Who taught you about loss?
April 6, 2023
By Ken Barringer
For so many of us we were constantly being taught lessons in loss management though we might not have ever known the classroom was open for this kind of education.
- Our education could look like; the family that moved multiple times and never discussed what it was like to start over in a new school, community, or city. The lesson being taught about how to manage it; we don’t talk about it.
- Our education could look like; the family that has pets and whenever one of them dies is just replace by a similar pet. The lesson being taught about how to manage it; pets are properties that are replaceable.
- Our education could look like; the family that talks about race and social justice, posts a a sign outside their home and that ends further talks on the matter. The lesson being taught about how to manage; make a verbal and/or visual statement and move on.
- Our education could look like; the family that talks about mental health, mental illness, or addiction with hints of shame and blame for those impacted. The lesson being taught about how to manage; criticize and find fault.
Aside from the scenario of pet loss the other situations described here are about non-death losses. Let’s look at how the lesson learned can get repeated for death losses.
- The child who learns, “we don’t’ talk about”, maybe carries this belief into death loss situations and suppresses feelings.
- The child who learns, “everyone is replaceable”, maybe takes on a perspective of, “At least you had some time together” (‘at leisters’ are always rationalizing).
- The child who learns, “make a statement and move on”, maybe donates to causes but doesn’t show up for friends in need.
- The child who learns, “blame the victim”, maybe feels like there is usually a valid reason why someone died and applies logic rather than emotion to the experience of grief.
Perhaps these examples are a stretch and perhaps not. Nevertheless, due to the enormous array of nondeath losses, we have had many opportunities to subtly, and not so subtly, learn since we were young about how to manage. Those lessons may have come from family, community, religion, friends, teachers, or other sources. The real question is, does what you learned work for you and lineup with who you are? Or has it always felt incongruent with you, and you just unconsciously repeat what you know? Raising awareness to this is the first step in developing new perspectives.