Recovering from Childhood Grief – Guest Blog

Braniff DC3

A Braniff DC3

In one story in The Enneagram of Death – Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear, and Dying, a little girl’s father was shot and killed; her mother never spoke of her husband again and the child was not soothed or helped through the grieving process. She worked hard to transcend the experience as an adult, however, with much success. In another, a little girl and her siblings reacted to their father’s death by bullying one another. She, too, continues to surmount the difficulties of her past.

In this true story, one of seven in the chapter on Enneagram type 2, Elayne Savage lost both her mother and grandmother in an airplane disaster. Dr. Savage is a Helper type with an Achiever wing, a practicing psychotherapist, workplace and relationship coach, and author of Don’t Take It Personally! Breathing Room-Creating Space to Be a Couple. As a Helper type, she uses her life experience, including her innovative method of healing her grief, to help others.

There is to be No Grieving

On August 22, 1954 my mother was accompanying my grandmother to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. They never arrived.

During the long layover in Des Moines, my mom learned a Braniff flight would depart earlier than her scheduled flight. What she didn’t know was the Braniff flight was a “puddle jumper,” stopping at every city en route, and a fierce storm was approaching. The Mason City flight controller instructed the pilot not to land. He decided to try anyway.

The plane with sixteen passengers and three crewmembers on board crashed into a cornfield in Swaledale, Iowa, just south of Mason City. The pilot and co-pilot died. The flight hostess and six passengers survived. Debris from the crash was spread along a line of more than 500 feet.

I was twelve years old. My brother Lee was nine.

The Long Wait for News

We waited into the evening for my mom to signal us from Rochester saying they had arrived safely. I was looking forward to our little phone company trick where she’d place a person-to-person call for “Aloysius.” We’d say, “Sorry, Aloysius is not here,” then we’d giggle about how we got away with something.

But the call never came.

I was absorbed in the sewing project on my lap, not paying much attention to the TV news. I had just returned from overnight camp where all the girls except me were wearing embroidered cutoffs. My dad said they cost too much to buy, so I was embroidering my own.

I heard the announcer’s ominous voice; “A Braniff DC-3 went down during a storm … on a farm … near Mason City, Iowa.” My dad jumped up, muttering something about Braniff not being the right airline. Then he was on the phone for a long time.

I just sat there, stitching. And thinking about that morning when I had acted badly toward my mother. Overnight camp was my first time away from home. I’d missed my mom terribly and couldn’t wait to tell her about my experiences.

As soon as I arrived home she announced she’d be leaving on a plane the next day with my grandmother. So what if my grandmother needed medical tests at the Mayo Clinic? Why did it have to be my mother who took her? I wanted to hug my mom and say, “I need you, please don’t go.” Instead, as they were leaving for the airport I screamed, “I hate you—I wish you were dead.”

Crash site

Crash site.

End of Part I

Read Part II on August 28: “There was no place to have feelings.”

Dr. Savage’s blog:

Find out more about The Enneagram of Death by Elizabeth Wagele.

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Elizabeth Wagele


Bishop Tutu, a Compassionate HELPER Type

Tutu and Mandela

Bishop Tutu hugging Nelson Mandela. By E. Wagele.

Desmond Tutu (born 1931) is a human rights activist who has campaigned for such causes as ending AIDS, tuberculosis, homophobia, poverty, and racism.

After teaching for three years, he studied to be a priest and eventually became the first black Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa. In 1978 he became the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches. His demands for a democratic and just society without racial divisions included:

1. equal civil rights for all
2. the abolition of South Africa’s passport laws
3. a common system of education
4. the cessation of forced deportation from South Africa to the so-called “homelands”

Enneagram Helper types are interested in solving problems of their fellow humans. For this reason, Enneagram teachers often use Tutu as an example of this type, for example in the chapter on Helpers in The Career Within You.

Bishop Tutu was named a member of the United Nations advisory panel on genocide prevention in 2006. He has likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the treatment of black South Africans under apartheid. Some of his other causes include climate change, poverty, and women’s rights.

Bishop Tutu rose to worldwide fame as an opponent of apartheid and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2005, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, among other honors.  He chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and still uses his high profile to campaign for the oppressed, even though he claims to be retired.

For more famous Enneagram types, see my web site and my blog on Psychology Today. On Tuesday 1-3-12 I’ll write about economist Jeffrey Sachs on my Psychology Today blog.

Famous “Helper” Enneagram Types

Pamela Harriman by E. Wagele

Pamela Harriman by E. Wagele

“We used to say about Pamela that if you put a blindfold on her in a crowded room, she could smell out the powerful man,” a close friend of hers said.

Famous Helpers include Jessica Lange, Nancy Reagan, Tammy Faye Bakker, Dolly Parton, Bill Cosby, Sophia Loren, Rachel Ray, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Ann Landers, and Debbie Reynold’s role in the movie, “Mother.”

In The Career Within You, Ingrid Stabb and I describe Pamela Churchill Harriman, 1920-1997, as an English-born socialite linked to many important and powerful men, who became a political activist and diplomat. Her only child, Winston Churchill, is named after his famous grandfather. Her esteemed father-in-law preferred her company to that of his own son, Randolph, who was infamous for his drinking, gambling, womanizing, and antisocial antics.

Harriman had friendships or affairs with Edward R. Murrow, Prince Aly Khan, Alfonso de Portago, Baron Elie de Rothschild, shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos, and many others. She paid close attention to all of her lovers’ preferences and typical of a Helper, would satisfy all their needs. Harriman’s political career began in the United States through a marriage to an American, Averell Harriman, a businessman and ambassador to Russia and Britain. She became involved with the Democratic Party, creating a new fund-raising system. In 1980 the National Women’s Democratic Club named her Woman of the Year. President Bill Clinton appointed her ambassador to France in 1993.

Sometimes Helpers, especially, are difficult to tell from Peace Seekers. How They Differ on page 174 of Are You My Type, Am I Yours (by Wagele and Baron) in the section on Lookalikes offers these hints:

(Since Helpers usually are Feeling types, Thinking-type Peace Seekers are not likely to resemble them.)

1. Helpers can be intense and dramatic, especially when extraverted.

Even when extraverted, Peace Seekers are relatively reserved, calm, and even-tempered.

2. Helpers usually reveal their feelings easily.

Peace Seekers tend to keep their feelings to themselves, especially when introverted.

3. Helpers generally limit their attention to one person at a time.

Peace Seekers are likely to merge with any of a large range of things: a person, a group, and so on.

4. Helpers often look self-confident and are concerned with their image.

Peace Seekers seem relatively modest and unpretentious.

This is part of a series on Famous Enneagram Types. More can be found on my blog on Psychology Today. And I have a list of famous Enneagram and MBTI types on my web site.

What 3 Elements Do “Helpers” Look for in Jobs?

Helper's wishes

Helper's Wishes from "Career Within You"

Some Helpers want to be needed and appreciated primarily by helping someone else shine, some thrive by offering advice wherever possible, and some prefer being an essential hub for the organization (Joan on Mad Men). If you are a Helper in the Enneagram personality system, Ingrid Stabb, career expert, believes one of these fundamentals will probably outweigh the others in importance as you assess what you need to fulfill in your work situation:

  •  the opportunity to work on your interests or passions
  • the income it will provide, or
  • successful affiliation with other people. Here’s an example of each:

Following his passion and counseling others in relationships.

Going to a psychotherapist himself inspired Peter to follow a career in therapy. The field is a perfect fit because it combines intellectual challenge with the opportunity to interview clients, encourage them, and watch them grow. After working in the inner city with a clientele of chronic addicts, he now runs his own psychotherapy practice working with adults on careers and relationships. Peter takes pleasure working in a field where he can feel genuine love and compassion for his clients.

Working for income and serving as an integral part of the organization

Charles considered several career paths, including foreign service and nonprofit work. Deciding he could make the biggest impact as a major donor, her pursued a career in investment banking. After achieving financial success, he entered public service and helped congressional candidates raise campaign funds. Then he helped Homeland Security by coordinating the deployment of six thousand National Guard troops and improved information flow between the department, the White House, and Congress. Charles became the department’s chief of staff, the trusted right-hand man to the top boss, and helped competing departments work together.

Affiliating and helping others become successful

In high school, Clare was impressed by a journalist who spoke at career day, but it was not until much later that she realized she could become a writer too. First she authored a large resource book while working for a business that helped kids develop confidence in their academic skills. Then at a software firm she helped marketing directors to express promotional content more eloquently. After building up a solid resume of writing, she became an independent consultant. Her task now is to listen to her clients, write what she thinks they want to say, and then double–check them to make sure she has captured it to their liking.

Once you’re aware of your preferences for these three elements, you can apply this knowledge to assessing your past jobs and those you are looking at applying for in order to decide which one will be most satisfying to you.

(This is the second in series of career motivations. Please see my Psychology Blog of 5-17-11 for the first–on Perfectionists.)

P.S. Please see “About Elizabeth Wagele” on this site to find out about my upcoming presentation at the Fort Lauderdale IEA Conference, Sunday, July 31.