Good Grief

Good Grief


If you’ve been following my blog posts for the past few months, you’ll see that I’ve been helping with the caregiving of a close loved one. Sadly, my family member who had terminal brain cancer passed two weeks ago. I’ve only ever experienced grief once before, also from the loss of someone I love dearly who was suddenly taken from our family...but having already gone through this experience doesn’t make the process of mourning any easier.

Death is such a natural and inevitable condition of life. Death happens all around us and all through our lives. Along with our loved ones, family members, friends, acquaintances, and pets, we die.

Eventually, all living creatures die.

So why do we have such a hard time dealing with death?

“Other societies educate their members about the reality of death and the processes of dying and grieving. We do not. We are left to figure it out for ourselves, relying on doctors and funeral directors to tell us what to do once we are face to face with death. We don’t know what to say, what to do, how to cope or to grieve.”


“Grief releases love and it also instills a profound sense of connection.”

-Jacqueline Novogratz

Studies show that how we grieve has a lot to do with our attachment style.

Going beyond the behavioral theory of attachment (that says a child becomes attached to its mother merely because she provides food) 1930’s Psychiatrist John Bowlby introduced an attachment theory based on the idea that there is an emotional, social, and psychological bond between mother and child.

“Bowlby proposed that attachment can be understood within an evolutionary context in that the caregiver provides safety and security for the infant. Attachment is adaptive as it enhances the infant’s chance of survival. According to Bowlby infants have a universal need to seek close proximity with their caregiver when under stress or threatened.”

“I wonder if my first breath was as soul-stirring to my mother as her last breath was to me."

– From 14 Days: A Mother, A Daughter, A Two-Week Goodbye  ― Lisa Goich

Together with Developmental Psychologist Mary Ainsworth, Bowlby’s theory was later expanded in the 1950’s, when a series of attachment studies and research papers emerged on child-mother relationship attachment patterns. Read the origins of attachment theory here.

“In 1970, Ainsworth identified three main attachment styles/patterns; Secure (type B), Insecure Avoidant (type A) and Insecure Ambivalent/Resistant (type C). She concluded that these attachment styles were the result of early interactions with the mother. A fourth attachment style known as Disorganized was later identified (Main, & Solomon, 1990).”

 Read the current terms and definitions of the attachment styles here. 

“You only lose what you cling to.”


“An attachment pattern is established in early childhood attachments and continues to function as a working model for relationships in adulthood.”

Furthermore, how we’re affected by the loss of our attachments may be significantly determined by our attachment style/pattern.

“Detachment doesn’t mean you don’t let the experience penetrate you. On the contrary, you let it penetrate you fully. That’s how you are able to leave it.” 

― Mitch AlbomTuesdays with Morrie

Psychologist and Psychotherapist Adrienne M. Meier (Department of Clinical Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary in California) conducted two research studies to examine these effects.

Her findings showed that “attachment styles are unique predictors of psychological well-being and can be especially vital at determining how a person will cope when faced with a difficult life stressor such as the loss of a loved one.”

Meier says, “When stressors are more traumatic, deactivating and denial strategies more consistently emerge as less effective, resulting in an inability to cope with bereavement.”

“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt”

-Mark Twain

If that's the case, then it’s understandable why some people have a more difficult time grieving their loved ones than others.

A prominent sign of trouble is chronic physical health complaints such as insomnia, achiness, and physical pain. Of course, there are a host of emotional symptoms too that are also associated with what is called "complicated grieving," things like prolonged guilt, self-blame, misdirected hostility, self-sabotage, isolation, and an absence of pleasure.

If working through the 5 Stages of Grief is influenced by how we attach ourselves to other people, specifically in our early childhood, knowing what style we have, must be helpful in bereavement recovery.

“The mourning process can feel like going through a carwash without a car.”

  ― Jodi Livon

Everyone has a hard time dealing with death. Some people have a harder time than others because they may not start out with, or learn throughout their life, the proper tools to deal with it. So my question now is...

Why aren't we teaching about death and the grieving process in schools?

There is no good grief. It’s all difficult. But any little insight or tip a person can learn (especially a little person) to help get through the mourning process smoother, has got to be a good thing.

Tracy Bryan writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12. She likes to tackle important and diverse topics that affect kids and their families. She also writes a blog for adults and one for kids aged 7-12 called The Awesomeness Blog.

Visit her website welcome page, and on Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter.


Attachment Style Test 

Tips for Bereavement Recovery


Images by Larissa Kulik