A Pervasive Sense of Loss
It seems as though everywhere I look lately, I see or feel a pervasive sense of loss. Not only in my clients, but also in a neighboring community, our country, and the world as a whole. This sense of loss is not only in reaction to death, but also in reaction to loss of things like safety and comfort. Yes, I am referring – at least in part – to the never-ending acts of violence occurring around the world.
How do we cope with these devastating losses? How do we move forward when we may be feeling paralyzed by fear? As psychologist Dr. John Schneider writes, the grieving process requires us to discover what is lost, what is left, and what is possible (1994). Identifying what is lost may seem pointless or too obvious, but this is an essential part of the process. Taking one more moment to reflect on what is lost may expose something previously gone unnoticed. Identifying what has been lost gives those losses the respect they deserve.
The second piece, what is left, is not meant to be tricky. This part of the process reminds us that while we may have lost loved ones, we still have, for example, good memories of them; we may have the lessons they taught us that will live on forever in our good character. In the example of having lost a sense of safety (as with the acts of violence mentioned above), identifying what is left may be more challenging.
The final piece, identifying what is possible, gives me a sense of hope. The losses we face can create space for growth and change in ourselves, our communities, and public policy. Ultimately, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions. It is a matter of how we make meaning of these losses. I hope that despite the deep sadness that often accompanies grieving a loss, we can also feel hopeful and supported by loved ones around us as we move forward in this transformational journey.
Written by Alexis Anttila, MA LAMFT
Schneider, J. (1994). Finding my way: Healing and transformation through loss and grief. Kalamazoo, MI: Seasons Press.