Another Day, Another Reason to Grieve

University of Houston Psychologist Addresses the Impact of Grief

Time and space to mourn are keys to healing according to Rheeda Walker, associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Houston. Photo credit: kieferpix/Getty
Rheeda Walker
Walker, director of the Culture, Risk and Resilience Lab, says Americans tend to speed through grief and need more time to process loss.

Every news cycle seems to bring another cataclysmic event that, collectively, the country must endure. Whether the death of a dignitary or a mass shooting, Americans have become numb with grief. That’s an unhealthy outcome, according to Rheeda Walker, associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Houston and director of the Culture, Risk, and Resilience Lab.

“We speed through grief as if it should be a fleeting thing. Doing so can contribute to complicated grief. There are people today who are grieving the loss of a loved one but feeling forced to act as if today is another day,” said Walker. She believes it is a phenomenon of Western society to discount the weight of grief.

“The bereaved can and should be allowed whatever they need to work through grief. How one thinks about and is permitted to mourn the death of a loved one can impact the healing process,” she said. Time and space to mourn, said Walker, are keys to healing.

One day after burying Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years, President George H.W. Bush was hospitalized for an infection. Walker says bereaved persons can experience unimaginable pain and each person’s grief will look different from that of another.

“We have to be careful to be supportive and not rush to pathologize the grief process.” She said it is ultimately important for a person in grief to do whatever he or she needs to do for themselves rather than satisfy the needs of others. 

“In the short-term, grief can feel like insurmountable sadness, emptiness and loss. Life as it once was is no more,” said Walker. “The bereaved individual may not want to eat, socialize or engage in any of the activities that he or she typically enjoys. The passing of a loved one is something for which no one can ever truly prepare because all that we will have are memories; no one can be replaced.”


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