By: Zino Ukulu, M.A.
Loss and accompanying grief—unavoidable and integral aspects of life, although often we disavow its presence in our lives in an attempt to avoid pain and discomfort.
Generally, when we think of ‘grief’, we think of a deep sadness that follows the loss of someone of something loved, special, or significant. Most of us may think of grief associated with the death of a loved one, but grief can show up in our lives in a plethora of ways for various reasons.
‘Change’ is one of the only constants of life, paradoxically; impermanence is a permanent component of our reality—inescapable and intrinsic. Everything changes, ebbs, and flows, like the tides of the oceans and the cycles of the seasons. Our lives have phases, stages, and chapters as we change over time. Just as we acknowledge the happy periods, we must do so for the sad ones because only with pain can we know pleasure. Grief manifests where meaning was lost. What we consider meaningful and the reasons for which are unique and individual to each person. We may hold our family and friends as dear to our hearts; our physical house may represent generational stability; our faith may be the reason we continue to live; our vocations may be what brings light to our lives. There is an array of ways we find meaning and significance in our lives, so inversely, there are just as many ways we can experience grief and loss.
We all must navigate the inevitable losses in our lives, though most of us have our own ways of avoiding, negotiating, and experiencing loss and subsequent grief. Sometimes we seek psychological support to cope with and make meaning of the experience of loss. Negotiating the myriad of ways we experience the phenomena of grief and loss can manifest clinically: not wanting to respond to the potential of or presence of loss/ not wanting to experience loss may be conceptualized as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); depression may be understood as one’s concession or surrender to grief; mania could be partially described by the manifestation of one feeling invincible and immune to loss; worrying about impending loss can present as anxiety; loss-prevention may be conceptualized as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD); hoarding may be understood as retention and the refusal to lose; psychosis can be experienced as surviving the loss of the stability of one’s perceptual reality; and suicide may be one’s way of transcending loss, etc.
Though our tendency may often be to want to deny the pain of change, that disallows the space necessary to nonjudgmentally acknowledge, process, and accept the losses that accompany the changes of the seasons within our lives. The flipside of the celebration of meaning is the sadness of loss, and support for such can be provided by psychotherapists. Therapists serve as safe spaces where individuals navigating the experience of grief and loss can seek non-judgmental, compassionate solace and support to acknowledge, process, and eventually accept the many changes that manifest throughout the course of their lives. Change is inevitable, and consequently so is grief and loss, but the journey through does not have to be experienced alone. Everyone needs a shoulder to lean on from time to time, and that is why we are here to help.