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Fri, July 23 10:00 AM CT
to Sat, July 24 1:00 PM CT

Pandemic Grief and the Quest for Meaning: Trauma and Attachment Perspectives

The Austin Center for Grief & Loss presents 

Robert A. Neimeyer, PhD 

Pandemic Grief and the Quest for Meaning: 

Trauma and Attachment Perspectives 

Virtual Professional Conference 

Friday, July 23 & Saturday, July 24 

10:00 am - 1:00 pm 

CEUs 6 hours for LMFT, LPC, LMSW, and LCSW 


About the Speaker:

Robert A. Neimeyer, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of the Department of Psychology, University of Memphis, maintains an active consulting and coaching practice, and also directs the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition, a “university without walls” for international online training in grief therapy.  Neimeyer has published 30 books, including Routledge’s series on Techniques of Grief Therapy, and serves as Editor of Death Studies. The author of over 500 articles and chapters and a popular workshop presenter, he is currently working to advance a more adequate theory of grieving as a meaning-making process.  In recognition of his contributions, he has been given Lifetime Achievement Awards by both the Association for Death Education and Counseling and the International Network on Personal Meaning.


Day 1: July 23 - 3 hour workshop

When Grief Goes Viral: Assessment and Intervention in the COVID Pandemic

With the global pandemic of COVID-19 has come the loss of a world of once familiar routines, relationships and resources that previously conferred on our lives a sense of security and meaning. This workshop introduces carefully validated screening tools for both coronavirus anxiety as the contagion spreads and the pandemic grief it leaves in its wake and suggests evidence informed interventions for dealing with these disturbances constructively.  Because of the pervasiveness of changes engendered by the Coronavirus and policies required to mitigate contagion, ambiguous losses and challenges to our assumptive world compound traumatic grief associated with bereavement and call for greater recognition and support by mental health professionals.


This training module presents recent research that documents the severity and impact of losing a loved one to COVID-19, and empirically identifies 10 specific risk factors for functional impairment of work and social roles associated with the unique circumstances of the lost.  Several of these are portrayed in a video-recorded vignette of a young woman struggling to adapt to the death of her father to coronavirus, providing a prompt for case conceptualization on the part of participants.


The policies and procedures that mitigate contagion also challenge the provision of health and mental health services as assessment and intervention commonly take place in virtual rather than face-to-face encounters.  We will therefore discuss both personal and practical means of enhancing our professional presence to patients in the current climate and highlight some of the themes and strategies for meaning-oriented grief counseling.


Learning  Objectives:

  • Describe two validated brief screening tools for assessing coronavirus anxiety and dysfunctional grief following COVID bereavement.
  • Practice a straightforward interview method to identify secondary and ambiguous losses faced by both clients and therapists in the midst of the pandemic.
  • Discriminate between therapeutic presence and therapeutic absence in working in an online environment.
  • Summarize 7 practical tips for enhancing presence in a videoconference context of service delivery.
  • List four evidence-informed risk factors for complicated or prolonged grief exacerbated by the COVID crisis.
  • Conceptualize clinical challenges faced by a survivor of COVID loss and their implications for treatment.
  • Identify six therapeutic procedures for addressing pandemic grief and unfinished business in bereavement.


The Course Pack for this program contains:

  • A pdf of all slides in the video presentation
  • Guidelines for the What Have You Lost technique
  • Tips for enhancing therapeutic presence in the delivery of telehealth therapy
  • Copies of both the Coronavirus Anxiety Scale (CAS) and Pandemic Grief Scale (PGS) with permission for their use in clinical and research contexts


Day 2: July 24 - 3 hour workshop

Grief Therapy as Meaning Reconstruction: An Attachment-Informed Approach 

Whether they are striving to restore a sense of secure attachment to a loved one lost to death or to resolve lingering relational issues with the deceased, mourners frequently need to reengage those they have lost rather than relinquish the bond and “move on.”  In this program we will explore several creative narrative, emotion-focused and conversational methods for re-introducing the deceased into the social and psychological world of the bereaved, fostering a sustaining sense of connection and alliance with the loved one in embracing a changed future, and working through issues of guilt, anger and abandonment triggered by the death and the shared life that preceded it.  Participants will leave with an understanding of factors that complicate grieving, helping clients re-access and revise frozen dialogues with the deceased that interfere with post-loss adaptation.


Learning  Objectives:

  • Discuss the concept of continuing bonds with the deceased and identify how it can both support and interfere with adaptive grieving.
  • Describe two techniques for consolidating a constructive bond with the deceased as the client transitions toward a changed future.
  • Summarize the use of the Unfinished Business in Bereavement Scale for assessing residual conflicts and disappointments in the relationship with the deceased that invite therapeutic work.
  • Use the Life Imprint technique to recognize the living legacy of the deceased for the survivor at both concrete and abstract levels.


The Course Pack for this program contains:

  • A pdf of all slides in the video presentation
  • Instructions for Introducing Our Loved Ones, Correspondence with the Deceased and the Life Imprint
  • The Unfinished Business in Bereavement Scale (UBBS); the full validated scale with scoring instructions and permission to use it in clinical and research contexts