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What is Degriefing?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2016
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Degriefing is a form of supportive care aimed at people who are grieving; it may be offered to surviving family members of deceased individuals, people who work in stressful professions like nursing and firefighting, or to individuals who are struggling with other forms of grief and stress. Degriefing incorporates a wide range of therapies, from traditional psychological counseling to bodywork, and it is customized for the individual, recognizing the fact that grief affects people in very different ways.

Grief is an intense emotion, and it can have a profound effect on someone. Many people struggle to cope with grief, sometimes developing negative habits or behaviors because they cannot handle the scope of the situation. Degriefing is designed to recognize the importance of grief while helping people to move through it in a constructive way. It also encourages the healthy expression of grief, rather than trying to suppress or marginalize grief.

Psychological counseling can be a key part of degriefing, as can things like massage, instruction in self-care, yoga, meditation, and education about death and grief. Degriefing may be performed in a one on one environment, or in a group, and it often includes a team of people who support those in grief in a variety of ways.

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Sometimes, degriefing is mandated. Medical and emergency services personnel may be asked to attend a set number of degriefing sessions in the wake of a traumatic event to express feelings and work through complex emotions. In these instances, people often participate as a group, supporting each other and developing skills which will help them cope with such events in the future.

People can also pursue degriefing on their own, or through a recommendation from a medical professional or close friend. Many medical professionals recognize profound emotional distress, but do not feel equipped to deal with it because it is not their area of expertise; they may suggest degriefing to help patients deal with grief and loss.

In addition to being psychologically helpful, degriefing can also be physically beneficial. Learning about grief and self-care can help people to make conscious choices to take care of their bodies, and the environment of degriefing sessions helps to express tension and stress, allowing people in grief to reduce strain on their bodies and immune systems. Massage, yoga, and other physical aspects of degriefing also improve well-being. While a physical decline often accompanies grief as people struggle to cope, degriefing can make this decline less severe, allowing people to recover more quickly from their experiences.

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