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With loss comes grief. If you have experienced a loss, have you experienced active grief or have you experienced passive grief?

When something changes or ends, or when something happens that scares you or hurts you, there can be a sense of loss. For example:

  • When you lose a pet or a loved one, you lose the ongoing connection with your pet or loved one as well as a future of interactions with them.
  • When a job comes to an end, you lose familiarity and routine. You may also lose a sense of security and you may lose confidence or hope.
  • If you move to a new home, you lose comfort, familiarity, a center of orientation and possibly a sense of security.
  • When a relationship comes to an end, you lose connection and the value that relationship provided.
  • When your last child enters the first grade you lose exclusive influence of your child’s mind and
  • The deadline for a goal passes and you lose routines and processes related to that goal.
  • A betrayal is a loss of trust and safety.
  • A failure can mean the loss of hope or confidence.
  • The end of a process can be experienced as the loss of meaning and purpose.

With loss comes grief and until the grief process has run its course, our emotional state will feel out of balance. The value and weight of what has been lost throws us off center until the pain and disorientation has been resolved.

Grief can be experienced passively or actively.

Passive grief is characterized by conscious or unconscious strategies to manage the emotions related to loss rather than feeling them. Passive grief is turning away from the loss and denying its impact or turning away from anything that might trigger the pain of the loss.

Active grief is characterized by a conscious intention to be fully engaged in the internal emotional and psychological turmoil that comes with loss. Active grief is leaning into the loss and integrating its impact.

Despite the saying, time does not heal all wounds. Over time, the pain of the loss is either healed or buried.

Passive grief eventually hides the pain of loss from conscious awareness. But there are problems associated with hiding our pain. The pain of loss packs a punch backed by emotional energy that must be managed by an equal or greater amount of energy. The more energy used to hide and manage the pain of loss, the less energy there is to fully engage in life.

Active grief embraces the pain of loss and heals it. The process requires the willingness and ability to squarely face and feel the pain of loss. Healing the pain is a temporary process and eliminates the need to permanently invest energy in managing pain.

A useful model for supporting active grief is IFS. The Internal Family Systems (IFS) model acknowledges the multiplicity of the human mind. We all have subpersonalities that can influence how we respond to the circumstances of our lives. Our subpersonalities influence our behavior and choices with thoughts and emotions.

When we experience loss, we either respond from the most dominant subpersonality or from our essence – the highest and best version of ourselves; what IFS refers to as Self.

When our response is informed and influenced by a subpersonality or “part,” our choices and behaviors are driven by unconscious motives and agendas. When responding from Self, our choices and behaviors are based on reality as it is. The contrast between these two responses can be experienced as inner conflict or inner peace.

It’s not reasonable to expect to experience loss without activating our subpersonalities. But once we notice that we are activated, we can, as our essential Self, bring compassionate curiosity to those parts of ourselves that are upset. We can allow those parts to feel what they feel. In this way we can provide the loving support that our inner world needs in the face of loss.

Learning about and embracing the perspectives of each of our subpersonalities and using the pain of loss to heal and grow resolves the impact the loss. Once resolved, the energy previously required to manage the pain of loss becomes available to fully experience the present moment.

The goal of the IFS model is to increase Self-leadership by healing, harmonizing, and balancing the internal family of subpersonalities. To do this, the client is supported to get curious about their parts so as to understand and appreciate their positive intentions.

To get to know a part, a “trailhead” is established. Triggering circumstances reveal parts that are either holding unresolved emotions from painful experiences or parts that are trying to manage the parts that are holding the unresolved emotions. When any of these parts are triggered, you may notice the emotions that they are holding, you may notice thoughts showing up that reflect the beliefs of the activated part, or you may act in ways that feel out of your control.

To actively grieve, get curious about the parts of you that feel unsettled, that influence you with painful or worrisome thoughts, or that influence to act in a manner that feels out of control.

To find an IFS therapist or practitioner, go to www.IFS-Institute.com

I am a Level 2 trained IFS practitioner and I use IFS in my coaching practice. If you would like to learn more, schedule a free 30-minute discovery conversation at www.BillsCalendar.com