Every one of us responds and reacts to loss in our own unique way. There is no particular right way to grieve; the most important part is that we do it – that we allow ourselves the time and space to experience our way through the grieving process. It is important to remember that while society may have timelines and guidelines for grieving, loss is an extremely intimate experience that cannot easily fit into standardized stages of grief or predetermined periods of time. Grief is hard enough without the added pressure to somehow conform and do it the so-called right way.
But how do you know if you’re actually grieving, or what if it feels like you should be through it by now? Those are questions that therapy can help answer. Whatever that answer might be, therapy changes grief, as the therapeutic relationship becomes a place and space where grief is openly welcomed, shared, and understood between two people engaged in process that seeks to transform pain into something more manageable. As I previously mentioned in my writing on trauma therapy, I have found that the therapeutic relationship itself is often the “best medicine??? for effective pain management during the course of the therapeutic process.
Many types of loss exist. Here are some examples:
- Loss of a person
- what we usually think of when we think of loss
- a loss of a known person, someone who has existed to us and others
- when there is no literal person to mourn (no body to grieve for example), loss becomes ambiguous and hard to claim
- Loss of an idealized version of a person
- a psychological loss – grief associated with the realization that a living person will never be the kind of person you have been longing for them to be
- Loss of love
- a psychological loss – feeling unloved by someone; feeling the loss of someone’s love and affection, feeling a general sense of being unlovable
- Loss of some aspect of oneself
- a psychological loss – feeling loss related to one’s sense of self and identity; feeling incomplete, empty, and/or in need, also like something might be missing or about to become lost
- Loss of safety and/or security
- can take external (outside world) or internal (psychological) forms
- Loss of dreams for the future
- a psychological loss – grief specific to what someone had spent time hoping for in the future: kids, family, partner, career success, etc.
- Loss of something unknown but otherwise felt in some fashion (possibly in the form of depression)
- a psychological loss – not all forms of loss are conscious or known to the person struggling
- Loss of self associated with something unacknowledged or unrecognized by others
- a psychological loss – the experience of grief when others dismiss or ignore something that has caused so much pain (e.g., having someone dismiss the loss associated with being abused or assaulted: the loss of the traumatized self for example)
As you can see from this list, there is nothing simple or easy about loss and grief. It’s important to understand that therapy does not turn away from your pain or dismiss it as being too much or too little or too something in-between. Nor does it ask you to hurry up and get rid of it or cover it up. Rather, our work allows us to begin caring for and tending to your pain in manageable therapeutic doses that facilitate the grieving and healing processes.