Loss doesn’t necessarily mean someone has died. That is one type of loss, causing great grief, but some of the other losses we experience as a natural part of life are a little more hidden.
Loss appears in our lives in various ways. We may experience a break up, a divorce, our parent’s may have separated, a friendship may go awry, or someone we care about may move abroad. We may feel grief when we anticipate a loss, or when we create it, when the loss is of our own choosing.
As its name suggests, ‘Anticipatory Grief’ is the reaction to a loss you are able to anticipate such as when someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness. As soon as we accept and understand someone we love is going to die, we begin grieving.
Grief that occurs before the actual loss can be confusing. We may feel conflicted or guilty for experiencing grief reactions about someone who is still here. We may also feel grief over the loss of things other than the individual, such as loss of hopes and dreams for the future. However, it can allow us to slowly and gradually prepare for and absorb the reality of the loss. Also, for some but not all, it allows for meaningful time spent with the someone we love, helping lead to, eventually, a sense of closure and peace.
When grief symptoms and reactions aren’t experienced until long after the loss, or at a much later time than you might expect. The griever, who consciously or subconsciously avoids the reality and pain of the loss, suppresses these reactions.
This is an interesting one. Sometime a loss was so long ago, or we experienced it when we were so young, that it becomes hidden in us. “Forgotten” yet not really forgotten. In these cases, because we haven’t allowed ourselves to grieve fully and appropriately in the first place, our grief reactions can impair normal functioning in life. However we are unable to recognise these emotions and behaviours as being related to the loss; so they often become masked as either physical symptoms or other unhelpful behaviours.
This relates to….
When we show no outward signs of grief for an extended period of time. We inhibit or suppress our grief, eventually often leading to physical manifestations and bodily complaints.
When a loss impacts many areas of one’s life, creating multiple losses stemming from the “primary loss”. Though it is easy to think our grief is solely the grief of losing the person who died, our grief is also the pain of the other losses caused as a result of this death.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Loss is so fundamental to the experience of living that we can’t possible list all the “types”, and all the circumstances.
Neither can we ignore it. And nor should we. For to do so it not only unhealthy, and can prevent us learning about ourselves from our losses, but it also prevents us being able to honour the things we value. Recognising what we don’t have can be seen as a way to see and be grateful for what we do.
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