Grief And Loss Theory in Social Work Practice

Contributed by Jennifer Yoffie, MSW.

The five stages of grief are denial, anger, barraging, depression, and acceptance. In my case, the grief was dealing with the onset of my son’s seizures and his diagnosis of epilepsy. I went through the stages in order for the most part but acceptance for me came before depression. How grief and loss theory in social work practice prepared me for my grief.

Grief And Loss Theory In Social Work Practice: Denial

I would constantly say to my husband “this is not happening to our son”. Everything is fine and he is just going through a phase. A lot of the times I would block it out and forget it was even happening. I remember talking to my boss one day about my caseload and telling her I had some spots that needed to be filled. I was telling her who I was going to have on my caseload and I was okay with taking more if she needed me to. She said to me, ”let’s worry about this when all things settle down.”

It didn’t even cross my mind at that point what was going on and how bad things with my son had been. A big question that always ran through my mind was “Are we making this up? Do the doctors believe us?

Grief And Loss Theory In Social Work Practice: Anger

I wanted to blame everyone and anything for what was happening. The question ran through my head such as – Why did he have to go through this? I would wonder why other families didn’t have to go through this? And I was mean to friends, family, co-worker, professionals, etc. I thought they needed to help us and do more for us even though for the most part they were by our side. And if the doctors upped his medications or made any suggestions and he would have another seizure, then it was their fault and they needed to do more. I made sure the doctors and nurses were aware of this.

Grief And Loss Theory In Social Work Practice: Bargaining

I researched and researched why this was happening, and what I could do to fix this.

And again questions ran through my head – Was it his two-year shots that caused this? Is it my fault? Did I eat the wrong food when I was pregnant or take something I should not have had? Did this happen because he fell down the stairs 6 months ago?

Grief And Loss Theory In Social Work Practice: Depression

This was the worst stage for my husband I during this time. I have been on depression medication since my teenage years but then had to add an anxiety medication as well. After several panic attacks and episodes of tears, my husband who hated medication broke down and got on a low dose for himself. We isolated ourselves, would not let people help, we ate horribly (gaining a lot of weight), we slept a lot, we let our housework slip, etc. The list was endless.

Grief And Loss Theory In Social Work Practice: Acceptance

I remember this day when everything became clear. And my acceptance of the situation took place. It was almost like I needed proof of what was happening. We were at the hospital for several days after my son had had a very bad seizure in which he turned blue and stopped breathing. He was getting several tests done and we met with several doctors. I remember standing out in the hallway with a few doctors showing them a video of the seizure and them saying, “Yes, this is a seizure.”

Then we were in a room hooked up to an EEG machine and we prayed he would have a seizure and the doctors could see it. It was 6:00 am and the doctors were doing rounds. The doctor came in to check on our son and give us the game plan for the day. He then left because my son was still sleeping. As soon as he shut the door, sure enough, he went into a seizure with the EEG on. We were jumping up and down and never have been so happy to see a seizure. After the doctor came and explained things to us, we both felt this huge relief come off of our shoulders. It was at this point we were able to accept the reality that our son has epilepsy.

Provided by contributing expert, Jennifer Yoffie, MSW:

Jennifer Yoffie, MSW is an expert contributor to and currently works as a family Resource Specialist for the Capable Kids and Families Program at St. Louis Arc. Her background and expertise includes infant education, ABA implementation and family assessment.

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The Five Stages of Grief: A Social Worker's Struggle with Epilepsy
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The Five Stages of Grief: A Social Worker's Struggle with Epilepsy
How grief and loss theory in social work practice can provide answers in tough times. Learn how you can overcome difficult situations.
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