Types of Loss that Lead to Grief

Although grief is always caused by loss, loss does not always lead to grief. For example, we would most likely not grieve the loss of our car keys or the death of a movie star that we never heard of. As last week’s blog post mentioned, we grieve the loss of the people and things that we truly loved and cared for, people and things that had a significant impact on our lives.

When it comes to grieving our losses, it’s also important to know that there are many types of losses that lead to grief. People are frequently made to feel that they don’t have the right to grieve losses that aren’t related to a friend or family member dying, like somehow other losses aren’t painful. To help us shift out mindset on what is allowed to be grieved, below is a list of the most common types of losses that lead to grief.

  1. Breakups and Divorces: Although no one is dying in this situation, a significant relationship is coming to an end. Those who are going through a breakup or divorce often grieve the loss of the happy relationship that they longed for, the loss of having a companion to share life with, the loss of parts of their identity that were created because of that relationship (being a caretaker, a spouse, a lover, etc.), the loss of sexual intimacy, and the loss of any plans or hopes for the future of that relationship.

  2. The Death of a Pet or Animal Companion: It is incredibly common for people to feel that their pets or animal companions are a part of their family. Animals have a way of loving their people unconditionally, and a way of bringing simple joy and comfort to life. Animals can also be fierce protectors, bringing humans a sense of safety. Additionally, animals are known to be therapeutic, offering calmness for anxiety, happiness in times of sadness, and someone to talk to and be ourselves with when no one else seems to understand. When we lose an animal friend, we are grieving the loss of one of the purest forms of companionship that we as humans can know.

  3. Mental or Physical Disability or Illness (ex. Alzheimer’s disease, paralysis, traumatic brain injuries, down syndrome, autism, chronic illness, etc.): Whether caused by genetics, a bad accident, age, or something else, personally experiencing or loving someone who has a mental or physical disability or illness is cause for grief. Depending on the type of disability or illness, it can be difficult if not impossible to fully take care of oneself, to engage in meaningful relationships, to maintain a job or career, or to do the “normal” things that humans should be able to do. In these situations, we grieve the loss of independence, of ease, of comfort, of connection, and of the hopes and dreams we had for ourselves or our loved one.

  4. The Loss of a Loved One Through Addiction, Abuse, or Abandonment: Grief is a significant part of the life of those who have experienced addiction, abuse, and/or abandonment at the hands of a loved one. From these experiences we grieve the loss of a healthy life for those who battle addiction, the loss of our innocence and sense of safety in the world, the loss of any chance at a healthy and normal relationship with those that were supposed to protect and care for us, the loss of our sense of worth or value, and even the loss of trust in others or ourselves.

  5. The Death of a Loved One: Death is the type of loss that is most associated with grieving because this type of loss is permanent. In experiencing the death of someone significant to us, we grieve the reality that we will never again see them in this life, we grieve not having more time to fix any brokenness in that relationship, we grieve living in world without our companion, and we grieve living in a world that has illness, disability, pain, and death.

We have the right to grieve these different types of losses. No one is exempt from loss, and we deserve to feel the reality of what those losses mean to us. I challenge you to consider in what ways you have experienced loss, but not allowed yourself to grieve. I also challenge you to think of other losses you might have experienced that aren’t on this list, because those are just as important.

For next week’s blog post on grief, we will be exploring the first of six common ways that we experience grief: denial.

Speak Your Mind


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