Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Optomism, Coping Skills and Social Support

The research on parental grief is voluminous. Most of the articles contain a statement to the effect that the loss of a child is the worst loss any person can suffer. Other research tries to predict based on a number of variables how a parent will progress over time. Some of the research points to tree variables as rough predictors of future recovery/adjustment:

1. Optimism for life
2. Coping skills
3. Perceived social support

The first two are set by the time the loss occurs-not that we do not learn how to cope after our child's death but the skills that existed at the time of the loss are the focus. So if we have been beat up a little in life and had to overcome some difficulties and in the process learned some coping skills we may be better prepared for this most difficult of obstacles. But perceived social support is the variable that is not fixed at the time of our child's death. Does it appear to us that our circle of friends, family, co-workers and neighbors are supportive? If so , the studies suggest we will do better. With the awkwardness and confusion and ignorance concerning death where are we supposed to get this social support? There are some who actually can be helpful-knowing when to listen, how to be supportive, allowing us to proceed at our own pace and sticking with us , but unfortunately they are the rarity. It is not their fault-I was like them before this happened in many respects also when it came to death, particularly a tragic death. If social support is a predictor of a better outcome for those who are grieving what can we do to educate those around us to do a better job?