Healing Grief Through Practical Action

Excerpted from Swallowed by a Snake

Tom Golden LCSW

A man who uses his practicality in his grieving acknowledges and expresses his feeling of loss in a physical, tangible way. His grief takes on a practical and sensate quality. In the practical mode, men will tend to do things in honor of the loss. I worked with one man whose son was killed in a car accident. To deal with his grief the man got involved in a victim's rights group, donating his time and skills as a lawyer. In doing this he found a contained place where he could freely communicate his thoughts and feelings about his grief. He was able to tell his story over and over as someone else might do in a therapy group, but he did it as a part of his service activity. Not only does such service work join the man's activity with his grief, it also has the potential to imbue the death with meaning. Grief without meaning can be a dangerous and prolonged experience.


Dedicating One's Work

Another example of this mode occurs when people dedicate work in honor of someone who has died or been injured. The Detroit Lions recently dedicated their season to a player who had been paralyzed. In this way the players transformed their arena into a space that could be used to express their grief for their injured teammate.

Nolan Richardson, the head coach of the Arkansas national championship basketball team, was asked after the final game about his daughter who had died some years prior. Richardson replied that after each game won, as he walked out of the arena, he said to her, "Baby, we got you another one." This statement tells us that Richardson had connected his grief for his daughter with his greatest skill, being a basketball coach. One can easily imagine how Richardson thought of his daughter during each game, and even each practice, and had dedicated his work in her memory.


Creating Memorials

A man who had two family members killed in a car accident on a highway near his home developed his own ritual to deal with this tragedy. Near the spot where the accident occurred, he erected two wooden crosses that he had made and painted white. These homemade markers violated local codes, and so the police would come and take them down. Shortly thereafter the man would go through his ritual all over again. Each time he made and erected crosses he gave himself the opportunity to connect his grief with his action. This behavior typifies grieving through practicality. All memorial structures are classic examples of this type of grieving. Buildings and statues have been designed and built by men for millennia to commemorate the deceased. The Taj Mahal is just one example, and Washington D.C. with all of its memorials is another.

Excerpted from Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing pages 88-89.
Tom Golden LCSW

Tom Golden is a professional speaker, author, and psychotherapist whose area of specialization is healing from loss and trauma. You can find out more about Ton's private practice here. Tom gives workshops across the country and in Canada on many aspects of this topic. His workshops are known to be both entertaining and informative. Contact Tom at the addresses below (email or snail mail) for inquiries about speaking or training for your group. You can also order his book Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing on this site or through Amazon.com


Tom Golden LCSW
 P.O. Box 83658
Gaithersburg, Maryland 20883
301 670-1027