“Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
We will all know loss in some form. It’s an expectation of being on the planet and it’s never easy. Though we all experience loss, we don’t necessarily experience it the same way.
Loss has many faces and expressions, all of them valid and real. Let’s consider some of the most common many faces of loss:
Unexpected, Traumatic, or Tragic Loss
When loss is sudden, due to disaster, accident, suicide, homicide, or some other unexpected factor, it can be doubly hard to accept. Normal feelings of grief, anger, or denial may be exacerbated by the lack of mental preparation. Acceptance becomes one of the most difficult tasks, and a wealth of support is needed, to help the affected parties work through the loss. Many sufferers of traumatic loss must spend time processing the manner of death, how they became aware of it, and the realities of the loss as well.
Loss of Goals, Ambition, or Reputation
Many people express feelings of loss as they transition from one life phase to the next. Feeling as if life goals and status hold little value can lead to a period of reevaluation and lost identity. People in midlife often report feeling as though they cannot get a handle on their purpose, after the kids move out, or as retirement approaches. Losing life roles as a parent, or in a career to time or by choice, can leave a significant void if a person isn’t prepared for the change.
Enduring a loved one’s terminal illness, or some other prolonged process of loss, is particularly exhausting. It may feel as if the normal letting go process is drawn out painfully. When the loss is complete, emotions can be detached or too strained, to really be felt in an accurate manner. Healthy expression may be delayed or suppressed for a while. People experiencing prolonged grief may also feel guilty, or too tired to outwardly grieve. But in time, perhaps aided by therapy, they can return to a more normalised grief process.
Complicated loss occurs when the ending of life, relationships, or a situation is not easily resolved due to complicating factors. For example, loss becomes complicated if one spouse dies during a temporary separation from the other. For the person left behind, the loss must be processed, as well as the lack of relational closure.
Unfinished loss, like prolonged loss, has that maddening aspect of feeling interminable. Except in this case the loss isn’t certain. Here the loss is especially taxing, as the idea of loss lingers. A thread of hope keeps you from moving through the pain of loss indefinitely. The parents of missing children, or the loved ones of soldiers missing in action, live with this kind of pain. Under these circumstances, loss can be paralyzing without support.
Disenfranchised loss is often connected to people or situations that society doesn’t consider valid. Gay partners often wrestle with this upon losing a partner. In those cases, people often feel compelled to hide their grief, connections, or the true nature of their loss. Other types of “unacceptable” or hidden losses include abortion, miscarriage, or death due to substance abuse or AIDS. Stigma regarding lifestyle, or manner of death, can make loss extremely tortuous for those who must weigh social opinion and healthy grieving.
However loss manifests, it deserves respect. Everyone deserves the time and space to honor the object of their loss and grieve well.
If you are struggling with any of these many faces of loss, bereavement counselling could hep or call Neil Ward counselling on 07970 860 711 today to book an initial session.