Dealing with loss

It’s a sad fact that all of us have probably suffered some kind of loss over the past 12 months. 

Generally, when we talk and think about loss, we mean bereavement. But loss can mean so many other things as well. 

It’s the feeling we have when we lose something that was important to us – even if we didn’t realise just how important it was when we had it. 

“Grief is not about doing well or badly” Niamh Fitzpatrick

That could be the loss of a job or a relationship, your sense of community, or your usual routine. It might be something you once thought of as trivial – such as going to the gym or the hairdressers – but now realise was an important part of your own self-care. 

Any kind of loss can have a big impact as we mourn for our old life and miss the things we used to do. 

The psychologist Niamh Fitzpatrick who wrote Tell Me The Truth About Loss, says, “I have learned an important truth: grief is not just about death, it’s about change and what we lose when things change. It’s the old life that we knew gone forever and a new one in its place.”

The emotions we feel after loss

When we experience a loss, it throws up a range of emotions that we don’t always know how to deal with. Such as, anger, rage, bewilderment, loneliness, numbness, guilt, confusion, exhaustion, shock and sadness.

Grief is not just sadness & tears…

If you’re feeling the loss of something other than a bereavement, it can be easy to downplay it and think that, in comparison to grieving for a loved one, it’s not significant.

But if your loss has caused a big shift in your life then it is significant to you, and that should never be trivialised. 

Once you acknowledge that the thing you lost was important, you can begin moving on from it in a healthy, constructive way. 

Two models for dealing with loss

There are two models that I think are particularly helpful for dealing with a loss. 

They are the Kubler-Ross model and the Ball and the Box. 

Think about a loss and how you moved through these stages

The Kubler-Ross model says that there are five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We can move through these in a linear fashion, one after the other, it’s almost like other representations of the ‘change curve’. 

This means that we move through these stages at our own pace. We might experience the same stage more than once, we might experience two at the same time or miss one out. But, knowing that these emotions are normal & are part of a process can be a big help in accepting them and moving through the healing journey.

The Ball and the Box model uses the idea of a ball that represents your grief/loss in a box that represents your life. Inside the box is a pain button. As your life (or box) moves, so does the ball – bumping up against the pain button every now and then. Over time the ball reduces in size and hits the pain button less, but we always carry it with us.

Grief reduces over time & causes less pain

A combination of the two models makes a lot of sense to me. 

Although, when it comes to the Ball and the Box model, I’ve found it more helpful personally to think about in terms of a slowly deflating balloon rather than a ball. As time moves on and the balloon shrinks, there’s less chance of the pain button being bumped. 

Moving on from loss

There are some things you can do to begin moving on from loss. 

Accept that it will take time and be kind to yourself. Doing self-care and being your own best friend is a good way to look after yourself following a loss.

Normalise the conversation and your experience: talk about it and write it down in a journal or through some creative writing. 

Realise that what you’re feeling is normal, that it’s okay to feel the way you do and talk about it with others. You just might find that they’ve had similar experiences, especially during the pandemic when we’ve all gone through massive changes.

There is no way to be ready for loss

Supporting someone after bereavement

If you’re supporting someone with a bereavement, normalising the conversation is even more important. 

Allow the person to talk about their grief, encourage them to talk about it and when you do talk – say the name of the person that has passed away. 

Often, we can feel like we don’t want to bring it up or say the person’s name for fear of causing upset. 

But, it’s more than likely they will be thinking about the person anyway and it can actually be positive for them to talk about their grief and to hear that person’s name again. It will help them to feel as if their loved one hasn’t been forgotten.

Kindness and conversation

Reach out to check-in & allow them to talk

Any loss can be a struggle to cope with. It’s a normal experience that all of us will go through at some stage in our lives. 

The more we keep talking about it and being kind, to ourselves and others, the easier it will be to reach the other side & continue with this experience as just part of our lives. Like so many topics in this area, talking about what’s going on and normalising this conversation can make a massive difference.

For more advice and support following a bereavement, visit Cruse Bereavement Care and The Good Grief Trust.