What is the grieving/acceptance process?/ How does it effect families of deaf/hard of hearing children?


Assisting Parents through the Grieving Process (a 21 min and 39 second video tape). Available from Hope, Inc.,1-800-752-9533, 55 East 100NO. Suite 203. Logan, Utah.  84321. (No date).

Duwa, S., & Luppino, L., (No date). A leader’s guide for developing a parent to parent support program for parents of special needs children and materials for parent training. Panama City: Parent to Parent of Flordia. 131-132.

Seabrook, J., and  Rodda, M., (1991). Parental response to deafness: How can we help?  ACEHI/ACEDA, 17. 64-70.

Sloman, L., Springer, S., & Vachon, M. (1993). Disorderd communication and grieving in deaf member families. Family Process, 32. 171-183.

Wordon, J. (1991). Grief counseling & grief therapy (2nd ed.). New York: Springer Publishing Company.

The grieving/acceptance process, also refered to as the mourning process has been the cause of extended research in many areas of psychology.  It was first studied by Liderman, (1923) in reference to the feelings of loss one feels after the death of a  loved one.  Beatrice Wright (1960’s) studied the effects of the grieving process on physically challenged people.  In the 1970’s Elisabeth Koubler Ross related the same process to the emotions that terminally ill cancer patients experience (HOPE, INC video.).   In 1982, Moses related the grieving process to the feelings a parent experiences when their child is diagnosed with a hearing loss (Moses, 1982).

What is this process that all of these experts have researched extensively?  The Ski*Hi Model relates the grieving process to the families of a child that has a hearing loss.  This model explains the grieving process as “some common emotions” that families experience during this time in their lives (Watkins & Clark, 1993, 172).  They explain that this is the process parents go through to let go of the child that they always dreamed they would have.  This process enables parents to accept and love their child for who he/she is (Watkins and Clark, 1993).

The Parent to Parent Network of Florida shared part of Mary Leydorf's book The Seven Stages with parent mentor trainees.  On pages 127-128 of Leydorf's book she illustrates the seven commonly discussed stages of grieving (it is likely to find other authors who group/label these stages differently).  The stages of grieving that Leydorf refers to are:
     Confusion - an uncertainty of what is occurring.
     Denial  – not believing or accepting the diagnosis. Denial assists
       people in accepting unexpected events: such as deafness.
       (Seabrook & Rodda,1991).
A grieving parent may not receive most information provided during the first two stages (Seabrook & Rodda, 1991).
     Anger-Guilt – an attempt at blaming another or ones self by
     Hope – a deep desire for the child with a hearing loss to become
     Depression – reality has been accepted the person is often down and to himself or herself. Parent’s frustration may cause them to become externally angry with professionals
or internally anxious blaming themselves, sometimes causing depression.

During the previous two stages parents begin to process
information and understand the severity of their loss.  Reality
sets in and they are typically able to begin doing things with
their child without obsessing about their deafness.  They can
now go into public together and begin intervention (Seabrook &
Rodda, 1991).
       Acceptance – Parents take “constructive action”, then have
        new dreams and goals for their child with a hearing loss
        (Seabrook & Rodda, 1991).
       Understanding – the person in this stage sees the strength that
        their child’s hearing lose has brought them and is ready to assist
        others.  It is important to remember that each person experiences the grieving/acceptance  process in their own way, at their own rate (Duwa & Lupino, No date).

David Luterman describes grieving as “the catalyst for growth”.  He believes that it allows the individual to move toward acceptance of their deaf child as an individual with a hearing loss.  It is the process where by parents learn to restructure their lifestyle and reexamine their values (Seabrook & Rodda, 64, 1991).

There is some debate as to what the grieving/acceptance should be labeled.  In spite of the title most experts and families describe the same feelings and emotions when referring to this process.  Do not stop reading and try to rationalize the various labels and groupings. It is more important that you continue to read and take with you the insights that apply to your life’s situation.   It is my opinion that there is no label needed for these emotions/stages.  Only an understanding of how a person is coping with the challenges that life has presented to them.

Grieving is not meant to have a negative connotation.  In reality, if a person is grieving it should be viewed as a healthy stage of acceptance.  It seems, professionals agree that hurting is a step in the direction of healing.  I have always viewed painful events as unhealthy.  Research has taught me that we, as people, learn something from every life experience.  There is a reason for everything.  Typically, when shock subsides we are left stronger and wiser for that which we have endured!

(1998). Death and grief documents coping with death and dying [online].
Available: http://ub-counciling.buffalo.edu/Grief/grief.html [1998, June].
(1998). Harper J. MPS. Variables to your grieving process [online].
Available: http://rivendell.org/variables.html [1998, June].