Add your Insight
31 January 2021
British Journal of Guidance & Counselling
Special Issue Editor(s)
Dr. Robert Neimeyer,
Portland Institute for Loss and Transition
Dr. Katrin Den Elzen,
Curtin University, Perth, Australia
Dr. Reinekke Lengelle,
Assistant Professor Interdisciplinary Studies | Athabasca University, Canada
Special Issue Editor, Creative Methods British Journal of Guidance and Counselling,
Senior Researcher & Research group member Substainable Talent Development The Hague University, The Netherlands
Living with loss: bereavement, grief, loneliness, and resilience
The contemporary poet David Whyte invites his audiences to wonder with him why humans are almost solely focused on achievement and success and are frequently shocked by any ending to a relationship, job, or loved-one’s life. He proposes we would do well to “apprentice ourselves to loss” as much as we do to gain.This begs questions like: what do we already know about well-being and resilience, what essential questions do we need to ask to facilitate our learning in this area, and what new research is being done or should be done to improve guidance and counselling practice in this context?
This special issue invites perspectives on the range of reactions people have when faced with loss and change, and the potential for more healthful responses. It is also aimed at articulating ways in which we might serve those we support when they confront specific human challenges related to bereavement, grief, and loneliness.
Bereavement refers to the loss of a loved one and the sadness, struggle, and adjustment this profound change requires. In counselling and guidance theory and practice, we maintain that humans are innately relational: when someone we love dies (or we are faced with the bereavement of those we serve), we are reminded that our attachments provide security, safety, consistency, and even shape our identity. With the secularisation of society, many rituals for coping well with bereavement and providing comfort have disappeared and the onus is frequently on the individual to make meaning. This may be done through psychological, creative or spiritual approaches, and social support remains an essential element of being well when faced with the death of those closest to us. The Covid-19 epidemic poses additional issues for the bereaved; not only because of the complications of burials and the impossibility of visiting those who are seriously ill, but also the disturbance of cultural rituals that appease the living and ‘do right by the dead’ as part of meaning-oriented practices. We are interested in learning more about innovations, theories, new research, and perspectives on bereavement within the context of guidance and counselling.
“Grieving represents a form of psychosocial and perhaps spiritual transition from the initial onset of a life-altering loss through a period of frequently tumultuous adjustment to a point of relative stability beyond the period of acute bereavement” (Neimeyer & Cacciatore, 2016, p. 3).
We will all face grief, we will see our clients and students face grief, and we will see loss in all areas of human life, not just as it relates to the death of loved ones. We will likely all be confronted with one or more of the following losses: job loss, loss of relationships or connection, even loss of our freedom (e.g. through illness; the current pandemic; lack of autonomy at work). Facing grief demands of us that we adapt, make meaning, and respond to the changes that challenge our sense of safety and identity.
Loneliness is said to have the same “impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity,” writes researcher Douglas Nemecek (Tate, 2018). He and his colleagues found in their 2018 national survey in USA, that loneliness is correlated with social anxiety and self-reported overuse of social media. Findings in their study indicate that in order to reduce loneliness, guidance and counselling professionals should focus on, “improving social support, decreasing social anxiety, and promoting healthy daily behaviors” among their clients (Bruce, Lustig, Russell, & Nemecek, 2018). This is, of course, complicated by consistent findings that “lonelier people are more likely to have poor social skills, have difficulty in forming relationships, and hold negative or hostile opinions of other people” (Bevinn, 2011). In the current pandemic, which involves self-isolating and social distancing, there are additional causes of loneliness. We are interested in finding out more about loneliness in the context of bereavement and the range of other non-death losses, including Covid-19 related losses.
In the context of bereavement, a surprising 68% of people show resilience; however, a minority does suffer from prolonged and complicated grief (Bonanno, 2009). Resilience is generally perceived as the ability to respond quickly and adaptively to difficult change. Most scholars agree that it is a combination of aptitude, attitude, and social connection. We are resilient to the degree to which we can ask for and receive the support of others, are able to honour our emotions and let them do their adaptive work, and have (or can develop) the ability to reorder our lives. We may even learn and transform through painful change through a phenomenon called benefit finding (Hall, 2014). Researchers have come to understand that our response to change in life is dependent on biological, personal, dyadic, and cultural forces (for a full overview see Neimeyer, Klass & Dennis, 2014).
For this special issue of the British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, we are looking for scholarly articles on the following topics:
- Innovative perspectives and theories on bereavement, grief, loneliness, and resilience
- Loneliness research, policy and practice
- Theoretical and practical perspectives on resilience
- Interdisciplinary research in relation to the theme(s) of this special issue
- Psychology of bereavement/grief, loneliness and/or resilience
- Cultural factors in bereavement/grief, loneliness and/or resilience
- Loss, trauma, and counselling and beneficial approaches
- Community factors in resilience
- Creative methods in response to grief and loneliness (e.g. narrative therapies, life writing and creative writing, counselling, poetry therapy, embodied methods for learning through difficulty)
- Bereavement, grief, loneliness, and resilience in the time of COVID-19
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