Grief and Loss
Losing someone or something you love can leave you feeling like your life has suddenly been split in two, with everything that came before the loss in one part and everything that follows in the other. Finding ways to adapt and make sense of things again can be difficult because no two people go through the same stages of grief in the same ways. There might not even be agreement about the meaning of grief or the definition of loss. Since grief comes after we’ve lost something we cherish, there are as many types of grief as there are people and things we can lose.
Loss of a Loved One
The most common type of grief, the one that most people think of, is the type of grief we feel after an important person or a cherished pet dies. Death is a final type of change that we all expect to happen eventually, but can struggle with when it actually occurs. Many people tell us about how hard it is to feel the pain of loss, to cope with the sadness that seems to come out of blue when you least expect it, and to adapt to the changes of feeling alone.
Because the most important element that we grieve is the connection we shared with that other person, we can also grieve and struggle to cope when a relationship comes to an end — even when the person (or pet) remains alive. From that perspective, we can grieve the end of a marriage or a dating relationship, or the end of a friendship in the same ways we can grieve an actual death. Many clients tell us about the complex feelings of loss and grief they face when elderly parents are stricken by dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, diseases that leave the body but steal the person, and when their older teens leave home to attend university. We can also grieve the loss of ‘sons’ and ‘daughters’ when children discover they are transgendered and ask us to adapt to their new identity and to the challenges of using their preferred pronouns.
The loss of a pet can trigger profound losses as well because animals offer us the kind of unconditional love few humans ever can. Animals can be so empathic, just seeming to know when we need them most. They keep our secrets and never judge us or fall into the traps we do of believing the horribly negative things we can come to believe about ourselves. Many pets continue to be excited to see us when we come home even when our kids and spouses seem too busy to notice. Many clients tell us about how difficult it is to cope with the loss of a cherished pet when that animal was almost like a best friend, especially during tough times.