August 2, 2017
Grief is an odd experience. We all understand what it is when happening to someone else, but struggle to understand it when we are the affected party. It is universal but never experienced the exact same by any two people.
What does it look like? Most of us, understandably, conjure up thought of death when thinking about grief, but what about other forms of loss? This is the grief that we deal with more commonly, perhaps without even realizing it.
In thinking about this topic, I couldn’t get an image out of my mind. It was of my grandfather. He was so many things: A veteran, a nationally recognized principal and educator, and a well-loved father and grandfather. But the image of him in my mind is almost always of him riding his motorcycle, a deep red Honda Goldwing. Having summers off, he was always taking trips on his motorcycle. Sometimes by himself and sometimes with one of his grandkids, he would pack up his tent and hit the open road. He loved to ride-to go new places and have new experiences. He rode well beyond the age he probably should have stopped. Invariably, as his health deteriorated, he was faced with the reality he could no longer ride. The day he was forced to sell his motorcycle was probably one of the worst days of his life. It wasn’t losing the object, but what it represented in his life—a source of memories, passion, freedom. On that day, he was a different person for what he had lost, and I think he grieved that change.
At R3, we see a lot of grief associated with trauma, but also grief associated with loss. Loss of identity, pride, functioning, or meaningful activity. It is real and it is life changing. It is important to acknowledge that loss-because it is real for that individual. If we can’t try and understand what that looks or feels like for that individual, how can we help them move forward? Functional or job loss may not seem as serious as death of a loved one, but the experience may be just as significant psychologically. It is losing part of life, perhaps a very important part (psychologically, financially and even existentially). While we don’t often think of that as a grief situation, it very much can be. Whether in the world of Disruptive Event Management, Disability, of Workers Compensation, it behooves us to think about the loss and how it may influence the path forward. To understand how to get to point B, we need to understand point A; not to dwell or obsess, but to understand and acknowledge. There is indeed always a path forward from loss, and we are privileged to help people find that path.