By Tina Ray/ParaglideAugust 10, 2012
Years ago when Dr. Johnnie Johnson-Griffin, a licensed professional counselor, lost her only son, Torian in a car accident, she found it difficult to find a counselor who specialized in helping those grieving.
Johnson-Griffin decided to pursue additional training and education to be there to help others who suffer unexpected or expected loss.
"Grief is the reaction to a loss," said Griffin, who experienced unknown emotion after losing Torian. "I felt like I had half of a heart."
But, the loss of her son was the driving force that propelled her to increase her credentials.
"It (grief) will force you to do something that you've always wanted to do. Sometimes it gives you courage because nothing can be worse than this. By his passing, it gave me the force and determination that I wanted to help somebody," said Johnson-Griffin.
She and her husband, LeVon, a veteran and a community employment specialist with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Services for the Blind, brought their expertise to an Understanding Grief and Loss seminar at the Leader and Workforce Development Center, July 31.
The seminar was facilitated by Joseph Mayo as part of the Employee Assistance Program. The program is designed to help employees be productive and healthy members of the workforce by offering confidential screening, problem-solving assistance, referral and follow-up services.
Mayo, a career police officer, said that grieving over the tragedies he saw as a member of law enforcement, such as traffic fatalities and accidents, and grieving the loss of a marriage that had spanned nearly three decades, were the forces that got him to initially seek counseling. After 31 years as a cop, he took an EAP position on Fort Bragg.
The help is here if someone needs, he said.
"If we can't take care of the issue with our clinicians, then we refer you to an agency," Mayo said.
Staff Sgt. Antonio Robinson, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Warfare Medical Group, experienced grief after losing his mother in February 2010. The 13-year Army veteran said attending the seminar gave him more information about the process of grief, thought to take place in different stages such as denial, anger, bargaining with God, depression and acceptance.
But, grief is not a linear process, said Johnson-Griffin. No two people experience grief the same, and the stages of grief (Johnson-Griffin prefers state) change.
For instance, there are two types of grief -- unexpected and expected. Unexpected grief is experienced after a sudden tragedy such as a car accident, heart attack or drowning. Expected grief comes after a prolonged illness.
A person who endures unexpected grief could experience grief differently.
But, grief doesn't have to come with death, it could involve the loss of friendship, marital relationship, miscarriage, incarceration, job, identity, pet, limb or even the loss of dreams, Johnson-Griffin said.
"Grief can come from the loss of anything that's of personal value to you, and it should not be minimized," she emphasized.
Its symptoms can include numbness, pain, anger, crying spells, guilt, loss of sleep, decreased appetite, fear and rise in blood pressure.
The key is to recognize when the person needs help and to seek it.
That's the goal of EAP -- to be there to meet the needs of Fort Bragg employees and their Family members.
Linda Oliver, a licensed practical nurse, Public Health Nursing, Department of Preventive Medicine, Womack Army Medical Center, lost her husband, Cleothoes, last September after more than 39 years of marriage, she said. Oliver learned about the grief and loss seminar from her supervisor, Lt. Col. Heidi Whitescarver, chief, Public Health Nursing at WAMC.
"Even on the job, I have happy and sad times around co-workers," explained Oliver. "They don't always understand how I can be happy one moment and sad the next, but the seminar helped.
"Coming here helps you to release some of the feelings that you have inside. You're able to talk more about it with people who've gone through loss," Oliver said.
According to Johnson-Griffin, other ways of handling grief are to journal the loss, make a scrapbook or photo album, take care of one's physical health, plan ahead for triggers such as anniversaries, holidays or milestones, or to do as she did, plant a tree.
Seeking help is something Oliver said she is glad she did.
"I asked them (EAP) to have another class, to do a part two," she said.
For more information about the Employee Assistance Program, go to Wing M, Room B-C-1, ground floor of the Soldier Support Center (Building 4-2843, Normandy Drive), call 396-5784 or visit www.bragg.army.mil/directorates/HR/Pages/EAP.aspx.