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Patrick O'Malley Ph.D: Making Sense Of Loss - 013

By David Newell

"Tis a fearful thing to love what death can touch. A fearful thing to love, to hope, to dream, to be. A thing for fools, this. And a holy thing. Tis a human thing, love, a holy thing, to love what death has touched.” - Yehuda HaLevi To love is the fiercest and most essential of human callings and in our loss, our grief becomes the mirror to the depth that love. When we lose a loved one to bereavement or separation, it is often the case that we feel swallowed whole by the vastness of that grief and the pain of the loss. Making sense of this pain, weaving gold out of the suffering, is a delicate art form and an essential responsibility for us emerge with a deeper clarity, meaning and integration from our losses. In exploring this process, the popular five stage model of grief emerged in the 1960s to help people comprehend their feelings. The model speaks of a chronological step-by-step process of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. To find closure, it is posited that one must go through each of these stages, but not everybody fits this process. Through his own tragic loss and decades of therapeutic practice, grief specialist Patrick O'Malley soon discovered that what we need to process these events and the unpredictable spectrum of feelings that accompany them is to create our own grief story. A narrative that helps tell the full sweep our of our loss, that encompasses all of our interiority so that we may be with it in its fullness. In his book Getting Grief Right Patrick speaks of the vital healing power of story-telling to reframe grieving as an act of the deepest form of love. He invites us to explore grief not as a process of recovery, but as the ongoing narrative of our relationship with the one we’ve lost—to be fully felt, told, and woven into our lives. In his own words: “Sadness, regret, confusion, yearning—all the experiences of grief—are a part of the narrative of love." When we learn to embrace these we create a compassionate environment for our feelings and a story that honours the loss and moves us forward in a deeper, enriched and vulnerable way.

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