Loss is universal to human experience. We cannot live our days without saying “good-bye” to something, whether it be a person, an experience, a stage of life, or a feeling. And loss doesn’t necessarily become easier to manage as we move through the lifespan. I’ve witnessed unbearable grief with a client mourning the loss of her 90-year-old father, who had lived a long and vibrant life. She reported that his advanced age only provided her with more joyous moments to miss, more time shared that she had to release to the past. I’ve cried with young children who have lost a pet, been uprooted by a move across country, and been forever changed by the death of a parent. Loss of jobs, family homes, precious mementos in a flood — grief and letting go are practices we may try to avoid, but will find us wherever we hide.

Bidding farewell to one we have loved threatens to crush the life out of our barely-beating heart. Acknowledging a life dream that has died is as real a death as any other. In our modern culture, we have few models for effective grieving. While religious rituals may be helpful, often clients report the day-to-day living with their losses continues to be a struggle long after the loss is first experienced. And recent research suggests that grieving doesn’t follow any formulaic process, as we once believed. Everyone experiences loss a bit differently, in different stages and directions, for vastly different periods of time. Time MAY help to ease the exquisite ache of a loss; for some, however, grief is the background for the rest of their days. Like the saying goes, “We won’t make it out of here alive,” nor will our journey through life be unmarked by loss, grief and sadness. But in our grieving is the imprint of our love for that departed soul, our joy for that stage of life, our pride in our accomplishments in that profession. Our grief mirrors our investment in living, a testament that proclaims “I was here. I loved, I created, I cared. I lived.” A worthy epitaph, indeed.