In Consultation

In Consultation

The Transformative Power of Loss: Helping Clients Cope with Aging and Grief

By Sherry Cormier

January/February 2021

Q: How do I help my older clients face the particular kinds of losses associated with aging?

A: In the bereavement groups I facilitate with people over 55, I’m always struck by the myriad losses they’re experiencing. Walt, divorced for many years and estranged from his adult son, is grieving the accidental death of his daughter, who he expected was going to care for him. Elena joined the group because many of her friends had died in the last year, and she’s worrying incessantly about whether she or her spouse, or someone else close to her, might be next. Maurice came to the group because a recent back injury had slowed him down, foreshadowing the physical challenges he believes lie ahead as he gets older. Several others in the group are bereft over the recent loss of a close friend or a life partner.

I’m a grief survivor myself, having lost my husband, father, mother, only sibling, and dog in the last decade. Sitting with my bereavement group and listening to their stories each week is a tonic for me, as I find there’s something sacred about the emotional undulations generated by deep grief. For many of the group members, however, encounters with their waves of loss are too painful to endure, and they just want their grief erased. It’s too soon for them, in the words of poet May Sarton, “to be lavish with riches made from loss.” Being with them where they are is crucial, so I don’t push my growing understanding of the…

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