There is an old parable about a woman who was so distraught at losing a silver coin, that she searched non-stop until it was found. Thankfully for her, it did turn up; but what happens when what is lost irreplaceable and is impossible to find? How do we cope with the loss and resulting grief?
Grief is a Response to All Types of Loss
Often when we think of grief and loss, we think of the death of a loved-one—spouse, child, parent, extended family member, or friend. What about the other losses—a job, relationship, pet or children leaving home? These are also losses that can cause grief.
I suggest that North American society doesn’t deal well with loss and the resulting grief. We often don’t know what to say when we encounter someone who is in mourning, and in the process, sometimes unwittingly say things can be insensitive. We don’t really understand the grieving process, often misunderstanding why, either ourselves or others, haven’t ‘gotten over it’ in a suitable amount of time. These attitudes can leave people undergoing the grieving process experiencing such feelings as loneliness, being misunderstood and out of step—just to name a few. If our loss is due to incidents of suicide, miscarriage, or the death of a pet, our feelings of being outside of the norm can increase.
Grieving is hard work. It takes as long as it takes. There is no standard time frame.
The Tasks of Grief
While everyone has different ways of grieving, J. William Worden in his book Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, suggests that the following four tasks are part of the grieving process.
- We need to accept the reality of the loss. Whether the loss is a person, place or thing; we need to accept the fact that the loss has occurred, and what was lost, is not returning.
- We need to process the pain of grief. Sometimes people experience grief as physical pain or develop anxiety/panic attacks.
- We need to adjust to the world without what we have lost. Externally, this may mean adjusting to living alone, or developing a new routine. Internally: developing a new sense of self…”Who am I know if I’m not ….?” Spiritually: looking for meaning in the loss and determining the nature of the world (Is it kind or harsh?).
- We need to maintain a connection with what we’ve lost, while at the same time starting a new life. How do we remember, when we’re moving on?
If you are struggling with a loss, a therapist can help by being a companion as you move through the tasks of grief. Therapy can help provide a framework for you as you go through mourning, so that some sense of a ‘new normal’ can develop. If you are struggling with a recent (or not so recent) loss, please contact me and we can explore how I can help.