When we think about loss perhaps our thoughts go to loss through bereavement. Everyday objects, birthdays and anniversaries remind us of someone we miss. However, as I wrote in my last post about change, this loss through bereavement is not the only sort of loss that distresses and disorientates us.

Sometimes the loss is something we never had. Someone may have dreamt of having a family, and live with the loss of unfulfilled maternal or paternal care. A deep desire to be a professional dancer may be ended with injury. What is left is a sense of what could have been.

People who were abused as children have lost a nurturing relationship with an adult. Where the abuse was sexual survivors have lost the opportunity to explore and experience their development as a sexual and sensual being at their own pace. In both cases there are other losses, loss of trust, loss of innocence, loss of childhood, loss of a sense of self. So much loss.

Disease also brings loss. Watching someones lose of parts of themselves through the progression of dementia is harrowing, and emotionally brutal. For the person living with dementia the diagnosis is a confirmation of the fear of knowing what they have already lost, and the losses to come. The diagnosis of a medical condition may also mean the loss of social interaction as friends drop away or the ability to socialise is lost.

The parents or partner of someone in prison experience loss. Families who have become estranged through some old disagreement no-one even remembers anymore experience loss. Losing your phone with your only record of your old friend’s telephone number is loss.

Many of these losses are hidden losses. The loss through bereavement is a socially recognised loss, even if many people really aren’t sure what to do in response to it. That doesn’t make it easier, but at least someone recognises the pain. Many hidden losses are surrounded by stigma, judgement or lack of empathy.

Counsellors recognise that loss comes in many forms, and don’t judge the nature of your loss, instead having empathy for the pain, distress and disorientation loss brings.

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