by Chaplain Julia Rajtar, MAPS, BCC
Since March I have been working from home because of this disease. When it became time, I packed up the office, choosing those things which I thought I might need to work from home for a 3-month period (my hopeful heart was saying 3 months, my mind said, prepare for longer just in case). Packing up, I knew life was changing, yet I was fooling myself about how much it would change and how much I would miss my “normal life.”
Loss of Our Assumptive World
The “normal life” we all experience is called the assumptive world. The assumptive world is the only world we know and it includes everything we know or think we know. It includes our interpretations of the past and our expectations of the future, our plans and our prejudices. Any or all of these may need to change as a result of changes in the life space.(Parkes, 1971, p. 102) from Loss of the Assumptive World: A Theory of Traumatic Loss edited by Jeffrey Kauffman. The assumptive world refers to the “strongly held set of assumptions about the world and the self which is confidently maintained and used as a means of recognizing, planning and acting”(Parkes, 1975a in Death & Dying, Life and Living, Corr & Corr, 7th Ed. p. 273).
We have been living with this disease reality for some time now, and all of us have experienced additional losses, as a result of the first loss which affected our assumptive worlds. Imagine dropping a stone in the water from a bridge, and picture the ripples that are produced from that drop. We also experience ripple effects from the first loss we experienced with this disease. That first loss could have been a death of someone we love, the loss of a job, no more attending school, no professional sports, etc. With one of these losses is a ripple effect of losses that can be helpful to acknowledge and grieve, as a result of our primary loss.
Try this Exercise: (do it alone or invite children to do it also)
- Take out some paper. At the top of the paper, draw or write the primary loss you experienced, i.e. the person’s name who died, Softball, Completing Sr Yr in College/High School, etc.
- Then, make a list. On this list, draw or write, some of the additional losses you have experienced as a result of the primary loss you just identified.
For Example: Loss of the Rhythm of my life
- loss of summer sports and the friends that come with it
- missing dancing and the memories created together
- loss of going out to breakfast on Sunday mornings
After you have written/drawn the ripple effects of the primary loss, then… regroup. Think about what you have left. What do you have around you? Can any of these things you lost, be enjoyed but in an adaptive way? Are they partially lost/done? Can they be done in another way and still bring fulfillment and meaning? Or are they fully gone, and if so, just until this disease is gone, or forever?
Grieve Final Losses
Finally, how will you grieve those things that cannot return safely, ever or those that are delayed indefinitely?
- Perhaps copy the list and bury it in the ground, particularly under flowers or vegetable garden
- Maybe safely have a bonfire, then burn the list, allowing the smoke and ashes to rise up, maybe even offer a prayer or some words
- Tuck the list away in a book, journal, album, and review it at a future date, see where you are or how far you have come
In a way that is safe and healthy for you, take time to grieve the losses, look at what you have left and what is still possible, and remember, hold on to hope. Now, play your favorite music, a song that gives you strength and courage. And… if you feel like dancing or singing to it, go right ahead!
“Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.”
— Maya Angelou
We would love to hear from you after you try this exercise. Please comment below or send an email to Chaplain Julia Rajtar.