The title of my thesis is Standing in the Tragic Gap: Courage and Resilience in the Lives of Ordinary People. The tragic gap is defined “as the gap between what is and what could and should be, the gap between the reality of a given situation and an alternative reality we know to be possible because we have experienced it” Palmer (2009). The three ordinary people that I interviewed taught me that we have no control over what happens to us. We do have control over our response. It is my belief that people possess the courage and resilience to overcome adversity. They occasionally need guidance and support to access these strengths.
Clients and I focus on the type of loss and determine the factors that make the loss unique. We assess their coping strategies and list resources available to them. We explore the physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual responses to the loss. I present clients with information from the latest MRI studies. These studies explain what is occurring on a cognitive level.
Rituals create a safe place. Meditation, relaxation, deep breathing, focusing, yoga, guided imagery and visualization ground the clients. Prayer (as defined by the clients) can be a source of strength. Journaling, music, and poetry enable client’s access and explore their emotions. Creative art activities externalize the grief. The art object acts as a physical representation of what clients are feeling and dealing with. This facilitates the exploration of the self and feelings. The art depersonalizes the feelings and makes interaction more emotionally safe.
Grief and loss are inevitable. A common misconception is that the person should carry on, move on. However, there are physical, emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and spiritual responses to each loss.
Clients and I look at how they are responding to the loss. We develop strategies to come to terms with the loss. Clients who experience multiple losses or a tragic loss may lose trust in themselves, others, God/the universe. We work to re-establish their trust and to alleviate their soul pain. Journeying through grief is the only way to eventually live with meaning and purpose. There is joy on the other side of the tragic gap.