Grief, Loss and Transitions

Life’s losses can be some of the most challenging transitions to navigate. Typically when we think of loss, we consider concrete examples such the terminal illness, disappearance, murder, suicide or death of a family member, pet, friend or colleague, or the end of a significant relationship or friendship due to conflict, separation or divorce.

However, other less obvious life experiences and transitions can also have an impact, such as leaving or losing one’s home or important possessions, losing a job or changing positions, graduating school, loss of a physical or cognitive ability, loss of dreams or plans that didn’t happen, loss of culture/identity/traditions due to genocide or colonial trauma, displacement during war or natural disasters, and grieving the loss of the childhood one wasn’t able to have as a result of abuse or neglect.

Loss affects each of us differently, and there is no one “right” way to work through grief. Even the famous 5 stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – are not so much steps to go through in a specific order, but rather possible behaviours and emotions that can be experienced by those who are in mourning. Losses can be predictable or sudden with no time to prepare. However, predictable losses have the added layer of anticipatory grief waiting for the loss to happen, as well as the loss itself when it occurs. In either case, there can be a sense of not having had choice or control over what occurred.

Complicated and Traumatic Grief

Complicated grief occurs when symptoms of grief don’t appear to dissipate over time and a person appears stuck in a state of mourning that is affecting their every day ability to function. Traumatic grief occurs when a loss is coupled with an experience of trauma (typically involving horror or frightening circumstances), and there are symptoms of PTSD alongside symptoms of complicated grief.

Forgiveness is a touchy subject when it comes to loss. Many people feel pressured to forgive before they are ready, when in fact forgiveness may not be necessary for a particular person’s healing. Or forgiveness may occur organically later on as a result of having worked through the emotional and physical aspects of an experience. Forcing forgiveness before one is ready is rarely helpful, and some may find it more useful to work towards the eventual acceptance of a situation (with the understanding that acceptance does not imply that one condones what happened).

Grief and mourning are legitimate experiences that deserve compassion, sensitivity and respect to navigate, process and resolve. Contact us to explore how we might support you to heal.


“The word limen means threshold. To be in a state of liminality is to be poised upon uncertain ground, on the brink of leaving one condition or country or self to enter upon another. When recognized, liminality offers people freedom to be or become themselves.”
–Carolyn G. Hellbrun

Transitions are the place of ambiguity between having left one familiar shore but not yet having arrived at the other. This place of in-between holds tremendous potential provided we are able to navigate the fear and unknowns successfully. During transitions, the old ways and the new intersect, and there can be a period of creative exploration as you experiment with – however tentatively – different ways of being and doing.

This can include practicing new skills; questioning old beliefs; trying new things; exploring your needs, likes and dislikes; building the capacity to tolerate expansion and joy as well as discomfort; and experiencing a shift in the felt sense of your body and emotions as evidence that things can be different and patterns can change and play out differently. This, in turn, helps build trust and confidence that you can move forward and take more courageous steps in the direction of your authentic self. You are worthy of letting go of what no longer serves you in order to receive greater abundance and fulfillment.

© 2013 –   The Refuge.