Mental Health Matters ~ Hanna Center

Hanna Center


Leaning into grief and loss

Posted on August 7, 2023 by Hanna Center

By Emily Alona, LCSW —

Exploring the depths of grief and loss can be daunting and often left unspoken. It’s a complex journey that can feel overwhelming and unsettling.

It used to be that we thought of grieving as a linear, five-stage process that more-or-less summarized the response that every individual has in the face of loss. What we have come to understand is that loss, and the effects it can have on the person experiencing it is so much more complex.  

Multidimensional grief theory (MGT) proposes that grief reactions consist of responses to three central challenges posed by the death of a loved one: separation distress, existential/identity distress, and circumstance-related distress. Separation distress can be characterized by the question “How do I find a way to feel meaningfully connected to the person who died?” The key challenge of existential/identity distress is “Who am I as a person, and what is the meaning and purpose of my existence, now that my loved one is physically absent from my life?” And the key challenge of circumstance-related distress involves addressing the question, “How do I think about, feel about, and come to terms with the way in which this person died?” 

How we cope with each of these three facets of loss (adaptive and maladaptive manifestations) can greatly impact the trajectory of our own healing.  

Grief and loss are singularly one of the most pervasive human experiences we can have, as well as one of the most isolating. Professor Daniel Wojcik and Lecturer Robert Dobler wrote that in the past, “grief was expressed in an open and unrestrained way that was cathartic and communally shared, very much in contrast with the modern emphasis on controlling one’s emotions and keeping grief private.” 

In honor of National Grief Awareness Day (August 30), let our collective voices be heard.

If you or a loved one are searching for support surrounding grief and loss, the Community Mental Health Hub at Hanna is here to help. Please reach out to our Intake Coordinator at 707.933.4482 or [email protected]

Other resources, such as By the Bay Health, offer local/virtual support groups for youth and adults, as well as a camp for youth experiencing loss. Please see their website for more information. Finally, please call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 if you are in immediate need of emotional support.

Emily Alona, LCSW, is a Clinician, Community Mental Health Hub at Hanna Center


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