Darcy Harris: Social Justice and Grief

Dr. Darcy Harris has most recently been focusing on working with issues on social justices and social messages as it relates to grieving, she tells Dr. Heidi Horsley during the Association for Death Education and Counseling 2015 conference. Working with a grief and death studies program in London, Ontario, she splits her time between this work and continuing to serve as a therapist. She’s noticed a number of recurring themes arising within her clients and students alike, such as, “Am I normal?” Many times, people in grief feel like they need to constrict and change how they appear to be grieving in order to fit what they think others want to see, and what you notice isn’t actually how they’re experiencing grief.

“Social justice plays in because we look at how issues related to access to resources, and social messages are really built around a society that values productivity” says Dr. Harris. Materialism and efficiency are highly valued, even in grief, and that can be a challenge for those who feel the need to keep up with the Jones’s even after a loss. Keeping pace is impossible when you’re dying, in bereavement or preparing to lose someone to a terminal illness.

Social Issues in Grief

“My role…is to really try to normalize the grief response as it is.” Grief is largely healthy, but it can twist into something “wrong.” Not being able to concentrate or feeling exhausted makes someone who’s grieving feel like they “should” be doing something different. She points out that “should” is always a red flag.

The should is often wrong. People tell you what you should be doing in grief, and that can get internalized. Men “should” stop wallowing. Women “should” move on. Taking time to regroup after having your world shattered is critical. Grief is the price you pay for loving someone. You can find Dr. Harris’ books on Amazon, or contact her directly at Kings University.

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