Intuitive and Instrumental Grieving

It is close to five months since my father-in-law died, and grief continues to visit our lives. This is no surprise; my mother-in-law’s visit was her first to us as a widow, and I keenly felt the absence of my father-in-law. The dynamics among us have altered; the intensity of grief changes us as individuals and as a family, just as iron becomes molten and is transformed by fire, then cools into a new form. We haven’t reached the cooling stage, yet. And with grief, there is no orderly process or recipe to follow, despite the “stages of grief” concept introduced by Elizabeth Kübler Ross. We will just muddle through. People cope with grief differently; the excerpt below is from an article my husband found. While it’s been suggested there are gender differences in the way men and women mourn, the research implies that bereavement is not defined by gender.

Because some individuals choose not to talk about their feelings does not mean they do not feel; but rather they don’t have the words to express their feeling in the face of the tragedy or don’t have the need to do so. For some the event is beyond words or expression and is felt deeply. This must not be misconstrued as cold or unfeeling. The person may not be ready to live with the reality once it is expressed openly. In their recent work Kenneth Doka and Terry Martin talk of “transcending gender stereotypes” and describe two main styles of grieving—the “intuitive griever” and the “instrumental griever.” They present a third, the “blended style griever.” Below represents the two components that comprise the “blended” style:

Intuitive Griever:

  • FEELINGS are intensely experienced.
  • Expressions such as crying and lamenting mirror the inner experience.
  • Successful adaptive strategies facilitate the experience and expression of feelings.
  • There are prolonged periods of confusion, inability to concentrate, disorganization, and disorientation.
  • Physical exhaustion and/or anxiety may result.

Instrumental Griever:

  • THINKING is predominant to feeling as an experience; feelings are less intense.
  • There is a general reluctance to talk specifically about feelings.
  • Mastery of oneself and the environment are most important.
  • Problem-solving as a strategy enables mastery of feelings and control of the environment in creating the new normal.
  • Brief periods of cognitive dysfunction are common—confusion, forgetfulness, obsessiveness.
  • Energy levels are enhanced, but symptoms of general arousal caused by the loss go unnoticed.

Patterns, according to Doka, occur along a continuum. Those grievers/responders near the center who demonstrate a BLENDING of the two styles experience a variety of both patterns. One pattern may be more pronounced than another depending upon the loss and the personal connection to that loss. This pattern suggests a need for even more choices among adaptive strategies than for the griever who is more fixed in either strategy mentioned above.

Grief Counseling Resource Guide, A Field Manual

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One Comment on “Intuitive and Instrumental Grieving”

  1. Belle Says:

    I like this Kathryn, it is succinct and informative.

    As I am putting together an enews, I wonder if you would allow me to include the piece?

    The organisation I work for has a change, grief and loss Program called Seasons for Growth – which you can check out at the above URL. Can you let me know via email?