Vol 5. Issue 32 / October 24, 2005
Lunch & Learn Tackles Topics of Grieving and Loss
By Mika Ono
Have you ever experienced a painful loss? Have you been unsure what to say to someone who has?
"Loss is an inevitable part of life," said psychologist Jeff Jones of The Scripps Research Institute's Counseling and Postdoctoral Services Department, leading a recent Lunch & Learn seminar on loss and grief for Scripps Research employees. "It's how you cope that makes the difference."
What constitutes loss? According to Jones, death of a loved one is the most obvious example, but loss also occurs with job changes, divorce, illness, injury, moving, and aging. And these losses can lead to secondary losses—of home, identity, dreams, friends, colleagues, community, and/or a sense of control.
Jones recounted a personal experience to illustrate this sometimes unexpected domino effect. "When I was younger, I played a lot of rugby. My focus was getting to the nationals. Then one day I blew out my knee. I found myself mourning not only the loss of my physical abilities, but also my goals, my social life that centered around teammates, and my identity as an athlete."
In this case, something good came out of the experience—Jones went back to graduate school and studied psychology, which eventually led to a private practice in La Jolla and his current position with Scripps Research, where he and colleague Jan Hill offer free, confidential counseling and referral services to employees and their families.
Jones noted that loss is a frequent theme among people he counsels, and that their losses are rarely simple. "Divorce is a big one," he added. "As a stressor, it's up there with death of a loved one because it means not only losing a primary relationship, but also your identity, financial security, friends, family, home, and/or time with children."
In the seminar, Jones emphasized that there is no one way to grieve and that each loss is unique. Some losses are sudden; others give you time to prepare and reach some sort of closure. Some, such as an injury, may be obvious to everyone; other losses remain secret. Some losses, especially those from suicides and accidents, tend to induce guilt; others offer unexpected relief.
"It's dangerous to make comparisons," he said. "You can share your personal experiences with a person who is grieving, but you can't assume you know what the person is going through or what he or she needs to do to cope."
For those facing a loss, Jones offered the following suggestions:
For people supporting others facing loss, Jones suggested:
Counseling and Postdoctoral Services can be reached at x4-9740. Additional resources and information, including a list of DVDs of past Lunch & Learn seminars available for employees to check out, are posted on department's web site at http://www.scripps.edu/services/counseling/.
Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu