Recognising and Respecting Our Unacknowledged Losses
When we think of the words ‘loss' and ‘grief' we often think of the death of a loved one, and the acute and painful suffering that results. There is no doubt that death is an extreme and debilitating loss; people often need extensive support to endure it. However, death isn't the only source of debilitating loss that people experience – our unacknowledged losses can be just as painful but sometimes seem less legitimate.
Grieving the death of another
The death of someone close to us can hit us extraordinarily severely, and it seems the closer we were to the person the more his or her death affects us. If the person isn't very close to us, whilst we still might be strongly affected by the death, the effect can be more limited. There is even something about the death of someone we hardly knew that can really hit us. In all these cases, we know and accept that death affects people; we try to be sensitive, compassionate and understanding.
We grieve other things too, just as much
We also know that people experience loss in other ways. People experience the loss of employment, the loss of relationship, the loss of dignity, loss of independence and the loss of freedom (amongst others). However, we struggle with accepting that these other losses can hit someone as strongly as death can, and can lack the same sensitivity and compassion for people who experience these other sorts of losses.
Respect yourself and your loss
Importantly, even if we are the one experiencing the loss we can't always recognise or respect our own experience of loss in the circumstances. It can seem to us like a less legitimate loss, one that really isn't as serious as the death of someone, and we can even wonder why it seems to have such a strong effect. This lack of understanding that we can have for these other sorts of losses only makes the loss more lonely and harder to bear and the recovery consequently harder.
Getting support for your loss
Counselling and psychotherapy can be helpful for those who experience losses of any kind. It can be helpful for many reasons; not least because the counsellor or psychotherapist will be understanding and respectful of the losses you have experienced, and seek to understand how they have affected you. In the same way that understanding and respect is an important part of the grieving process in a loss experienced through death, it is also important for recovery from what can sometimes seem like less legitimate losses.