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Attachment Grief

A NEW CLINICAL PERSPECTIVE

DANA LERNER, LCSW

Americans have been acculturated to avoid talking about grief.

Often trivialized or misdiagnosed, grief plays a central role in humans’ ability to navigate loss, and denying or minimizing its expression can be terribly isolating for ourselves, and often confusing for our communities.

The truth is, we are all of us in a time of great loss – war, pandemic, climate change, gun & traffic violence – have all brought to the forefront the vulnerability of our species, most specifically our own children.

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After the Death of a Child,

Alice Neel, New York

For parents who have lost a child, the experience can feel profoundly world-altering. And in a death denying country, the acknowledgement of such a deep attachment, and its accompanying grief, can run contrary to societal understanding.

Image by British Library

It's time for this to change.

Longing for your child, sadness and isolation are expected & appropriate experiences when you have a loss of this magnitude. 

The death of my own son Cooper was the catalyst for this new concept. As a therapist and mother, I realized that a distinction for grief could help parents to feel more understood and less stigmatized by labels.

For clinicians, this perspective offers guidance for working with this population: Our attachments to loved ones affect us profoundly– detachment is not an option.

Sunlight and Shade,

British Library

OVERVIEW

When a child dies...

  • You never stop grieving​​

  • It changes your entire world

  • You can feel like a pariah in your community

  • Your immediate family dynamics shift and change

  • You might be abandoned by family and friends​

THE ATTACHMENT GRIEF MODEL

ATTACHMENT GRIEF

The experience of long-term intermittent or chronic grief resulting from the trauma of the loss of a person with whom you shared a profound intrapsychic connection. Often seen in parents who experience the death of a child.

– DANA LERNER, 2020

This perspective is an acknowledgment that the attachment will always exist and stay with you your entire life.

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS

  • This is not a pathology

  • It is neurologically determined

  • It is a lifelong process, never ending

  • Applies to the loss of a child at any age

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Mother and Baby Calf
2018

– DEFINITION OF INTRAPSYCHIC –

Pertaining to impulses, ideas, conflicts, or other psychological phenomena that arise or occur within the psyche or mind.

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Bereaved Mothers Should Be Seen and Not Cured.

Recommendations

FOR PARENTS

  • You are not alone...reach out for support. Make it a priority to meet other parents.

  • Do not try to pretend you are ok. Cry and scream whenever you need to.

  • Do not accept the idea that there is something wrong with your grief.

  • Writing about your feelings can be a good catharsis for some.

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FOR PROFESSIONALS

  • Understand that you are working with people who have entered a foreign land

  • Create a safe space where you can be with parents in the midst of the unbearable grief

  • Validate and emphasize the continued attachment to the child

  • Do not look for closure, acceptance or resolution

  • Do not pathologize traumatic symptoms or confuse them with mental illness

Image by Ranadeep Bania
TREATMENT GUIDE
WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR A BEREAVED PARENT

What You Can Do For a Bereaved Parent

Ask us to talk about our children

Reach out on Holidays, Birthdays and Mothers Day

Have patience with us as we evolve

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Never Say To Bereaved Parents

  • Everything happens for a reason.

  • Your child would not want you to be upset.

  • My Grandmother died….so I know how you feel.

  • My Grandmother died….but what happened to you is so much worse.

  • There are no words– rather, try to find the words.

CONTACT

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INTERVIEWS

OPEN TO HOPE PODCAST: UNDERSTANDING BEREAVED PARENTS

Feeling like your grief is not validated?  Join Dr’s Heidi and Gloria Horsley and their guest Dana Lerner, LCSW psychotherapist and bereaved mother of Cooper, for a unique perspective on child loss and how grief is a life changing trauma. Dana educates therapists and clients in what they need to know when dealing with the bereavement.

PODCASTS

Attachment Theory in Action (Pt I)with Karen Doyle Buckwalter
00:00 / 43:56
Attachment Theory in Action (Pt II)with Karen Doyle Buckwalter
00:00 / 43:56
On Friendship & Bereavementwith Judith Kottick
00:00 / 43:56

PUBLISHED WORK

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BIOGRAPHY

BIOGRAPHY

Dana Lerner, LCSW

REACH OUT TO INQUIRE ABOUT PRESENTATIONS, SUPERVISION, ETC

Dana Lerner is a graduate of the Columbia School of Social Work and the Four Year Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy training program at the Institute For Contemporary Psychotherapy.  She’s been in private practice in New York City for over 25 years and works with Individuals, Couples and Families treating Anxiety Disorders, Depression, OCD, Bereavement, and PTSD. Dana is trained in Modern Analytic Group Therapy and runs groups for trauma survivors and bereaved adults. Treatment modalities include CBT, DBT, and Sensory Motor Psychotherapies.  She is certified in EMDR Levels I and 2 and completed a teacher training in Meditation and Loving Kindness in 2019.

Dana is also a founding member of Families For Safe Streets (FSS) which confronts the epidemic of traffic violence through advocacy and emotional support.  In 2015 she created CooperStock’sWay.org, a non profit 501C3 that raises money for children in need. The organization is named for her late son Cooper, a victim of traffic violence at the age of nine.  

Since its inception, hundreds of children have attended the Coops Hoop’s Basketball Camp.  In addition, plans are currently underway to build a new state of the art K-12 school in the small town of Thiewa, Beyla in Guinea, Africa.

Dana Lerner resides in NYC with her family.

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