Grief and Hidden Grief

The loss of a loved one who has passed away is devastating for most people. At the time of this post there have been 217 thousand deaths attributed to Covid 19 in the United States alone. It is difficult to estimate how many people are grieving the loss of their family members or loved ones related to this devastating disease. Everyday people are grieving the loss of someone they love in one form or another. What typically helps us deal with loss is the support and love of those who care about us. It is our connection with others that helps us cope, and manage these powerful feelings related to grief and loss. It is understanding, compassion, and connectedness that helps us heal. Unfortunately in our current environment it is difficult for many people to be physically present with those that care about them. Relying on technology to stay connected is extremely valuable, however, it is not the same. The healing human touch and close personal exchange is missing. The intensity of the loss often becomes magnified due to the separateness and isolation that we often feel. When a person dies it is clear to friends and family members that their loved ones need to be cared for during the difficult grief process. Typically many friends and family members are there for support and make great efforts to stay in contact with the grieving individuals. In many cultures there are rituals that help those who are grieving to make a more positive adjustment to their loss. When people are divorced or separated the experience can also be devastating, however, in these situations individuals often do not get the same level of support, it may be that their sense of loss is not acknowledged in the same way, however, it may be just as devastating. In fact it can ultimately be more devastating due to the lack of acknowledgment by others, and the loss of friendships that might occur related loyalties to one partner or another may make things even more intensified. In addition a person may feel shame and betrayal which might not be experienced when a loved one dies. The degree to which society affirms the validity of the loss can often have an impact with regards to the healing of the individual, or individuals that are experiencing loss. The type of grief that is not acknowledged by society is often consider "disenfranchised grief". In these situations individuals are often left more alone to deal with their suffering. Although others may notice, the degree of suffering is often not acknowledged, and is not validated by social norms. If someone experiences the loss of a family pet, others, may say it is just a cat, or a dog, and discount the intensity of their experience. The more others do not validate their suffering, the more difficult it is for the person to process and work through their grief. In addition, if the grief is not socially validated there is a tendency to repress emotions related to sadness, anger, etc, and this could potentially generate experiences of anxiety, or more intensified depression. There are many losses that we experience, and much of the loss we experience may not be related to another person or any living thing. We can lose our livelihood, our home, our position in life, a body part, or our health. I suspect anytime a person comes to my office for counseling there is some type of loss involved. If a person is suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, or depression, they are also experiencing loss related to a sense of well-being, they may be experiencing loss related to the manner with which they were previously engaged and connected with others. These are often hidden losses, and frequently never even noticed by the individual. Despite the lack of acknowledgment, these losses exist, they are real, they cause suffering, and they need to be addressed and noticed for healing to occur. Many of us at this moment are experiencing loss related to our inability to do many of the things we would normally do and experience. Covid 19 has caused there to be many things missing in our lives, We can choose to depersonalize ourselves, or others, by not validating the loss, or we can care for ourselves. Accepting and caring for our loss is not exclusive to appreciating what we have in life. They are not mutually exclusive. We can notice both what is missing, and we can acknowledge our blessings. Things don't always need to be "either or".

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