Unlocking the Treasures of Grief: The Therapeutic Third
The key to unlocking the treasures of grief is to first find the language to communicate your grief experience. This release can be therapeutic because in order to move forward in the journey of life, grief must be processed or worked through. Navigating life after a significant loss can be quite the emotional experience. Emotions are just energy in motion. How that looks for each individual is unique to the individual and the relationship with the loss.
While verbally communicating your grief experience can be helpful, language in this context is not exclusive to spoken words. In this case, language means whatever form of expression that comes naturally. Language can also be an art form conveyed by writing or gestures and is only limited by the imagination.
What is even more important on this journey is support. It is not uncommon for relationships to undergo various transformations during periods of grieving. Some relationships weaken, some grow stronger and some dissolve. Finding your person or community that will and can hold this sacred space for you is crucial. Holding space entails providing time that allows the person to be expressively free without receiving judgement or advice, unless advice is specifically solicited. There is a theory in grief I personally find to be true, which is called ‘the therapeutic third’. The theory says social support is divided into thirds or the following categories: neutral third, harmful third, and therapeutic third.
True to their name, the therapeutic third are going to be those who do not take the pain of grief away, but instead make us feel held and supported by allowing us to be freely expressive about our loss. Then there are those who are neither harmful or helpful – the neutral third – and those who unfortunately are harmful before the loss and/or harmful after loss – the harmful third.
Though this journey can be a long and tough one, go forth if you have not already and find your community. If not quite there yet, take your time and do not forget to muster up the same compassion and grace that we often extend to others back to self.
Wolfelt, A 1996 Reaching Out for Help When You Are Grieving
Your friend in dark and light,
Jasmine Cobb, LMSW, CGCS
Licensed Master Social
Worker and Certified Grief