Loss is an inescapable part of living. From birth, when we lose the comfort and safety of our mother’s womb, we embark upon a journey that teaches us the transient nature of our existence. Losses can be great or small, and each one is a very personal experience.
There are endless varieties of loss – people, relationships, jobs, homes, dreams, health, hope – to name a few. Each one takes place in the context of a person’s life experience and circumstances and, as such, is unique. Loss brings grief, and it is what we do with that grief that determines whether we will heal and grow from the experience – or get “stuck” in our anger, bitterness, or denial.
In our culture, there is often an expectation that grief has a “timeline” and that if a person is still grieving after a few months, or even weeks, then they haven’t healed or “moved on.” It is true that time helps the healing process, but time alone is not enough. It is also necessary to acknowledge the loss, grieve what has been taken from us, and express those feelings to ourselves and others. In short, we must move through the grief, not around it.
Being able to share feelings and memories, as well as lost hopes, is vital to healing. In instances when the loss was complicated, unexpected or outside the natural order (e.g., the death of a child), it may be helpful to speak with a therapist to integrate the emotional impact. Losses that also affect our view of ourselves or our abilities (health, jobs, aging) may be better understood and accepted by talking with a person or professional who can validate feelings and help us in finding ways to cope. Finally, whenever a loss threatens to overwhelm us and keep us from living our lives, seeking professional help can help us sort out our feelings and regain our equilibrium.