WE OFTEN DON’T ALLOW OURSELVES THE SPACE TO GRIEVE. When we experience a loss, we might encounter internal or external voices that press us to “move on” or “put it behind you.” However, the grieving process is not about achieving closure from our past — it’s about forming an ongoing relationship with it that helps us move forward.
Though we may never eliminate the pain of a loss, grieving can be transformative. It can help us learn about ourselves and derive new meanings from the people, things, places, hopes, or dreams that we have cherished and lost. In this way, what we have lost is not relegated to the past, but continues to shape who we are.
Sometimes well-intentioned people might unknowingly diminish or co-opt your grief. They may try to console you by saying things like, “it’s probably for the best,” or “everything happens for a reason.” They may unwittingly impose their own experiences, saying things such as, “when I lost my…” or “I know what it feels like to…” It is important to remember that your grief is yours — you are entitled to it.
I think that it can be helpful to be with people grieving a loss. By with, I mean more than a physical presence. I mean being responsive to them and valuing their experiences and perspectives without seeking to impose my own. EVERY LOSS HAS UNIQUE MEANINGS FOR EACH PERSON. It is not up to others to define those meanings. A therapist can be a valuable partner to join with to explore those meanings and help generate new ones.
Being with clients shapes my approach to therapy. I seek to form a partnership with clients. This means I don’t assume to be an expert on their lives – though I want to learn — and I don’t have a pre-planned agenda. Where I strive to be an expert is in creating space for meaningful conversations that are not driven by me or weighed down with my judgments or assumptions.
It is my hope that our conversations can plant the seeds for new understandings of the events that shape our lives. These seeds will not replace what has been lost, but, in a sense, they can give it new life.