The parent-child bond is one of the most meaningful relationships a person will experience. Parents who have lost a child can often feel that a part of them has died. The despair and pain that follow a child’s death is thought by many to exceed all other experiences. Parents are simply not supposed to outlive their children and no parent is prepared for a child’s death. Mike and Sally have experience and tremendous loss of their 6-year-old son to cancer. The ABC Model of Crisis Intervention and Kubler Ross’s Five Stages of Death and Dying will be great assets to Mike and Sally to help them through this traumatic event.
Although not everyone that comes across a stressor in life will experience a crisis, some are unable to cope with the stressor in a healthy manner and eventually succumb to a crisis. If this person does not receive the adequate crisis intervention during this state, he or she is likely to be unable to function at the level he or she had been functioning before the crisis. This will inevitably lead to additional crisis scenarios for every stressor they must face in life. “This pattern can go on for many years until the person’s ego is completely drained of its capacity to deal with reality; often such people commit suicide, kill someone, or have a psychotic breakdown.” (Kanel, K. 2007).
In order to be a successful crisis intervention counselor, the most important skills needed are listening to the client with a compassionate and empathetic ear. According to our textbook, the most basic skill of helping is listening. “Good eye contact, attentive body language, expressive vocal style, and verbal following are valuable listening tools.” (Kanel, K. 2007). Talking with them and reassuring them that their response to the crisis is not right or wrong. During this time it is important to allow and encourage the person supported to share their feelings. This implies that by listening to them I accept them as a person with inherent warmth and dignity, regardless of their behavior, demeanor, and appearance. It serves to communicate willingness to work with them, interest, acceptance and a caring attitude toward them.
After establishing a rapport it’s time to identify the precipitating event, Mike and Sally has lost their son to cancer. Mike is there to support Sally because she feels that her life is over and that she has no reason to live. Sally admits that she feels guilty for still living and going on with life. Sally cannot accept the fact that a child dies before a parent. It is not the normal way of life. Mike is going crazy because all he hears from Sally is her telling God to take her and bring her son back. Mike, on the other hand, feels that this is just life. He believes that his son was here for only a short time and that his work is done. Mike admits that he has no idea what is wrong with Sally or how to help her because he is doing just fine.
After identifying the precipitating event there needs to be ways for Mike and Sally to cope with the precipitating event. Mike seems to be coping well with the loss of his son but Sally needs to know that she needs to take life one day at a time. She is extremely suffering from this loss. Bereaved parents often report physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, restlessness and/or sleeplessness, tightness in the throat, empty feelings in the abdomen, general fatigue, etc. Sally needs to be put on suicide watch and have therapy 2-3 times a week. Sally may feel like she is riding a roller coaster of emotions and may sometimes even think she is going crazy. She needs to know that those intense emotions are normal. Since Mike is more understanding and accepting of their son’s death so it would be a good idea for him to help Sally through this process by letting her talk about him. Mike can help Sally by creating a book of memories so she has something to remind her of him when she gets sad. Family therapy will also help Sally in coping, her family being with her during this time and sharing stories of him will give her a since of peace and relief. It will let her know that she is not the only one who has loss.
Grieving is a major part of dealing with the loss of a child, Sally is experiencing shock, denial and anger. As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that she experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs. Sally feeling of anger and she’s lashing out unwarranted blame for the death of her son and questioning her faith, this is a good time for her to release bottled emotions. Sally is so hurt, upset and confused that she experiences depression. This is a normal stage of grief so no one should talk her into getting on with her life. That would just make things worse for her, if she don’t grieve in her own time she could relapse and fall deeper into depression and may cause harm to herself. This phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance. She may need a bit of helpful cooperation and a few kind words. The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid her loved one farewell. Sometimes all she really need is a hug. Once Sally can accept that her son is gone she can move on with her life. Learning to cherish a memory without letting it control her is a very important step in the grieving process. By finding a special safe “place” for her son, she can heal from grieving and move back into her life. She begins to find joy in new experiences, and she can take comfort in the knowledge that she keeps her cherished memories with her, wherever she goes.
Coping with loss is an ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help them go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that they’re going through. But others can be there for them and help comfort them through this process. The best thing they can do is to allow themselves to feel the grief as it comes over them. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing.