Judy Bartelstone Interviews Rene'e Siegel about Grief
"If a client has a wonderful insight about their grief, but is physically
in pain, and that pain goes unaddressed, he can’t really move forward. When you
address the impact on the body, on thoughts and feelings and how it has impacted
the client’s relationship with their faith, you can uncover more issues and
address them in treatment. The only way the grieving client can anchor positive
change is to address all three areas"
Q Rene'e, I know that you are a licensed counselor in substance abuse
and the Clinical Director of ABC Wellness Centre in Scottsdale. Today, we are
talking about grief, its causes, treatment, counseling, and its connection to
addictions. May we first quickly review the famous seven stages of grief as
delineated by the well-known Katherine Kubler-Ross?
A. Well, Kubler-Ross is right on. Shock, which is a big one; denial or
refusal to accept; bargaining or reconciliation by trying to make a deal; guilt,
the “if only I had…”; anger toward the loss, the person, or even God; depression
which can come and go or be pervasive and involves a certain resignation to the
fact; and finally, acceptance and hope-that life, although it will never be the
same, will go on. How fast you go through these stages depends on if you’re
prepared or able to be prepared. Divorce, loss of a child, miscarriage, no
matter what the issue, I try to meet clients in terms of where they are—for
example, a fifteen year loss, why is this still interfering with your life?
Q. Could you specify a couple of broad categories of grief?
A. There is grief created on incident, such as Katrina or 911or the San
Francisco earthquake. Then typical losses like divorce or death and dealing with
several losses in a row is called cumulative loss.
Q. Rene'e, you sound like a strong woman who has empathy as well as
sympathy, qualified not only by education, but by personal experience.
A. Yes, that’s true. I have had cumulative losses, a divorce and then
both my ex-husbands died within twenty-three months of each other.
Q. Rene'e, how did you deal with these cumulative losses and can this
advice be utilized by others?
A. I found people who would listen, who understood the physical, mental
and spiritual needs involved. I was willing to accept the love and support from
those people. I had actually shut down and wouldn’t do day-to-day activities. My
kids called these the dark days and they were dark days. I turned to friends,
religious community, and support groups. Additional books that were helpful were
Michael Newton’s Destiny of Souls and Journey of Souls. And, incidentally, I
want to emphasize that grief takes time and has a direct impact on the physical
Q. What about trauma from many years of loss? Describe the impact of all
A. We need to accept and honor all forms of loss that we don’t often
recognize, such as loss of a pet, loss of memory, money, health, divorce, job
loss, loss of friendship and even moving to a new home or city. What is
interesting is that body, mind and soul need recovery time. If your body, mind
or soul has not had time to recover from grief, the incidents piggyback on each
other and you can become paralyzed by grief.
Q. Can you describe paths toward resolution of grief?
A. Create a safe environment. I might ask them if it is okay if I know
their story. Let them tell and re-tell their story. Ask them to tell you where
they see the obstacles in moving through their grief. In some cases, it is a
gift to the person grieving just knowing that someone will listen.
Q. In reading about ABC Wellness Centre, I noticed that you have a
specific, holistic treatment approach involving the mental, the emotional and
the physical components of the client. Could you explain how that is more
beneficial than other approaches?
A. It is comprehensive and complete. If a client has a wonderful insight
about his grief, but are physically in pain, and that pain goes unaddressed,
they can’t really move forward. When you address the impact on the body, on
thoughts and feelings and how it has impacted the clients relationship with
their faith, you can uncover more issues and address them in treatment. The only
way the grieving client can anchor positive change is to address all three
Q. How is addiction related to grief?
A. In two ways: One, when someone already has an addiction prior to
grieving, one may resort to old ways and relapse back into that addiction. The
other way is to a find new soothing behaviors that have the potential of
becoming self destructive and could turn into addictions.
Q. I know that you are a well-known addiction counselor. Can people
become addicted to the grieving process?
A. Yes, you can become addicted to the grieving process. You might find
that grieving gives you the attention you feel you need.
Q. In terms of addressing treatments for grief, are their other things we
need to know?
A. Yes. There is something else important that I would like to add. Many
times trauma is stored in a non-verbal part of the brain called the amygdala.
This is why non-traditional techniques may be effective in addition to use of
traditional talk therapy.
Q. Such as…
A. There is TFT (Thought Field Therapy) and EMDR (Eye Movement
Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy).
Q. Can a person ever let go of grief and of the influence it has on daily
A. Well, sure you can. Walking through grief is a process. My personal
belief is that everyone who has a human experience has some sort of lesson or
purpose to learn. Other human beings have to participate with you in order for
this to happen. If I came here to learn to be an independent mom, those two
gentlemen whom I mentioned earlier had to agree to play those roles. What I
offer to clients is that somebody had to agree to leave (die}. I know this
sounds unusual, but it is what I believe and it has brought comfort to many. I
don’t believe that these sad things happen because of a punitive deity.
Q. A vital question is how does one get ‘unstuck” from grief? I have a
close, dear relative whose husband died unexpectedly. She remains possessed by a
pervasive grief and neglects her physical health, despite a support system of
friends and family. And she sees a counselor! How can someone who appears to
have gone through all the right steps and done all the right things get
A. There is often a payoff when someone stays sick. She may find that she
gets more attention than usual. She may be working with a therapist that does
not understand grief. To become unstuck she must align herself with people and a
different process that will permit her to walk through the different stages of
grief. What stage of grief is she stuck in?
Q. Do you have some suggestions for our readers to summarize dealing with
A. Understand that you are not alone; everyone has some life experiences
that has caused grief. Normalize the grief. Remember that there are all sorts of
ways to move through the grief, including support groups, counseling and
homeopathic remedies. Take action by starting with where you are most
comfortable, whether it be a physical, emotional or spiritual beginning.
Q. Do you ever work in tandem with or recommend psychiatrists,
A. Absolutely. I recommend Caroline Walrad for Homeopathy, Dan Glick in
Psychiatry—they have an understanding of addiction and of grief. Naturopathic
Doctor Melenie Dunn understands the holistic approach. The links page on my
website has a list of these people. The entire therapy staff at ABC Wellness
Centre is extremely well-trained in all aspects of bereavement.
Q. Thank you so much for your time; I know that your knowledge and what
you have told us is of great value and will make a difference to many of our
(Awareness, Balance, and Connection) Wellness Centre is located at 7219 E.
Shea Blvd. in Scottsdale, with a phone number of (480) 991-9818. The Centre
offers individual, couple and family therapy to assist in working through
fear, anxiety, depression and other self-defeating habits that prevent the
achievement of personal empowerment. Rene'e Siegel has an M.A. in Educational
Psychology from Wayne State University in Michigan, with a focus on marriage
and family counseling. Rene'e Siegel is licensed in substance abuse and one of
a handful of nationally certified Compulsive Gambling Counselors in Arizona.
She is a certified Lifestyle Educator. Rene'e Siegel has been a guest speaker
on radio as well as made appearances on television.