As a therapist, I have the privilege of hearing a lot of people’s stories. Some of these stories are tragically complicated, others are more simple. However, a common theme that I hear repeated over and over again is loss. It’s the “ordinary” losses like the death of a relative, the ending of a relationship, or sudden unemployment that impacts people so deeply.
I also see the effects of something called “ambiguous” loss. This is the type of loss that you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s unseen, like an infertility struggle, the spouse’s military deployment, a parent with dementia who no longer recognizes you, an addiction stealing your spouse, an empty nest, or the chronic illness that has changed your child. Sometimes ambiguous loss happens suddenly and other times it occurs over time, but it almost always lacks closure. As the grief lingers, people often become physically and emotionally exhausted, can get stuck by the unclear emotions and lose coping skills. By engaging in therapy centered on loss as well as utilizing mindfulness, people can label the loss, find meaning in it, regain clarity and rediscover hope.