Grieving Small Losses

Asma Rehman, LPC
Latest posts by Asma Rehman, LPC (see all)

When we think about grief, we tend to associate the emotion with the death of a loved one or the end of a serious relationship. Overwhelming feelings of grief are often brought on by significant losses, but they can be triggered by small losses as well, like moving away from home or losing a connection with an old friend. Even seemingly positive events, like retirement or graduating college, can trigger grief.

While some people might not consider small losses a cause for grieving, many struggle to cope with their losses and feel distress that interrupts their day-to-day lives. Grieving small losses is just as crucial as grieving significant losses. Oftentimes a grief support group can offer you the avenue you need to move on.

Why do we grieve small losses?

an elderly man looking at a photo frame as he sits on the couch. Above him is a taxidermy fox.

Grief can be triggered by any form of personal loss, even if it may not seem significant to someone else. These feelings are a natural response to the experience of someone or something you love being taken away from you and can be applied to almost anything for which someone has deep affection or attachment.

Whether you’re bracing for the death of a pet, switching careers, or moving to a new city, every loss you experience is personally significant, even if it may not be significant to others. You shouldn’t feel ashamed for mourning over the loss of someone or something you love.

All loss is difficult to cope with, no matter how significant, because with loss comes change and uncertainty.

How Change Impacts Grief

Like loss, change is difficult. As humans, we take comfort in life’s constants and are soothed by stability. It gives us a feeling of control, whether real or perceived, in a world where the only constant is change. But when that stability is challenged and we’re taken out of our comfort zones, we’re likely to react negatively.

Woman with curly hair in a big gray sweater consoles another woman with black hair wearing a peach hoodie.

Most people eventually learn to accept life’s changes and even adapt to them. There are some, however, who try to fight the unstoppable force of change. Change is guaranteed in life, so we often have no choice but to mourn the way things used to be.

When we talk about grief, we tend to focus solely on the loss and its significance, but when you add the uncertainty of change to the conversation, it explains why people might grieve after graduating college or starting a new career. It’s important to consider the drastic changes that come with these situations.

Some struggle to cope with the reality that they may never see their college friends again or fear they won’t be as successful in a new setting after thriving somewhere else. They might fear the loss of routine that came with the life they’re moving on from. These life changes may seem irrelevant to some, but they can be very significant to others, even identity

-altering. It’s in situations like these that individual therapy can help.

Identity, Change, and Grief

As humans, we like to believe that we’ve always been the same person, with characteristics, morals, and values that have remained unchanged since the development of our identities. In reality, however, we’re all changing constantly throughout our lives as the world around us does the same. But drastic life changes, like becoming a parent or getting sober, can have a major impact on a person’s identity and sense of self, as our thoughts and feelings shift drastically as well.

redheaded woman sitting beside her window.

Although both experiences are positive, they can also be welcomed losses. Someone trying to get sober might have to deal with ending relationships with friends who use them, or they might be struggling to say goodbye to the person they used to be. The same can be said for a couple with new responsibilities that require sacrificing a hobby or giving up a job you love. Like losing a parent or going through a divorce, these individuals must say goodbye to something they love as they struggle to adapt to their new identity.

While there are people who may try to minimize your feelings of grief, the grieving process is different for everyone. At the root of any personal loss is the uncomfortable and unstoppable reality of change. It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. 

If you’re looking for more support as you deal with any kind of loss or change, small or large, working with a therapist who specializes in grief can help. Our Houston counselors have years of experience supporting clients through grief using an evidence-based program, the Grief Recovery Program. Contact us to make an appointment.

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