In our culture and community, when someone experiences the death of a loved one, we reach out offering consolation, care, and support. We grieve because we form attachments and connections with one another. We are therefore naturally “wired” to feel a sense of connection and loss.
The word bereavement comes from a Latin derivative which means “to be robbed.” The term “robbed” creates a strong emotional reaction suggesting that grieving isn’t something we do willingly or easily.
The grief journey is an adjustment period. It involves the painful work of mind, body, emotions, and spirit. That is why we refer to it as “grief work”.
From the time that we were born, we are constantly experiencing losses. Some of them are so subtle they go unnoticed. Others are so overwhelming they seem unbearable.
Grief losses are often associated with a terminal illness, death of a family member, friend, or colleague. These finite losses are devastating and overwhelming.
Notwithstanding, there are non-finite losses that are also demanding and challenging.
Struggling with infertility, leaving or losing a job, and facing the decline of a loved one’s physical or cognitive ability are such losses. And like other grief reactions, processing them is essential if healing is to materialize.
Unlike a death loss, there is no funeral to acknowledge and honor these losses—no grave to visit, no covered dishes dropped at the door, no sitting in the company of fellow mourners and supporting each other through the tears.
Because people so often feel out of sync with the world around them, these “hidden sorrows” are difficult for individuals to share. Those who are struggling aren’t sure others will understand or want to hear their story. When this happens, individuals can be disenfranchised in their grief. So, they tend to push pain and loss downward rather than allowing it come up and out.
Normal grief has a dignity that allows the griever the freedom to experience and express emotions and feel accepted and understood by others. As healthcare givers, we can help others by normalizing their grief and finding ways for them to embrace their pain and surrender to the process of grief.
As bereavement companions, we can not only support others as they “count their losses,” but also help them live with integrity and perhaps even empower them to convert their losses to gains.
“Every person, every place, every project, and every possession we love we will lose, someday, at least in a physical sense. How we adapt in these innumerable losses shape who we will become.”
“Counting Our Losses”, Darcy L. Harris
Submitted by Darwin L. Huartson, M.Div. BCC, Porter Loring Community Coordinator