And the conclusion I have come to is that every bereaved person's goal is different.
However, as a grief support practitioner -- someone who tries to help bereaved people -- I have found it important to have goals for myself as I do my work, and it has been useful to me to view grief through the lens of recovery. If I am guided by the principles of recovery, I can focus on the process, and the bereaved person I am working with can determine his or her own goals.
The recovery model that I believe is the most broadly applicable to my work is from the National Consensus Statement on Mental Health Recovery, the elements of which I have outlined below (I've shortened them from the original, and altered some of the wording to focus on bereavement). These recovery principles guide my work:
- Self-Direction: Grieving people ought to lead, control, make decisions about, and define their own recovery through autonomy, independence, and access to resources. Recovery must be self-directed by individuals determining their own life goals and designing a path to reach those goals.
- Individualized and Person-Centered: The pathways to recovery are as multiple and various as the nature of individual bereaved people are. Recovery is at the same time an ongoing journey and an accomplishment, and it is a means for achieving optimal mental health and overall wellness.
- Empowerment: Individually and collectively, bereaved people must be empowered to control their destiny in organizations and communities. They must be able to choose among a range of options, participate constructively in decisions that affect them, and efficiently remedy their grievances.
- Holistic: Recovery encompasses an individual’s whole life, including body, mind, emotions, spirit, and community. All sources of support at every level ought to address grieving people's needs in all of these dimensions.
- Non-Linear: Recovery is not a step-by step process but is based on continual growth, occasional setbacks, and learning from experience. Providing grieving people with an environment where positive change is possible provides the foundation for recovery.
- Strengths-Based: Recovery comes from valuing and building on the capacities, resiliencies, talents, coping abilities, and inherent worth of bereaved people. Using their strengths, people learn to cope with loss and engage in new challenges, opportunities, and relationships.
- Peer Support: Mutual support -- sharing experiential knowledge and skills among peers -- plays an invaluable role in recovery. Bereaved people who are experienced with recovery ought to be encouraged and supported in helping others who are new to recovery.
- Respect: Acceptance and appreciation of people who are grieving -- including protecting their rights and countering judgmental attitudes and discrimination against them -- is crucial to recovery; and fostering self-acceptance, confidence, and a sense of belonging are vital.
- Responsibility: Bereaved people have a responsibility for their own self-care. Engaging in recovery may require great courage, and people must strive to find meaning in their experiences and identify coping strategies and healing processes to promote their own wellness.
- Hope: Grieving people can and do overcome the barriers and obstacles that confront them. Hope is experienced from within, but it can be fostered by peers, families, friends, providers, and everyone in the community. Hope is the catalyst and the fuel for the recovery process.