“I can’t be grieving. No one died.” That’s a statement I hear a lot. Society equates grief to death and divorce only.

Sadly, that limited definition can keep people stuck in a world of pain when there is a solution.

Some losses are concrete like death, divorce and pet loss.

There are other losses that cause emotional pain, but aren’t usually recognized as losses.

We call them “Intangible losses”. Intangible losses are things like

  • Loss of trust
  • Loss of safety
  • Loss of security
  • Loss of control
  • Loss of fertility
  • Lost hopes, dreams and expectations

If you’ve experienced any of these then you know that just because it’s an intangible loss, doesn’t mean it isn’t painful, real or devastating.

In fact, since our society doesn’t always connect these painful losses with grief, you might wonder if something is wrong with you for feeling so heartbroken.

Let me make it clear…. There is nothing wrong with you!

Here are a few examples of intangible loss.

  • Let’s say a woman spent her whole adult life caring for children in the home and the last child has now left the home. This is a transition often referred to as empty nest. More deeply though, it is a loss of identity and important to honor those feelings of loss all the while celebrating the independence of her children. Fathers may also experience this loss or change of identity in this loss.
  • Elder care often brings about the need to move parents out of a home. There can be layers of feelings of loss felt by all depending on the history of each person who lived in that home with parents.
  • What about a man that never knew his father? He may spend his whole life wondering what his father was like, what it would have been like to have a relationship with him, and if he did something that caused his father to leave? No matter what the details of that situation, he too is left with unresolved emotional pain.
  • Then there is the person who suffered from mental, physical, or sexual abuse or assault. They might not feel safe or secure in this world.

Feeling a loss of trust, safety, control and security can result from tragedies like 9/11, natural disasters, mistrust in government, financial changes, pandemic and war.

It can also arise if you were a victim of sexual, mental or physical abuse. Lots of sexual cases focus on legal aspects to healing, but rarely emotional.

Other intangible losses can be the result of your own decisions. For example, I recently retired from a job of 25 years, sold my home, moved to Florida. You bet those losses were cause for grief, while I was in the excitement of buying a new home and starting my entrepreneur endeavors.

One thing all of these intangible losses have in common is that they limit the quality of your life and capacity for happiness, unless you are recognizing, honoring, and processing the emotions of grief in these losses.

Although these aren’t talked about often, they need to be addressed rather than be stuffed away in silence. Keeping the pain inside limits your life.

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Michele Mariscal, PhD has 30 years’ experience in the health and wellness field. She is a coach, author, and facilitator in soft skills (personality, communication, resilience).  She is an Advanced Grief Recovery Method Specialist as well as a Trainer and Coach with the Institute of HeartMath. Her most recent publication is Growing Through Grief – The Alchemy of Healing from Loss.

You can find Michele at https://www.energym.org/ or email at info@energym.org