange even the strongest and most disciplined of minds.” ― George R.R. Martin
        1. “Grief teaches the steadiest minds to waver.”― Sophocles
        1. Difficulties in concentrating

Trying To Balance Grief
© Liz Newman 
Published: May 25, 2021
Grief stacks
Itself up
As you try and balance
Your daily tasks
Your emotions
Your pain
The tower
As you try
To do everything
You normally do
Everything you
Normally can
But right now
You can’t
And it comes
The way
  1. Continuously thinking about the loss -- rumination
  2. Narrow focus -- only thinking about the loss, difficulty thinking about anything else
  3. Difficulty making decisions
  4. Pessimism about the Future
    1. My grief lies onward, and my joy behind.  Shakespeare, Sonnet 50
  6. Memory difficulties
  7. Believing you were responsible for the loss
  8. Increased or decreased dreams
  9. Increased nightmares, odd dreams
  10. Thinking everyone is watching you
  11. Thinking you are different from everyone else
  12. Self-destructive thoughts
  13. Physical Reactions
    1. Crying -- not mentioned.  
      1. J.R.R. Tolkien knew we needed to allow ourselves to feel sadness. In one particularly poignant passage at the end of “The Return of the King,” Frodo is about to sail away, leaving his friends behind. “Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth,” Gandalf says to the gathered companions. “Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”
      2. “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” — Washington Irving
      3. "Tears are the silent language of grief."  Voltaire
      4. “To weep is to make less the depth of grief.” — William Shakespeare

  1. Sleeping changes – too little or too much hypersomnia, insomnia
  2. Weight and appetite changes
  3. Tiredness
  4. Deep sighing
  5. Feeling weak
  6. Aches and pains
  7. Restlessness
  8. Lethargy
  9. Energized: feeling strong/invincible
  10. Muscle tension
  11. Pounding heart
  12. Headaches and stomach aches
  13. Nausea
  14. Dizziness
  15. Shortness of breath
  16. Easily shaken by certain sights and sounds (particularly those that remind you of the loss)
  17. Increased number of colds and infections -- weakened immune system
  18. Spiritual Reactions
    1. Feeling lost and empty
    1. Feeling abandoned or punished by God
    1. Questioning a reason to go on living
    1. Feeling like you don’t belong
    1. Feeling angry with God
    1. Questioning your religious beliefs
      1. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. – John 14:18

    1. Disruption in the plan of life.  

    1. Feeling spiritually connected to the person who died
    1. Feeling spiritually connected to God
      1. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:4

    1. Needing to receive forgiveness
    1. Finding hope in prayer/spiritual beliefs
      1. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, there will no longer be any mourning, crying, or pain, for the old order of things have passed away." Revelation 21:4

  1. Finding purpose in life
  2. Finding a deeper sense of compassion, of connection to others
    1. Rumi: “Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.” 

  3. Behavioral Reactions -- Social Interactions
    1. Trying to stay constantly active
    1. Overachieving
    1. Underachieving
    1. Changes in work performance
    1. Being preoccupied and forgetful
    1. Being more clumsy
    1. Crying a lot, or more easily
    1. Blaming others
    1. Not caring about things, wanting to drop out
    1. Wanting to spend more time alone
    1. Dropping out of social activities
      1. “People in grief need someone to walk with them without judging them.” – Gail Sheehy

    1. Pulling away from other’s attempts to touch and comfort you -- detachment
      1. “To spare oneself from grief at all costs can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness.” — Erich Fromm
      1. My Mask

© Ellie Nazza         
Published: June 2011
Every morning I wake up and put on a mask.
The mask makes everything seem all right,
But they don't know I cry at night.
The nightmares just won't go away.
If only I knew it was your last day.
For six years I've felt this pain.
The feeling just won't go away.
Everyone thinks I've dealt with your death the best,
But without this mask I'd be a mess.
  1. Wanting more attention and affection
  2. Seeking approval and reassurance from others
  3. Distrusting others 
  4. Detaching from others
  5. Being aggressive, getting more arguments
  6. Showing more creative expression through music, writing, and art
  7. Deepening relationships
    1. Grief knits two hearts in closer bonds than happiness ever can; and common sufferings are far stronger links than common joys.  Alphonse de Lamartine
    1. "The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief--but the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love."  Hilary Stanton Zunin
  10. Weakness of these models
    1. So we've done some prep work today to get us ready, getting reacquainted with what the prevailing models of grief can tells us, the descriptive power they have.
    1. Not proscriptive -- merely descriptive
      1. They don't really inform us about how to be with the other person, this specific person
      1. Signs of grief are not necessarily specific just to grief.  

    3. Identity Issues -- not as often address
      1. Low self-esteem
      1. Who am I now, that I am no longer married?  I am a widower
    6. Now we're ready for a much better way to approach grief, both inside ourselves and inside others. 
    7. The myth of the unified, homogenous, monolithic personality really compromises our ability to understand grief.  
    8. So in the next episode, I'm bringing in a whole new model of grief, one developed by Internal Family Systems therapist Derek Scott, who has done the best conceptual work on understanding grief and responding to it that I have ever encountered in the natural realm.  
    9. We are going to get into that deeply, we are going to understand how our different parts experience grief, and we going one step further, and that's to bring in the Catholic foundation.  
    10. And why, again?  Why are we doing this?  In order to increase our capacity to love.  That's why.  
  12. Action Items
    1. I want to hear from you Conversation hours T, R 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM  317.567.9594  -- great response in the last office hours, it was good to hear from so many of you.   

    1. Pray for me and for the other listeners
    1. Catholic Mental Health professionals -- work with  me in the Interior Therapist Community at Souls and Hearts -- find out how you can join one of my therapist groups, which are starting in September, They are all about working on your human formation, informed by Internal Family Systems and grounded in the Catholic Faith.  Find all the details at  Emal me with questions at or call me on my cell at 317.567.9594 to find out how we can work together!


What is Interior Integration for Catholics?

In the Interior Integration for Catholics podcast, together, we seek fundamental transformation in our lives through human formation, via Internal Family Systems approaches grounded in a Catholic worldview. Join us as we sail through uncharted waters, seizing the opportunities for psychological and spiritual growth and increasing resilience in the natural and spiritual realms. With a clear takeaway message and one action in each weekly episode, you can move from dreading what is happening to you to rising above it. Join us on Mondays for new episodes. You can also check out the Resilient Catholics Community which grew up around this podcast at