Archives > March 2017

Can I Grieve Without Experiencing a Death?

When we watch the news, listen to the radio, or read the newspaper, there are numerous reports of deaths that have occurred locally or nationally. We have no problem talking about death in our society. A topic that is not commonly talked about however is grief. For most people, this topic is uncomfortable and unfamiliar. When we hear the word “grief”, we automatically associate it with death. Most certainly the death of an important person in our lives does cause us to grieve, but there are several other losses that can cause us to grieve as well.

The first step in developing an awareness and understanding of what grief is, is to define it. According to The Grief Recovery Institute, grief is the conflicting feelings caused by an end or change in a familiar pattern of behavior. When we encounter a loss we may experience feelings of sadness and relief. This is especially common when someone we love dies after suffering a long-term illness. Grief is also defined as the normal and natural reaction caused by loss of any kind. This is important to note because we often judge our feelings as “abnormal” and “unnatural”, even though they aren’t.

I have outlined three life experiences, other than death, that can cause us to grieve.

Moving: Moving is a grieving experience for many people. It may surprise you that this is a loss that many of our clients present with at The Grief & Trauma Healing Center. The conflicting feelings around moving may include excitement and sadness. You may feel excited about the new opportunities and experiences of being in a new city, but also very sad to leave the home and community that has been familiar to you for many years. Ultimately, you are leaving a place that you call home. It can be very hard to say goodbye. One of the biggest myths of grief is to “replace the loss”. A new home, a new city, and new opportunities will not replace the comfort and experiences you had in your previous home. If you are going through something similar in your own life, it is important to acknowledge that your feelings are normal and natural and to share your feelings with someone you trust as you move through this transition. Feeling our feelings helps us to adapt more quickly and easily to new experiences and relieves us of the emotional weight of the past.

Graduation: My graduation date is quickly approaching and this is an experience that is causing me to grieve. “They say” graduation is supposed to be one of the happiest and most exciting times in young adulthood, but I have found myself also feeling sad. How could I possibly feel sad to graduate university? After exploring my thoughts and feelings, I came to a realization. University has provided me with much more than just a degree and some letters behind my name. I have met some of the greatest and truest friends of my life and I have grown accustomed to the “university lifestyle”. My friends and I have spent every day together for the past four years, having lunch, studying, taking classes together, and hanging out. Although I am so excited about my future endeavors, saying goodbye to this amazing and challenging chapter of my life is going to be difficult.

Job Loss: Very sadly, Albertans have experienced significant job loss over the past few years. I am sure you have heard this quote, “You live to work or work to live.” Many of us work to live. I can certainly relate to that. We work hard to own a beautiful home, a reliable vehicle, to travel annually, to go shopping and out for dinner, to support our families, and to participate in exciting extracurricular activities. Imagine the devastation of losing your job and the income that supports your lifestyle and your family. Some of you may have experienced this personally. The threat of losing everything you have worked so hard for, would be imminent. The fear of not knowing whether you would have enough money to pay for your mortgage, bills, and groceries would be overwhelming! I really can’t imagine how frightening and stressful this situation would be. This is a massive grieving experience for many Albertans right now. If you are going through this, please know that your feelings are normal and natural and a healthy way to process your grief is to feel your feelings and share them with someone you trust.

There are over 43 forms of loss that can create the feelings of grief. Death is only one of them. At The Grief & Trauma Healing Center, we are in the business of empowering others to move beyond pain and heal after emotional loss of any kind. If you are struggling to move forward from a loss in your life, please know that we are eager to help. Click here to book an appointment with us today.

This article was written by Gina Baretta, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, of The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. Visit for information about our grief counselling services and Grief Recovery Method® Programs. 

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