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Re-Membering Conversations: Creating Sustaining Counseling Conversations in the Face of Grief

Video Type: In Practice

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Lorraine Hedtke works with Rhiannon, a 25-year-old woman whose father passed away 6 months ago. Rhiannon describes, in vivid detail, her free-spirited dad, who raised her and her sister as a single parent. In his final years, roles were reversed, and Rhiannon took care of her father as he died a slow and difficult death. Rhiannon comes to the session still in grief over her father's death and looking for ways to be more at peace. Rather than generating stories of “goodbye” and completing unfinished business, Hedtke works with Rhiannon to find ways in which the love for her father can be maintained and nurtured. The session focuses on the continuation of the life of Rhiannon's father rather than dwelling on his death. Traditional approaches in the field of death and bereavement focus on “letting go” and “moving on” from the memories of our deceased loved ones. Often, this approach overemphasizes the finality of death and disconnects grieving clients from important relationships in their lives. Hedtke's work represents a departure from conventional ways in which death and grief are examined. “Re-membering” practices are a narrative approach to grief psychology that emphasizes the ongoing story of relationship. Drawing on practices of storytelling, narrative legacy, and rituals, the goal is to keep relationships alive long after death. From this perspective, grief becomes an evolving and creative opportunity for story development and change, rather than an unpleasant task to be worked through as quickly as possible. Lorraine Hedtke, PhD, MSW, ACSW, LCSW, specializes in working with people and families after a loved one has died. Her articles have appeared in numerous professional trade publications and newspapers. She also works at California State University, San Bernardino, in the College of Education. She is a faculty member, teaching counseling practice, and coordinates the graduate program in educational counseling and guidance.

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