Following the death of my wife in 2016, I wanted—no, I needed—to understand my grief. Over the five years since, I have invested thousands of hours speaking with hundreds of people and formally interviewing dozens in various stages of their loss and healing journey. And for two of those years, I’ve had the privilege of facilitating support groups focused on helping others through loss, grief, and recovery. Through this process, I have come to understand grief on a personal level and I have seen how loss and recovery work in other’s stories.
Along this journey I have gained an intimate understanding of how many of us experience loss and brokenness. Among the lessons learned is that everyone’s response to loss is unique. A big part of that is because we each have a specific and special blend of personality traits, temperaments, methods of processing, emotional health status, and physiological responses to stress. In addition, how we respond to events of loss and brokenness is influenced by the faith perspectives that shape our understanding of the world. We all have our individual backstories; the lessons and life experiences that shape how we see ourselves and others. Each of these variables and how they are combined contribute to how we perceive and respond to loss and to our capacity for healing.
At the same time, I’ve seen tremendous similarities across many different types of loss and grief experiences. It’s remarkable that we can have our own unique and personal story yet still have an amazing ability to connect and relate to another through their loss story. The fact is that none of us is immune to grief and hardship. We all know how it feels to face loss on some level. What’s surprised me, however, is how people who have had different types of loss experiences can be deeply drawn together through their personal response to the grief experience more so than the type of loss they have experienced. You might expect that someone who’s lost a young child, for example, would primarily connect and relate to another parent who’s been through the same thing. But that’s not always the case. Because our responses to grief can be similar, a mourning parent may feel more understood by someone mourning a friend whose response that loss more similar to theirs.
Loss Is Something We All Have In Common
Loss isn’t only about those grieving someone’s death, rather loss comes in many forms. People going through divorce, raising a special needs child, supporting a loved one with emotional or mental health issues, facing a frightening medical diagnosis, or struggling with financial or career issues are all experiencing a type of loss. The silver lining is that there is an enormous pool of resources we can lean on. A community of people who understand what we are going through. And again, it’s not just about connecting one person going through a divorce to another person going through divorce or one cancer patient to another. It’s about finding other individuals or, better yet, a whole community of people who are going through a form of loss while experiencing similar emotional responses. We connect to others through how they experience loss much more than we do through what loss they’re experiencing. This is an important dynamic that is lost in most traditional forms of grief/loss recovery.
The Survive-Alive-Thrive Model
Within each stage are multiple emotional responses that can persist, vary, and evolve as we progress from one stage to the next. The model is intended to help us identify where we are on our journey, show us where we are heading, and connect us with others who are having (or have had) similar experiences and responses.
You Are Not Alone
Remember you are not alone on your journey, and we are here to help. You might wish to read more or listen to our podcast. If you have a question, ask. If you feel you are ready to connect with others in the same place as you, please consider joining one of our free small groups.