Shame and Grief: Interview with Jeffrey Kauffman

At the annual ADEC (Association of Death Education and Counseling), I spoke with Jeffrey Kauffman about shame after grief and how complicated grief can be the result of the shame.

Jeffrey is the author of a book called “The Shame Of Death, Grief, and Trauma.”

Shame is a topic a lot of people shy away from, but the truth is there’s a lot of shame involved in grief. In the video below, Jeffrey explains how we can move through the shame and heal.

Here are some key takeaways from the video:

  • Shame is the biggest hidden emotional factor is people’s experience with grief. Since the shame is so hidden, it can really complicate the grieving process.
  • Peoples’ inability to recognize their feelings in grief, and inability to be in touch with themselves, has a lot to do with the shame they feel about their grief emotions.
  • As a parent feeling the grief of a child who died, there’s a certain vulnerability because you feel responsible for protecting your child. No matter what happens, there’s always a tendency to feel like you should have been able to do something different.
  • Shame is different from the other emotions from grief we have in that it has to do with ourselves. We may feel ashamed of something, but it always comes back to feeling ashamed of ourselves.
  • One of the reasons why it’s so important for us to understand shame, Jeffrey says, is because the tendency in our culture to deny death has everything to do with the feeling of shame that comes with death.
  • If death were out in the open and treated like a regular part of life, then Jeffrey believes the tendency to feel shame would be significantly reduced.
  • Being able to bring the feelings that you’re feeling ashamed about out in the open really helps to reduce the amount of shame you feel.
  • Jeffrey recommends talking to someone who ‘gets it’, somebody who can validate your experience and is accepting of what you feel. A person like that will help you come to terms with the fact that what you’re feeling is OK, which is what matters most when dealing with the shame that comes with grief.

For more video interviews, please see the Open To Hope YouTube channel.

Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley

Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley

More Articles Written by Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi

Dr. Gloria Horsley and Dr. Heidi Horsley are a mother/daughter team and internationally recognized grief experts. They are the founders of The Open to Hope Foundation and the hosts of The Open to Hope Show. In addition, Dr. Gloria is a board member for The Compassionate Friends and Dr. Heidi is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and has a private practice in manhattan. Their message is that others have made it through the grief journey and so can you, if you do not yet have hope lean on theirs.


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  • Gerry says:

    It seems to me that family members who should be the best are the absolute worst that dont “get it”. Unfortunately for me its the Hospice counselors who offer grief counseling that are trying to help me and “get it” and trying with anyone else in her family makes them uncomfortable. Even to the point to where my son started to cry and his aunt right there chose to walk out of the room instead of comfort the poor kid. He was like “Dad I just wanted someone to say something-talk to me about Mom- tell me its ok to cry- Instead they sheepishly walk away. They are acting like she never existed..It is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. They dont call me and I am resenting it and its not helping the process- and now I dont care- dont call. But I refuse to be the one to pull their heads out of their asses – Damn it I was the one who lost the love of his life. My wife who was so dedicated and loving to her family- cared for them maybe as much as her own some times. Now these people are uncomfortable and would rather not be approached. Yet they dare send out invitations to events- why so I could go there and be virtually ignored. No thanks do me no favors.