Dr Robert Neimeyer, Ph.D

Robert Neimeyer, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Memphis and is the editor of the international journal, Death Studies.  Neimeyer has published 24 books, including Lessons in Loss and The Art of Longing, as well as over 350 articles and chapters, many of which explore grieving as a process of reconstruction of a world of meaning that has been challenged by loss.  He has served as past president of the Association for Death Education and Counseling, which has presented him with both its Research Recognition and Clinical Practice Awards, as well as served as chair of the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement.

Dr Neimeyer will be presenting a keynote on Mourning and Meaning:  The Narrative Arc of Traumatic Loss

Keynote  Abstract:

Mourning and Meaning: The Narrative Arc of Traumatic Loss

The loss of a loved one, particularly in its most tragic forms, profoundly challenges the thematic foundations that give meaning to the stories of our lives.  In my remarks I will trace one possible narrative arc through traumatic bereavement, beginning with the shattering of our self narratives as survivors, through our efforts at retelling the narrative of the loss in some restorative fashion, reconstructing its meaning for our ongoing lives, integrating its broader spiritual or cosmic significance, and extending the story of our loved one’s existence in life-affirming ways.  In doing so I will summarize novel research findings and practice implications that contribute to a narrative approach to meaning reconstruction in the wake of loss, and illustrate points in the arc with reference to an actual case of traumatic bereavement.

Workshop Abstract:

Mourning and Meaning: The Narrative Arc of Traumatic Loss

The loss of a loved one, particularly in its most tragic forms, profoundly challenges the thematic foundations that give meaning to the stories of our lives.  In this workshop we will trace one possible narrative arc through traumatic bereavement, beginning with the shattering of our self narratives as survivors, through our efforts at retelling the narrative of the loss in some restorative fashion, reconstructing its meaning for our ongoing lives, integrating its broader spiritual or cosmic significance, and extending the story of our loved one’s existence in life-affirming ways.  In doing so we will review novel research findings on the role of meaning and spirituality in adapting to difficult losses, whether these arise from natural death, or from violent causes such as homicide, suicide and fatal accident.  Building on these findings, we will focus strongly on the practice implications of a narrative approach to meaning reconstruction in the wake of loss, and learn how to (1) distinguish between complicated and adaptive grief, (2) practice procedures for restorative retelling of traumatic loss, (3) offer evidence based guidelines for therapeutic journaling, (4) use metaphoric and literal storytelling to access and work with themes in a client’s own grief experiences.  Throughout, we will illustrate points in the arc with reference to an actual case studies of traumatic bereavement, and describe the conditions that help and hinder clients striving to move from grief to growth in the wake of difficult loss.

Agenda

  • Defining complicated or prolonged grief disorder
  • Symptomatic responses to violent death bereavement
  • Spiritual struggle in bereavement:  A review of new evidence
  • Revisiting the story of the loss:  Complicated grief therapy
  • The quest for meaning in the loss of a child
  • Healing stories:  Directed journaling for meaning reconstruction
  • Loss integration and the cause of death
  • Posttraumatic growth:  Impediments and facilitating conditions
  • Virtual dream stories:  Envisioning the possible