The Grief of Losses Unseen


In my almost 15 years of working with clients one thing has become very clear to me: most people today experience deep grief about losses unseen.

When most people think of grief, they think of a physical death: A family member or friend died and then a grief process begins.

Most people don’t realize grief is a process that arises from more than just death.

Death is simply the most tangible way we can conceptualize grief. When a person dies, they are no longer with us in body, and therefore, we believe we have experienced a loss. There is a direct, tangible, and measureable loss.

However, our lives are a constant series of losses:
...Loss of a dream
...Loss of a desire
...Loss of our innocence
...Loss of our hopes
...Loss of our health
...Loss of our child’s health
...Loss of who we used to be
The list can go on and on.

All of the clients I have ever worked with in my career have experienced some sort of loss they did not realize they needed to grieve.

Most of our clients here at our San Jose psychotherapy office are grieving the loss of a dream:

...The 35 year old female individual therapy client grieves the loss of her dream that she would have been married by 28, had children by 32, had her beautiful house and her white picket fence, too.
...The 50 year old woman grieves the loss of the relationship she wished she would have had with her children.
...The 55 year old woman grieves the loss that she married a man that has been unable to support her in the ways she would have imagined a partner would support her.

For other individual counseling clients the loss comes in the form of grieving a childhood that was cut short. Sometimes this is because her parents wanted her to do something or be something that deep down inside wasn’t authentic to her. For example, she wanted to be a dancer, but her parents forced her into medical school. Now she’s a doctor and she hates it.

Other times the grief associated with a childhood cut short comes when she had been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused or neglected. Her innocence was taken from her as the perpetrator abused and molested her, exposing to her things beyond her years. Her grief work becomes about honoring the innocent child who was violated, honoring the anger which arises as she connects to the fact that she wasn’t cherished, protected and kept safe, and moving through the process of healing.

Even the process of healing itself stirs up grief. As you move through your healing, you realize there are old stories and old beliefs about you that must be shed and die because they are no longer true to you. The identity you once had changes. The world as you know it changes. And as exciting as that can be, it can be really scary too.

Who are you when your old stories and beliefs no longer define you? Who are you when you no longer have the excuse of, “it was because of x, y, or z that my life was like this”? Who are you as you begin to heal and grow?

Your old identity must die before you can fully step into your new one. And this is a loss most people don’t even realize they have.

Our couples counseling clients also move through a process of grief. The losses are usually related to dreams: dreams of what you thought it was supposed to be like when you got married, when you had kids, when you or your partner were promoted and moved into your house with the white picket fence. Dreams that there would be happiness and joy, and instead facing the reality of disconnection and moving through life next to one another practically as zombies living in hollow human shells.

Most people don’t realize that when you don’t allow yourself to grieve the losses you have faced, you end up stuffing your feelings, and then you walk around sad, hurt, angry, and unfulfilled not even knowing why. For some people, it even becomes physical. I once worked with a client whose unresolved grief led them to develop physical shakes and ticks. Another time I worked with a woman whose unresolved grief led to frequent sinus infections and surgeries. In both instances, once we addressed the grief and healed it, the physical symptoms resolved as well.

Even Prince Harry spoke about what unresolved grief did to him in a 2017 news article, and how it led him to feel angry and disconnected all of the time, and how addressing the grief has helped him to be “in a good place” now.

If you have experienced the grief of unseen losses and you are ready to heal, please reach out to us to schedule your Get Acquainted Call today. We can help.