Although retelling the “event story” of the death in an atmosphere of responsive witnessing represents a core component of Meaning Reconstruction, it is only one of a great variety of narrative procedures that can be used by grief therapists. In this workshop we explore the possible role of a sample of creative life writing techniques in which stories of loss can be written and re-written, metaphorically expressed, therapeutically deepened and used to prompt further work with others in support groups or in the client’s personal journal. Participants will receive clear instructions for the use of four distinct writing tools whose goals are to help mourners integrate their losses into the larger narrative of their lives, foster novel reconstruction of their restrictive frozen meanings, explore, embrace and expand perceptions of “self”, reinforce a secure continuing bond with the deceased loved one, and recruit their imaginations as a healing resource in fostering personal and relational change. Such tools are especially relevant in an era of telehealth counseling, when therapists can serve as grief coaches to survivors’ own efforts to make use of reflective interventions between sessions.
As a result of this presentation, participants will be able to:
1. Facilitate clients’ use of Chapters of Our Lives to discover and deconstruct the role of loss and transition in their own life stories
2. Practice using Virtual Dream Stories to elicit spontaneous, imaginative narratives that reveal the deeper themes associated with a client’s literal losses and suggest practical steps toward change
3. Utilize Who Am I (Now) Poetry to express, embrace, and expand perceptions of “self”, in order to learn about the client’s identity change in loss, including the rewards of paying attention to sensitive or taboo topics
4. Implement the Life Imprint technique to trace the way in which the relationship with the deceased shaped the client’s sense of self, paving the way to a continuing bond that is a source of gratitude and inspiration
Note: The Course Pack accompanying this workshop includes clear instructions or handouts for all four of the above techniques, which participants are free to duplicate for their use in grief counseling and therapy.
Robert A. Neimeyer, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Psychology, University of Memphis, and maintains an active consulting and coaching practice. He also directs the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition, which provides training internationally in grief therapy. Neimeyer has published 30 books, including Techniques of Grief Therapy: Assessment and Intervention and Grief and the Expressive Arts: Practices for Creating Meaning, the latter with Barbara Thompson, and serves as Editor of the journal Death Studies. The author of two books of poetry and over 500 articles and book chapters and a frequent workshop presenter, he is currently working to advance a more adequate theory of grieving as a meaning-making process. Neimeyer served as President of the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) and Chair of the International Work Group for Death, Dying, & Bereavement. In recognition of his scholarly contributions, he has been granted the Eminent Faculty Award by the University of Memphis, made a Fellow of the Clinical Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association, and given Lifetime Achievement Awards by both the Association for Death Education and Counseling and the International Network on Personal Meaning.
Reinekke Lengelle, PhD, is Assistant Professor Interdisciplinary Studies with the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Athabasca University in Canada. She is a researcher in the area of narrative career development and writing for personal development. She designs and teaches both online and face to face. She has been teaching and developing this type of writing for 24 years and is also a researcher with The Hague University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands. Lengelle began her career as a playwright, poet, author of non-fiction, and ran a small publishing house called Black Tulip Press. She is currently symposium co-editor with the British Journal of Guidance and Counselling and is part of an international group of scholars in the area of narrative and dialogical career guidance. Her forthcoming book to be published by Routledge is entitled Writing the Self in Bereavement: a story of love, spousal loss, and resilience, an authoethnography of her experience as a widow reconstructing her life and her relationship to her husband, Frans, following his death. In it she sharpens and deepens the relevance of life writing, for not only giving voice to the emotional and relational nuances of grief, but also for learning the affirmative lessons of loss as our lives continue to evolve.