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  • Writer's pictureMartin Beck

Unseen Losses: Grief Beyond the Grave

Updated: 17 hours ago

Grief is often synonymous with death, but many forms of loss are equally profound and life-altering. These forms of grief—whether due to a divorce, a job loss, or health issues—are frequently overlooked by society. This blog aims to shed light on these "unseen losses" and validate the experiences of those who endure them.

The Unacknowledged Depth of Loss

Grief is not exclusive to those who have lost a loved one to death. Many of us silently suffer the loss of an anticipated life that is no longer available. This is grief beyond the grave, uninvolved with the death of a loved one. This includes the end of a marriage, the loss of a career, or the crushing reality of living with chronic, invisible illnesses. Society often fails to recognize these griefs, leaving individuals feeling isolated and unsupported. However, the pain of these losses is just as real and valid as that of losing a loved one.

a young woman grieving

The Ongoing Nature of Grief

Grief is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process, constantly evolving and shifting over time. This is true for all types of grief, including those considered "unseen losses." Just because someone may appear to have moved on from a loss, it does not mean that they are no longer grieving. These losses can continue to affect individuals in unexpected ways long after the initial event.

The lack of acknowledgment and validation for these ongoing forms of grief can intensify feelings of loneliness and isolation. It is important to recognize that grieving is a natural and necessary response to any type of loss, no matter how "invisible" it may seem.

Divorce: The Death of a Relationship

The end of a marriage is a profound loss that encompasses more than the dissolution of a relationship. It involves the shattering of dreams, the uprooting of a future that once seemed certain. Divorced individuals often find themselves grieving alone, as society tends to view divorce as a failure rather than as a complex emotional experience requiring support and understanding.

Career Loss: Identity in Crisis

Losing a job can be devastating, particularly if it forms a significant part of one's identity. The grief associated with unemployment or career change is not just about financial instability; it’s also about losing a sense of purpose and self-worth. The feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty can be overwhelming, yet this type of grief is rarely acknowledged.

Health Issues: The Invisible Illnesses

While people with visible illnesses like cancer often receive empathy and support, those with invisible illnesses such as mental health disorders, addictions, autoimmune diseases, or chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia frequently face skepticism and judgment. These individuals are often seen as morally failing or inherently weak, compounding their isolation and despair.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Personal Story: Living with Ankylosing Spondylitis

My own journey through Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) has given me a deep understanding of how unsupported people can feel when their illness is not visible. I often grieve for a life that is no longer available to me. (Miller, 2019) encapsulated this feeling in her New York Times article, explaining how living with a chronic disease changes your relationship with yourself: "You grieve a version of yourself that doesn’t exist anymore and a future version that looks different than you’d planned."

The Collective Grief of a Pandemic

The recent pandemic has opened a range of emotions, revealing how physical distancing and increased reliance on technology have impacted our lives. Educators and students alike face screens full of faces, each grappling with their own sense of loss. Embracing our vulnerability and recognizing this collective grief is crucial for healing. As (Reneau & Eanes, 2020) put it, "If we can name it, perhaps we can manage it."

The Importance of Acknowledgment

"Just because you may look fine on the outside doesn't mean you are fine on the inside," says grief expert David Kessler. In times of grief, it can be easier to say "fine" than to explain the ongoing hurt to someone who might dismiss it with a "move on." Acknowledgment of these unseen losses is the first step toward healing.

Coping with Unseen Losses

The process of coping with unseen losses can be complex and unique for each individual. Some may find solace in therapy or support groups, while others may turn to creative outlets such as writing or art. Whatever coping mechanisms an individual chooses, it is crucial for them to have a strong support system and the permission to grieve without judgment.

It is also important for society as a whole to acknowledge these forms of grief and provide resources for those who are struggling. This includes creating spaces for open discussions about loss and mental health, as well as offering resources for coping and healing.

Finding Hope in the Midst of Grief Beyond the Grave

While grief can be all-consuming, it's important to remember that there is always hope and opportunities for growth. As we navigate through our losses, we may discover new passions or strengths within ourselves. We may also find a deeper appreciation for life and the connections we have with others.

In times of collective grief, it is crucial to come together as a community and support each other through both the difficult moments and the moments of hope and healing.

Embracing all forms of grief

Conclusion: Embracing All Forms of Grief

Grief is a natural and inevitable part of life, but it is not something that should be faced alone. It is important for individuals to acknowledge their unseen losses and find healthy coping mechanisms, as well as for society to provide support and resources for those who are grieving. Through acknowledgment and community support, we can find hope and healing in the midst of grief. Let us remember to be compassionate towards ourselves and others during times of loss, because every individual's journey through grief is unique and valid.

Grief is a multifaceted experience that transcends the death of a loved one. The loss of an anticipated life, whether through divorce, career change, or living with an invisible illness, deserves recognition and support. By embracing all forms of grief, we can better manage our pain and move toward a more empathetic and understanding society.

If you are struggling with an unseen loss, know that your grief is valid. Seek out supportive communities and professional help to navigate your journey. Remember, you are not alone in your pain.

Miller, T. (2019, February 18). Five things i wish i’d known before my chronic illness. New York Times.

Reneau, C.-M., & Eanes, B. J. (2020). The invisible pandemic of grief: Finding meaning in our collective pain. Illness, Crisis & Loss, 30(3), 396–409.


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