What are the Advantages of Using the Enneagram When Grieving?

The Enneagram of Death

The Enneagram of Death

         A NYC Death Café member kindly brought to my attention that I have posted blogs about the Enneagram with little explanation of what the Enneagram is. The Enneagram personality system holds there are 9 ways (plus variations) of being in the world. When you find your own type you soon realize the other 8 types are equally important, legitimate, and necessary. This leads to the invaluable concept that there are many ways to grieve—there’s no one right way. The Enneagram is used all over the world for self-growth, relationships, getting along in the workplace, child-raising, and careers. It fosters acceptance and teaches us who we are. It is a useful tool for anyone who is struggling with grief, fear of death, or dying.


         The word “Enneagram” (pronounced “An’y-a-gram”), comes from the Greek word, Ennea, for nine, and gram, meaning a drawing:


Enneagram figure

The Enneagram (“Any-a-gram”)


         The Enneagram is increasingly used and recommended by psychologists and coaches. You can profit from knowing a little about it, but it’s complex enough to become a life-long study. It shows us in a positive light by highlighting our gifts. Since it is based on real people it points out our defects as well. The Enneagram models change and growth and helps us become better inner observers and more keenly aware of others. We don’t use it to point fingers but to reveal our habits of behaving and to become more mindful of our strengths, needs, and likely pitfalls. Families, love relationships, work situations, and teacher-pupil relationships improve from using the Enneagram. The best introduction is my book, The Enneagram Made Easy, followed by Are You My Type, Am I Yours?  I’ve drawn cartoons in all my Enneagram books and in my book on introversion (The Happy Introvert) to increase accessibility, to help readers feel relaxed, and to add complexities not found in words.


         The Enneagram system describes these nine personality types or archetypes: Perfectionist, Helper, Achiever, Romantic, Observer, Questioner, Adventurer, Asserter, and Peace Seeker. The types to the sides of each type (“wings”) influence our personalities as do the two types at the end of the lines attached to them within the circle (“arrows”).


         While we relate to all nine Enneagram, types in varying degrees, we indentify as only one. For example, Asserters are natural leaders who tend to be decisive, strong, confident, and dominating. Someone of this type can’t at the same time be a gentle Peace Seeker, who wishes to avoid conflict. We’re all familiar with the skeptical Questioner, the ever-harmonizing Helper, and the upbeat Adventurer. 


         I once had a request on my Face Book home page to join a group called “Knowing the Difference Between ‘Their,’ ‘There,’ and ‘They’re.’” Of all the types, Perfectionists are the most likely to be so interested in correct spelling and grammar—in getting things right. A good example of this type is Hillary Clinton due to her idealism, the measured way she speaks, and the careful way she dresses and carries herself. We all probably had this type as a teacher somewhere along the line.


Each chapter of The Enneagram of Death (see reviews here) is made up of contributions by a different Enneagram type—stories, poems, and essays I have chosen and lightly edited. Their defenses against grief and fear range from spacing out to over-worrying to over-doing. These are healthy and natural reactions unless they go on too long. You’ll distinguish how people with characteristics similar to and different from yours cope with the shock of a loved one’s death, end-of-life care giving situations, and more. You’ll see how some other cultures deal with death. You’ll especially resonate with your own type. The Enneagram of Death (available here) isa more individualized way of looking at death and dying than many other books on this subject. Stories of types different from yours will offer you new perspectives.


        The Enneagram system provides tools, models, soothing, and inspiration. 


Check out Finding the Birthday Cake – Helping Children Raise Their Self-esteem – for teaching the Enneagram to children.


Read my Psychology Today blog: Why Studying Music is a Good Thing Part I


Visit The Enneagram of Parenting on Face Book.