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10 Tips For Grieving What We Lost (or never had)

Lots of us have experienced loss. Everyone loses someone at some point in their life. A friend moves away or chooses to move on. A parent leaves or passes away. The person we think we want to do life with decides to go do life with someone else. All loss hurts.

It’s natural to grieve what we’ve lost, but there is also grief in knowing what we wanted to have but never will. The parents who lose a child grieve the graduations they’ll never celebrate, the wedding they’ll never attend, the grandchildren they’ll never hold, and all the holidays surrounded by those loved ones that will never happen.

Those of us who lost our parents when we were still children are regularly reminded about what we never had by friends who have their parents, ads on TV and videos, movies about families, and just about everywhere else. You can barely go a day without being faced with an image of someone’s [seemingly] perfect family.

Whether through death, divorce, or abandonment, when a child loses a parent, there is a deep, soul-level wound that happens. And when we are children, we simply do not have the emotional or cognitive capacity to properly process the loss. We don’t even have the vocabulary to describe our feelings. Consequently, many of us haven’t properly grieved those primal wounds.

We go through life hearing our friends talk about their parents in ways that range from complaints to adoration. Regardless of where their comments are on the spectrum of parent/child relationships, we wish we had one. Some of us would give anything to have that.

Sometimes we get to know our friend’s parents, and learn from watching our friends interact with them how family is supposed to be. We may even try to fit in with those families, but deep in our hearts, we know that we don’t really belong there. As welcome as they may try to make us feel, our last names are not the same, we look different, we don’t know the inside jokes, we just smile and nod when they share their family memories, and we know that we are, on some level, outsiders.

We can deny that it bothers us, and we can be angry about the people who should be there but aren’t. We can try to find them (if they’re still living) and try to build a bridge to bring them back into our lives. We can be overcome by profound sadness on holidays and other special days. And sometimes we can be one big ball of all of these powerful emotions.

Let’s not forget that we can eventually get to a place where grief and loss no longer weighs us down. The anger can dissolve. We let go of our attempts to find them and build our fantasy relationships with them. It is then that we can create a life with people on whom we confer family status. These are the people who will be there on holidays, birthdays, and to help us celebrate special occasions.

The million dollar question is how do we go from grief to a life of healthy relationships with people who genuinely care about us and we about them?

Many other people have paved the way from loss, anger, sadness and depression, to happiness, laughter, and good relationships with good people. Some of their tips are here. Adopt these, and you will be moving toward processing the grief about what you’ve lost and what you didn’t have. Most importantly, these tips will help you move on to find happiness and peace.

  1. Give yourself credit for surviving the loss. You are a survivor. You’ve survived 100% of the circumstances you’ve experienced. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.

  2. Take your thoughts captive. In other words, when a thought of grief or loss comes to you, replace it with a thought of something or someone that you enjoy. Literally replace sad thoughts with happy ones by changing your mind. It sounds simplistic, but this helps. Try it.

  3. Adopt gratitude. Make a list of all the things that you are grateful for. Start with your eyesight and your ability to read. When you are faced with the reality of something that you lack, acknowledge the thought, but then intentionally shift your thinking to something for which you are grateful. Something without which you would be in a much worse situation.

  4. Like yourself. Make a list of your assets. You are awesome. You have natural talents, learned abilities, personality traits, character traits, and so much more that make you unique in all the world. When you begin to realize the truth of how unique and wonderful you truly are, you realize that the people who are no longer in your life have missed out. But others will appreciate and love you for who you are.

  5. Take back the controller for your happiness. Refuse to give anyone or any situation the power to steal your happiness. When you feel feelings of grief rise up, give yourself a reasonable period of time to feel them, but then dry your tears, get up, and refuse to give that emotion one more moment of the precious 1,440 minutes that you have been granted this day. Eventually you will find that the time that you need to process your grief is less and less, which means that you are giving more and more time to finding your happiness.

  6. Call a friend. When you feel those feelings of grief rise up, call a friend or reach out to make a new friend.

  7. Pray. Jesus said that He left us His peace, which truly does go beyond all human understanding, meaning that you can literally go from gut wrenching grief to complete peace in a moment. (I know this is true because I’ve experienced it myself.) You can seek counsel from a pastor at a local church or from a national ministry that offers a prayer hotline, such as that offered by CBN

  8. Find a church family. Lots of people balk at joining a church because of past bad experiences. But don’t give up. Every church is different. When you find the right church with the right group of people for you, those relationships with new people can feel as comfortable as if you’ve known them for years.

  9. Listen to podcasts about grief. There are many podcasts that focus specifically on helping people process grief and loss. Listening to others who have been where you are may give you some tips for processing your grief while helping you know that you’re not alone.

  10. Find a good therapist. The great thing about post-covid therapy is that you can now connect with therapists all over the country, so you’re not limited to whoever happens to be within driving distance. There are amazing therapists, like Amber Jewell, LMSW, who have been through their own process of grieving losses, so they have the life experience combined with formal education, proper licensure, and additional trauma certifications that specially qualify them to help you.

Grieving our losses does not have to take a lifetime. You can create your good future by processing your grief and moving forward into the delightful future you create.

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Blog post: Good Grief Friday--The Good That Can Come From Grief

Rhonda Sciortino is a successful survivor, and she wants every other victim of trauma to not only survive but to thrive not despite what they've been through, but specifically because of it. She tells how to mine the lessons out of what survivors have been through and how to apply them to create success in her book, Succeed Because of What You've Been Through.


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