by Jenn Flaum, LCSW, MBA
The Facing the Mourning curriculum is designed in four modules, to be conducted over the course of four weeks. While the exact curriculum © has not been studied through empirical research, the modules are based in evidence based practice.
Evidence supports that support groups are effective when working with mental health. Peer based support groups are shown to reduce grief symptoms and increase well-being, personal growth and positive meaning in life. (Barton et al 2019). As such, Facing the Mourning is designed to facilitate evidence based practices that have been effective in reducing grief symptoms.
Week 1: Building Memorials: People have practiced memorialization rituals through history and all cultures. As cremation rates around the world rise, death-care professionals, clinicians and pastors have concerns that families are not utilizing rituals following the death of a loved one or having adequate support (Hoy, 2013). Theorists see memorialization as a way of allowing people to create meaning, process their loss and preserve relationships with their loved ones (Luster, R. 2021).
Week 2 and 3:Letter Writing/Journaling: According to Harvard Health Publishing, some research suggests that writing can boost immune function, mood and well-being (2016). According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, one of the best ways to cope with overwhelming emotion is through expression and journaling. Facing the Mourning invites participants to write, in a safe environment and then share their experiences.
Week 4: Goal Setting with Milestones is consistent with solution focused brief therapy techniques. As I’m sure you are aware, solution focused brief therapy focuses specifically on finding solutions in the present and exploring hope for the future. This type of therapy is pragmatic and one of the most commonly used therapeutic approaches in the United States.
Facing the Mourning is an interactive program, designed to be peer-based and can be used with individuals of all ages and any type of death or loss. The curriculum was designed to help individuals with their personal grief journey by using visual and thought-provoking tools and examples, introducing the above meaningful activities and inviting participants to engage that feels comfortable for them, using the cornerstone HeartLight Center belief that individuals know themselves best. We are here to help provide guidance and support, and fine that the commitment to a 4-week closed-group can feel more doable to some than some other longer programs. We first developed the Facing the Mourning material in 2005 and tested and presented the materials to numerous groups, received helpful feedback and collected examples, and continue to update the program to ensure content relevance. The true measure of success has been the transformation of participants from the first session through the four weeks as they walk their own journey through grief.
We’ve received lots of feedback from participants of our Facing the Mourning groups over the years, we have heard:
“Facing the Mourning went beyond book reading in helping me deal with my grief. It was a hands-on process of looking at my grief from so many different angles. It made me think, gave me something to do – it was a most helpful and unique experience.”
“I attended the “Face the Mourning” class just a few months after my wife’s sudden, unexpected passing. I was a lost soul, feeling adrift at sea and not knowing where to go and what to do. I had so many unknown thoughts coming at me, it was quite frightening. I thought the class was “out of the box” for me, I wanted to attend it. I found it to be very difficult at times. I also found it to be incredibly important and special to me. The things I learned helped get me through that horrible storm. Some of the things I did in the class became Christmas presents for my family, things we’ll cherish forever I have three (so far) memorials planned for my wife this year, thanks to the class I would highly recommend the “Face the Mourning” class to anyone trying to cope with the loss of a special loved one.”
“Facing the Mourning was the perfect name for the group sessions that I attended. Through effective instruction including specific assignments, I was challenged to face the overwhelming emotions that resulted from the loss of my precious wife. A very meaningful part of my experience was the compassion and support provided by other group members that had experienced similar losses. Overall, the instruction and support gave me hope that I could get through my personal despair.”
“I wish I had taken this class two years earlier. It helped me to realize that most of the things I was feeling were normal for people trying to survive their grief, and it helped me find ways to work through some of my most difficult issues. I felt that I had great support from the facilitator as well as the other people taking the class. I would highly recommend Facing the Mourning to anyone who struggles with working through their bereavement whether it has been a few months, or a few years, as it did help me.”
For any professional looking for a versatile, easy to use 4-week program for bereaved individuals in your community or organization, we welcome you to join us for an upcoming Facing the Mourning Facilitator Training!
Bartone, P. T. , Bartone, J. V., Violanti, J.M., & Gileno, Z. M. (2019) POeer support services for bereaved survivors: A Systemic review. Journal of Death and Dying. 80. 137-166. Doi: https://doi.org/10.177/0030222817728204
Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School. (2016, November 5). Writing to eas grief and loss. Retrieved July 11, 2023 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/writing-to-ease-grief.
Hoy, W. G. (2013). Do funerals matter? The purposes and practices of death rituals in global perspective. New York, NY: Routledge.
Luster, R. (2021). How memory can help us cope with the loss of loved ones. Psychology Today. Retrieved July 11, 2023 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/more-feeling/202110/how-memory-can-help-us-cope-the-loss-loved-ones