COVID-19 has brought new challenges to survivors of loss: sudden losses, less support because of physical distancing, the unavailability of common distractions and coping mechanisms, not being able to say goodbye or see loved ones in person before they pass, and media coverage of COVID-19 and constant day-to-day reminders in every covered face. In the wake of this pandemic, knowing how to help survivors of loss is of paramount importance.
Grief work is a daunting field in the best of times, as it seeks to help clients walk compassionately and constructively through deep vulnerabilities, as well as dramatic life changes. Isolation, increased anxiety, and a dearth of resources multiply the difficulties that grievers and counselors face. Grief work has struggled with how to teach people to appropriately apply healing techniques in order to process their loss and live within their new normal.
Over the past 20 years, I have been leading grief support groups in nursing homes, churches, and as a hospice bereavement coordinator where I attended to the grief needs of over 250 families. From these many encounters with survivors of loss and my own desire to create the very best grief support, RESTORED: A Self-Paced Grief Workbook for Your Journey from Loss to Life was born. Its goal is to provide both the sense of group solidarity, comfort, and understanding that a grief group can give and to create a highly personalized space where a survivor can take the time to safely encounter their grief, understand their loss, and take ownership of their future.
RESTORED is a five-time award-winning workbook for survivors of loss to navigate their grief journey to the restored lives they are seeking. This workbook’s information, illustrations, real-life examples, suggested exercises, and reflection questions make the complicated world of grief make sense and highlight the journey to healing with 15 achievable practices.
Take a small look at the RESTORED framework and you will quickly see how it is different than typical grief therapy.
RESTORED Framework: Teach, Show, Apply, and Further Resources
Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. ~ Lao Tzu
When people are navigating deep life changes, they need more than mere education—they need to learn how to put that education to use. This is the aim of the RESTORED program. The workbook gently teaches new grief concepts, shows the survivor what it looks like to utilize these concepts, and then supports them as they apply what they have learned.
In each practice, you will find a section entitled “Education.” These sections provide knowledge from experts and reflections from others about what helped them. The tools in this section provide the survivor with direction as they work through loss.
In each practice, you will find “Resilient Survivor Examples” from the perspective of five resilient loss survivors. Sometimes, to find one’s own way through loss, it helps to see how others have made it through their grief journey.
In each practice you will also find a “My Story” section. These sections contain pieces of my own story of loss from when I was 15 and my mother passed away as an example of what processing a loss may look like. My story is also included to help the reader connect further with the grief process provided. As the survivor reads my story, this creates an environment of trust and reciprocity, which promotes catharsis as the survivor finds their safe space to process their loss.
In each practice you will find “Suggested Exercises” and “Reflection Questions” to help process the information from that section and put these ideas into practice. Journaling has been proven to help logical thinkers engage their feelings and creative thinkers further process their experiences (Leaf, 2013; Siegel, 2009). The heart of the workbook is its ability to engage the reader and speak to each part of their experience, giving them the space to see and understand their loss and to envision and claim for themselves the first steps of establishing their new lives.
At the end of each practice, you will find a “Going Deeper” list of books and articles. These are recommended resources on the topic covered in each section. If you want to spend more time on any particular part of the grief process, these are tools to help.
More on Navigating Grief
Each person’s journey through grief will be unique. However, whatever twists and turns a journey may take, loss presents us all with the same critical challenges. This workbook walks through the five key parts of the grief and restoration process, which I refer to as the 5 R Principles.
These principles gently guide and empower survivors of loss with actionable practices. RESTORED’s practices aim to build resiliency and teach survivors of loss the delicate balance of remembering their beloved and adjusting to their new normal. While walking through each of the 5 R Principles, survivors must choose to reconnect and accept support from other people. A survivor may bounce back and forth between these principles and they may need to revisit them more than once.
My goal is to equip clinicians who work with grieving clients so that survivors of loss may find restoration for their physical functioning, mental clarity, emotional stability, interest in people and activities, renewal of spirit, and purpose for their future.
Secondly, I want to reframe the grief process. I do not believe grief should be scary and intangible but should be viewed as a gate we must all pass through. Going through this gate helps us to appreciate and honor the people who we have loved and lost and spurs us on to dive into deeper relationships with those we still have the pleasure of walking alongside.
Denckla, C., Koenen, K., & Shear, K. (2020). Managing bereavement around the coronavirus (COVID-19). The Center for Complicated Grief, Columbia School of Social Work. https://complicatedgrief.columbia.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Managing-Bereavement-Around-COVID-19-HSPH.pdf
Leaf, C. (2013). Switch on your brain: The key to peak happiness, thinking, and health. Baker Books.
Shear, M. K. (2010). Complicated grief treatment: The theory, practice and outcomes. Bereavement Care, 29(3), 10–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/02682621.2010.522373
Siegel, D. J. (2009). Mindsight: The new science of personal transformation. Bantam Books.
Southwick, S. M., & Charney, D. S. (2012). Resilience: The science of mastering life’s greatest challenges. Cambridge University Press.
Stroebe, M., & Schut, H. (2010). The dual process model of coping with bereavement: A decade on. OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying, 61(4), 273–289.
Willis, M. (2020). RESTORED: A self-paced grief workbook for your journey from loss to life. https://www.goodmourningwithmarilyn.com/restored
Zolli, A., & Healy, A. M. (2012). Resilience: why things bounce back. Simon & Schuster.
Will you join me in RESTORING lives? If so send me an email, I would love to hear from you.
Marilyn Willis, MA, NCC, LPCC
Counselor at Marilyn C F Willis Counseling in Madera, California
Find the “RESTORED” workbook at: GoodMourningwithMarilyn.com/book
Have a grief question? GoodMourningwithMarilyn@gmail.com
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