Course Topics and Projected Class Schedule

Grief in a Family Context --
HPER F460/F560



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This course is organized into one preparatory (pre-) unit and fourteen topical units. Students should complete the pre-unit before any of the other units, ideally before the class begins. It should take an hour or so to complete. Please note that this schedule is projected and may change; if this happens, students will be informed via the class distribution list.

Pre-unit *** What is Grief? *** Family Context of Grief *** Culture *** Developmental Issues #1 *** Developmental Issues #2 *** Roles and Relationships *** Gender and Personality *** The Complicated Nature of Grief in Families *** Ambiguous Loss and Disenfranchised Grief *** Chronic Grief (Or Is it Periodic Grief) *** Anticipated Losses and Anticipatory Grief *** Traumatic Loss and Grief *** Making Decisions in a Family Context *** Ceremonies and Rituals for Connection and Change

NOTE: This course is an evolving process. These units may be updated and changed up to two weeks before they are due to be covered in class. Also, because we anticipate having several guest visitors to the class, and because of the need to remain flexible to adapt to their schedules, we may need to revise this schedule. Announcements will be made, via the e-mail distribution list, when this will be necessary.

* Pre-unit -- Preparations for Class

Please complete before working on Unit 1. This unit takes an hour or so to complete.

In this unit, skills necessary for successful completion of the class are practiced.

* Unit 1 -- What Is Grief?

Complete between Aug. 30 and Sept. 5. The start date on each unit will be Monday, changing around the US Thanksgiving holidays.

Grief as more than emotional expression of loss, and this unit addresses a broader picture of grief. We will use a constructivist view, and will see grief is a redefinition of "normal" that involves a movement from a "normal" that existed before the loss to a new "normal" that incorporates information from the loss.

* Unit 2 -- Family Context of Grief

Complete between Sept. 6 and 12.

Two views are explored: grief in families as a systems phenomenon and grief of individuals who interact with and influence each other in the social context of the family.

* Unit 3 -- Culture

Complete between Sept. 13 and 19.

Cultural variations exist in the interpretation and display of grief and mourning (this is a sociological definition of mourning as a public display of grief rather than a synonym for grief). This may act to solidify relationships in the family, if the members are all from the same cultural group, but may contribute to added stress if they are not. This is further complicated by subtle variations among subcultural groups.

* Unit 4 -- Developmental Issues #1, Infancy through Early Adolescence

Complete between Sept. 20 and 26.

How we relate to life and loss is influenced by development. In this and the next unit, we look at some of the unique characteristics seen at different developmental stages. In this unit, we look at grief in infancy, childhood and adolescence.

* Unit 5 -- Developmental Issues #2, Late Adolescence through the Later Years

Complete between Sept. 27 and Oct. 3.

Here, we continue to look at developmental differences, completing our look at grief in adolescence - going on to grief in adulthood and among the aged.

* Unit 6 -- Roles and Relationships

Complete between Oct. 4 and 10.

Here, we examine the impact of roles and relationships in families on grief and the impact of grief on relationships. These would include more institutionalized roles and relationships (e.g., sibling, parent-child, and spousal) and would also include more process-oriented relationship factors (e.g., conflictual vs. harmonious, competitive vs. cooperative).

* Unit 7 --Gender and Personality

Complete between Oct. 11 and 17.

How is gender a factor in the grief of men and women? What are the differences? How are personality and personality differences factor? What effect do these differences have on relationships among family members?

* Unit 8 -- The Complicated Nature of Grief in Families Also, post interview to Cross-cultural Interview Forum

Complete between Oct. 18 and 24.

Recently writers have proposed that the incidence of complicated grief is increasing. It also has been suggested that grief in families is naturally complicated because of the nature of family relationships (i.e., shared history with all of its attendant baggage, gender and age differences, anticipated future, the intensity of emotion and need for others to "play their parts" as each family member needs). 

* Unit 9 -- Ambiguous Loss and Disenfranchised Grief

Complete between Octo. 25 and 31.

We will address two different approaches to ambiguous loss: the first is a systems approach (i.e., boundary ambiguity--who is in and who is out of the system), the second relates to interpretation of the loss (i.e., uncertainty among family members as to who or what has been lost and the related questions regarding the legitimacy of recognizing that a loss has occurred). The result of ambiguous loss is disenfranchised grief-- grief that is unrecognized and/or disallowed.

* Unit 10 -- Chronic Grief (Or Is it Periodic Grief?)

Complete between Nov. 1 and 7.

This form of grief has been identified in cases where a family member has a serious, disabling condition, but there is no definable "end" in sight (i.e., either cure or death). The image is of families overwhelmed by their ongoing loss, struggling without hope. An alternative view is that of alternating episodes of grief and joy, which actually may counterbalance each other.

* Unit 11 -- Anticipated Losses and Anticipatory Grief

Complete between Nov. 8 and 14.

What if a loss can be anticipated, as in the case of a terminal illness? What are the impacts on the family? What if it can be anticipated, but some family members persist in refusing to do so while others have "moved on" with their grief?

* Unit 12 --Traumatic Loss and Grief

Complete between Nov. 15 and 21.

When a loss is experienced as traumatic, it is particularly difficult to resolve and can contribute to tremendous hardship in families. What is the nature of trauma as it relates to loss and what can be done to facilitate successful grief resolution?

* Unit 13 -- Making Decisions in a Family Context

Complete between Nov. 22 and Dec. 1 (extended because of the Thanksgiving holiday).

This unit will address issues of decision making, including termination of life-support and living wills. In addition, thoughts to consider when deciding about grief counseling will be addressed.

* Unit 14 -- Ceremonies and Rituals for Connection and Change

Complete between Dec. 2 and 8 (semester officially ends on Dec. 17).

One way to maintain and/or build connections in families is through the use of ceremonies and rituals. The telling of stories and communication about feelings is facilitated in these activities. Elements of ritual will be discussed.

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Page created: 1/96. Last updated: 8/28/2010.
URL: http://www.indiana.edu/~famlygrf/units/topics.html
Copyright 1996-2010, Kathleen R. Gilbert, Ph.D.

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