Change is Loss and Loss Requires Grief
by Melinda Seley, PLPC
Several months ago, I went on a very restricted diet in hopes of resolving some chronic health issues. And quite frankly, even with the hope that this change could bring about something good, it was haaaard. I felt totally overwhelmed by having to figure out a new way to eat, with new recipes and new ingredients, and finding the time and energy to do so. I wanted to throw a 2-year old style tantrum – particularly by flailing on the floor – for not getting to just eat what I want to eat. And throughout the process, I was reminded of two things: change is loss and loss requires grief.
Change is Loss
In their book, Leadership on the Line, Linsky and Heifetz note that “people don’t resist change…they resist loss”. Have you thought about change as loss? Even when change is due to the best of circumstances, it requires us to lose something – whether it be a routine, a relationship, familiarity, a place that holds memories, convenience, a reputation, a known experience.
Change means unknowns. Change means having to relearn something. Change requires you to face the reality that you’re not in control. And change often makes us face things within ourselves that we could conveniently avoid when things were status quo.
How might naming the change you are facing as loss be helpful to you in navigating it well?
Loss Requires Grief
The English Oxford Dictionary defines grief as “intense sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death.” Grief is most often and naturally associated with death – so much so that the Oxford Dictionary even defines grief with a reference to it. However, any loss we experience – big or small – is a cause for grief. Not just the death of someone.
I am often asked in the counseling room what it looks like to grieve. And though it looks different for everyone, in every situation, I believe there are some core components to this process of grieving:
- Name what has been lost. This includes very specific details of what you lost – because every single detail matters in understanding how you have been impacted.
- Allow yourself to feel. Sadness can be uncomfortable. And deep sorrow can be scary. But healing cannot come until you face your pain.
- Consider if there is something you need to do to honor your pain or what has been lost. Do you need to journal about what ____ meant to you? Do you need to create a photo book? Do you need to tell someone something?
- Recognize that grieving is not a linear or predictable process. Grief can often be surprising and strike us when we are most vulnerable. A smell, a taste, a word spoken can bring with it a flood of thoughts and emotions that require going back to step one above. That is okay. That is how grief works. It is an ongoing, unpredictable process.
If change is loss and loss requires grief…it logically follows that change requires grief. Have you considered this in your life? Even changes that are bringing about something good have some element of loss intertwined with them when we stop to fully consider it. How might it be helpful for you to name change as loss and grieve that loss today?