Death of a loved one. That’s an obvious example. When people die, we expect their survivors – spouses/partners, children, parents, etc. – to experience grief. It’s a given. A community of family and friends converge on the dearly departed’s closest ones to share in the rituals of mourning and to offer support. Thank goodness!
But there are the not-so-obvious losses that we all experience throughout our lives that are felt deeply by us, but do not receive the same recognition or support. And those who experience these not-so-obvious losses are often left to manage their grief on their own. Perhaps, weeks or months or even years later, these survivors often seek professional guidance wondering why they’re so depressed and/or anxious. Their “condition” is treated as depression/anxiety, and medicated as depression/anxiety, when what’s at the root of the problem is a normal response to loss, a.k.a. GRIEF.
I recently heard the story of a teenager, whose parents are divorced. There are no siblings; Mom is out of the picture; Dad is the custodial parent. Dad recently had a heart attack…and survived. Teenager witnessed Dad’s collapse and was the one who called 911. Phew, right? Dodged that bullet! Teenager (and family and friends) are “Hooraying!” the fact that Teenager and Dad still have each other. Dad’s prognosis is good, although not as good as it was prior to this medical emergency. But basically, what we have here is cause for celebration.
Although Dad is still alive, Teenager has experienced a traumatic loss. She has lost her innocence. She has lost a sense of security, safety and stability in her world. She has lost what many young people experience as a sense of immortality (her Dad’s and probably her own as well). Underneath all the relief that she is feeling because Dad is safely back from hospital, she is also experiencing grief. She didn’t lose her Dad, but what she has lost is most likely going to shape the rest of her life.
It is a natural inclination to want to focus on the positive when Death is turned away and asked to come at a later date, when the single father survives the heart attack, when the young mother gets through the cancer treatment with no evidence of disease, when the friend walks away from the car accident with no more than a few scratches and bruises, when the dear friend’s home is missed by the fire.
AND it’s important to acknowledge what was lost, to grieve that part of the experience. If we fail to do so, depression and anxiety insidiously worm their ways into our psyches. And often we have no conscious clue why.
Allow me to suggest that unresolved grief is why.
Grief eases, but never truly “goes away.” However, grief can be resolved. This makes moving through life with grief less of a struggle. Find out more here: Grief Recovery Method.