All of us, have a story of grief and loss. Whilst these words are often linked to the traumatic death and dying of a loved one, there are many different experiences of grief and loss that relate to other life challenges:
- giving up something that carries meaning
- changes in work situation such as adjusting to retirement, retrenchment or becoming unemployed
- infertility struggles
- supporting children with special needs, a terminal illness or mental health challenges
- moving away or separation from close family or friends
- adjusting to an ‘empty nest’ when children leave home
- divorce or separation
- the diagnosis of a terminal illness
- the loss of good health due to an illness, disability, or accident
Historically, there are theories that suggest that people adapt to their loss by working through the patterns, phases, and stages of grief. However, the research in this area is moving towards appreciating grief as much more of a complex, unique and diverse process that is not confined to these defined stages. Grief and loss are understood in the context of cultures, beliefs, and value systems. It can be experienced differently within stages of development.
So much more is yet to be understood about grief and grieving, particularly given the physical and mental health impact of these experiences. It can be connected to emotions of despair and helplessness, humans struggle to grasp the process of dealing with loss and ongoing life.
In psychology sessions, when people start to talk about intense emotions such as confusion, hurt, fear, sadness, shame, and embarrassment there are also underlying experiences of grief and loss that have never been acknowledged. Reflecting on the experience, their thoughts, and feelings is such a core to the process. And in these moments of connection, of safety, people can start to have the space to breathe.
It is a relief to just be listened to and understood. Then we can move towards whatever the hope or goal is for each person. Whether it is to repair, recover, strengthen hope, or increase energy for change.
In my own personal experience, and for some others, grief and loss has been a process of letting go, to allow for personal and relationship growth.
Of that moment
Or a time when
And remember that happened long ago?
That is painful
But not forgotten, even if it’s not seen.
Sometimes with renewed hope that
Something else will be.
It is just different.