Grief and Loss

Grief and Loss

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
― Anne Lamott

Loss is a feature of living that all of us experience: throughout life, we confront the loss of relationships, the loss of loved ones, the loss of hopes and dreams, and the loss of youth or function.  Grief is the response to loss, and it can take many forms:

Anticipatory grief is the grief we experience before a loss occurs, such as when someone we love is diagnosed with a terminal illness.  The human brain is wired to think forward, so we often consider how we will think, feel, and cope when someone we care about dies – and we can begin to grieve that loss well in advance of when it occurs.

Disenfranchised grief is the grief that results from a loss that isn’t openly or socially accepted.  Grief is disenfranchised when we feel that others either don’t understand our loss or somehow minimize it, so we aren’t able to receive the support we need. Some examples of disenfranchised grief may include the grief resulting from the loss of an animal, the loss of a marriage, or the loss of a child through miscarriage or abortion.

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Secondary grief is the grief that compounds a primary loss. When we loss an important figure in our lives, their loss might also trigger grief over a loss of faith, financial security, identity, support systems, or dreams for the future that we associate with that important figure.  Grief is rarely limited to just the loved one we dearly miss.

Complicated grief is a grief response that lingers and interferes with day to day life.  Complicated grief may be marked by intense and prolonged feelings of guilt or self-blame, difficulty understanding and accepting a death, extreme focus on – or avoidance of – reminders of the loved one, and the inability to remember or think about positive memories. People experiencing complicated grief may find they are having trouble adjusting to the loss, isolating themselves, and/or wishing they had died with their loved one.  This type of grief reaction is not uncommon when loss is sudden/unexpected, traumatic (such as by accident or suicide), or accompanied by other significant life stressors.

Ambiguous loss encompasses the feelings of uncertainty when someone or something is missing.  This type of loss is common when a loved one is chronically absent (through deployment or other circumstances), when someone is physically present but emotionally/cognitively absent (such as in dementia), or when someone disappears and we don’t know where or how they are.

Regardless of whether you are struggling with the loss of a person, the loss of a pet, or the loss of another deeply important part of your life, Whole Journey can support you in your grief and help you move toward understanding, healing and restoration.