5 ways to support someone going through a life-altering loss(The Washington Post)

I am well acquainted with loss and the isolation it brings. As a therapist for over 15 years, I have helped people deal with their losses. And as a caregiver for my daughter for almost a decade, I have been dealing with my own loss.

My child was born with a rare genetic condition and lives on a feeding tube. Since she requires around-the-clock care for her medical needs and severe autism, I have been isolated on holidays, shut in for days and lived for stretches in hospitals. As a caregiver, I lost the relationship I thought I would have with my daughter, the joy of digging into meals as a family (since my child is not able to eat by mouth), and the ability to attend events and go on vacations together. Since my daughter will require care for the rest of her life, our future looks entirely different from how I expected.

My loss is an ambiguous loss, a term coined by Pauline Boss, professor emerita at the University of Minnesota. It refers to an ongoing loss with lingering, unanswered questions. An ambiguous loss can be something that many people experience, such as when a teenager leaves for college, or one that only some experience, for instance, Alzheimer’s or severe mental illness.

Read the full essay on Washington Post. com

Artwork by Celia Jacobs for Washington Post

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