The Grieving Process – Other Types of Loss
Part 2 of a 2-Part Series
Grief is the natural result of losing someone precious to us. The grieving process can take all kinds of forms – from sadness to anger, and from lethargy to hyperactivity. All of this is normal and in my previous article I discussed some of the normal things when experience after losing someone we love. When a person dies, it is generally acknowledged that the loss is permanent, and that they are not going to come back. This means that mourning can begin. The goal of normal grief, as Sigmund Freud said, is to let go of our ties to the person we loved, and to invest in a new relationship with that person, or to find a new way of relating to the loss.
Loss Takes Many Forms
But we also grieve other kinds of losses. A loss where the person’s physical body cannot be recovered – through battle, kidnapping, or accident – creates a problem for the survivors because there is no definitive proof that they are truly gone, which may make the survivors unwilling to let go. Similarly, someone may be dying and then go into remission, but then become ill again. In her book Ambiguous Loss, Pauline Boss says that this type of loss “lacks resolution and traumatizes.” Hopes are raised and then dashed over and over again.
There are other losses that are also difficult. Examples include the loss of a parent through illness before the family is able to say goodbye, or losing someone to the slow death of Alzheimer’s disease. Less traumatic but equally challenging are the loss and change involved in relocating to another area, watching a loved one becoming dependent on drugs or alcohol, or managing someone with a mental illness such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or dementia. All of these can be traumatic for those who are left to pick up the pieces and have to figure out how to move forward in this new and unfamiliar territory.
For children, the separation and divorce of their parents is a loss. Any kind of transition can cause stress and grief. People who have been abused sexually as children also suffer loss. They have lost their innocence, their safety, and their ability to trust. They were unable to experience normal peer relationships because of what happened to them. They had to spend all their time trying to survive the abuse and never had a chance to have a real childhood.
Unacknowledged Loss Prevents Us Moving Forward
We often don’t think of these transitions as something to grieve. But all of these losses can result in anxiety and depression as an individual tries to deal with them. In the movie Inside Out, we are given a glimpse into the emotions inside a young girl’s head when she learns that her family is being transplanted to a new state and that they are leaving everything they love behind. Until she can acknowledge the sadness she feels at having to leave everything she loved and adapt to new surroundings, she is not able to move forward in her new life.
Christian Counseling in the Grieving Process
If you find that you have experienced, or are experiencing, these types of losses, please know that there is help for you. As damaging and traumatizing as loss is, there is help to heal. As a Christian counselor, I want to help.
“Light in a dark garden – Hope,” courtesy of Forest Wander, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “Hope in the Darkness” courtesy of Dan Foy, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)