Do we ever really say goodbye.......

By: Sam Osherson, PhD, is a therapist in private practice in Cambridge, MA, and a Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, at the Fielding Graduate University.
Monday, March 20, 2017

COPING WITH GRIEF

Coping with losing a loved one is one of life's great difficulties. If you have experienced the pain of mourning, you know that any way to ease the loss is welcomed. While our knowledge and study of grief continues to evolve, it's important to note that not everyone grieves the same way: We have individual patterns and outlets for grief.

We misunderstand loss when we assume that-- if you’re healthy-- after some time you get over it. In his classic essay, “Mourning and Melancholia,” Freud distinguished between the two. In essence, in melancholia the loss becomes chronic as the person cannot truly grieve and lives in a shut-down melancholy without the capacity for joy. With mourning, Freud explained, the person can “metabolize” the loss, digesting it, taking in the lost person and internalizing them as a part of themselves.

Yet maybe even this is too simple. Maybe there is an ebb-and-flow to our relationship with those we have lost. And, maybe the goal is not an all-or-nothing “final conversation,” in Roiphe’s sense. Perhaps the conversations with those we ‘ve lost just go on in their absence.  Perhaps healthy grief means that we carry the person with us to talk with and learn from even after they’re gone. When things get tough, when we are facing difficult transitions, we re-engage with them in our individual, unique ways.

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