We do not talk about loss in our culture and yet every day we experience it in some big or small way. Whether our teenager is moving into residence, we are moving to a new city or we are leaving a job for a new one navigating loss is a common human experience. When loss is left unacknowledged the impact can range from sad to devastating and effect our work, school and relationships.
Recently, we made the difficult decision to leave our employment at Bliss Counselling, a place where we had established friendships, colleagues and a practice, to start our own counselling practice in Doon South, Kitchener. While it is exciting to start something new we had to acknowledge the feelings of loss in what we were leaving behind– we would not be seeing our friends/colleagues on a daily basis any longer, some relationships would be irreparably changed and we were leaving behind the security of an established practice. Moreover, we were ending therapeutic relationships multiple times a day, in respect of our college and business obligations, with clients that may not have been ready for the relationship to end.
We have heard this from clients that if you choose to leave or change, you will not grieve the loss or hurt as a response to the change. While everyone is different, this has not been our experience and it may be a societal misconception or a lack of acknowledgement when it comes to loss. This may stem from the difference in response with those who are just becoming aware of the loss, versus the person who had to come to terms with the loss before acknowledging it to those impacted by it.
Regardless of how we have come to loss or even the loss itself, there are ways to cope and manage when faced with the grief in change.
Acknowledge that this is loss
Simple right? Maybe not. Sadly in our culture today we tend to create hierarchies that legitimize or minimize people’s experience and feelings. It can be very difficult to say “hey this is loss” when we may have people in our lives suffering with “bigger” hurts. In Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong, she discusses comparative suffering as a ranking or comparing of our own suffering in relationship to others. While Brené suggests the importance in keeping things in perspective she also advocates for acknowledging the pain so we can heal.
Feel the loss
Acknowledging the loss is the first step but once we have said “hey this is loss” we need to allow ourselves to feel the enormity of what that means. The inclination here may be to do an itinerary of what it is that we have lost, like relationships, people, identities, etc. However this is the moment where we want to address not only the facts of the situation but also the feelings attributed to it. Maybe it is grief, heartbreak, frustration, anger or relief; paying attention to how we feel and then meeting those feelings with empathy and compassion will help to validate our experience of the loss.
Share the loss
There is a famous quote from T.A Webb, “A burden shared is a burden halved.” It may seem easier to keep our loss to ourselves or perhaps there are belief systems at work about who we are supposed to be or what we are supposed to be able to manage that keep us from opening up. As counsellors, we tell people there is nothing braver, stronger or more validating to a relationship then letting someone share in our vulnerability and feelings. It is important to share with someone who can hear our story and meet it with compassion. If that seems like a big step, it is okay to start with a journal entry or a memo on your smartphone – getting the experience out, both the facts and the feelings can help us process the impact on ourselves and help us to feel more productive, more capable and more loving.
Experiencing loss is inevitable and while some losses barely come to our awareness, others may shake us to our core. Our feelings of loss are uniquely our own and as such need to be evaluated based on our own experience rather than comparing ourselves to others.
Sometimes coping or managing loss can feel bigger than we are capable of handling, know that that is okay and at Calming Tree Counselling we are here to help. Book an appointment with one of our experienced counsellors today.