Exploring the parallel universe of loss and grief


A case study

One client – experiencing his first significant loss – described his grief experience as a kind of parallel universe he’d been transported across to. We’ll call him Anthony. Everything from Anthony’s old life was there in the parallel universe. Well, almost everything. His dear furry companion Bailey was no longer there to follow him around, curl up at his feet while he watched TV, snuggle with him at night, accompany him for his long quiet walks, or to gaze into his eyes with great understanding and unconditional love. While all the rest of life remained the same, Bailey’s death had also changed everything, and Anthony felt unable to comprehend or engage with life as he used to. Watching TV, sleeping, walking … just being at home doing all the home things … it was all there and yet all so different.

Alone in the parallel universe

The worst part for Anthony was that the rest of the world just didn’t seem to understand how different and how empty his life felt now. Nobody had noticed the parallel universe that he’d been suddenly and completely transported into. Most people didn’t say anything about Bailey’s death, and the few that did seemed to think it was no big deal. Anthony felt alone in this parallel universe and had realized that he’d withdrawn from all his relationships in “the old world” that he’d used to live in. He was not only grieving the loss of his precious companion dog, but now also the losses of so many other relationships and activities he used to enjoy. Anthony wasn’t sure if it was even possible to ever leave the parallel universe of grief after such a significant loss, but he desperately wanted to find a way to create bridges back into relationships and activities he missed now.

Creating bridges

This sense that one is experiencing things that others just cannot or will not understand, and the disconnection that can result from it, is not an uncommon concern for grievers. Many find that their loss rocks their social world and many relationships feel different or distant, and they’re not sure how to integrate the loss experience and build bridges back into their social world and their most important relationships. This is an important part of the grief experience that we can support our clients to explore, articulate and integrate through creativity. We might even find that our clients discover remarkable resources in this parallel universe of grief, which they’re able to use to bridge back into their social world, to enrich those relationships, and to re-member a sense of being understood and of belonging.

Some creative prompts you might offer your clients

  • As you discovered yourself inside your grief experience, was it a strange, parallel world?
  • Or what kinds of words might you use instead of strange or parallel?
  • Create a drawing of this new world of loss and grief.
  • Were there things there that you’d not noticed before the grief experience?
  • Did you discover anything surprising from the people who interacted with you (maybe they were grief support people or funeral home or hospice people)?
  • Was there anything you were discovering in the middle of your grief experience that you wish you’d known prior?
  • Now that you have discovered these things, what do you carry forward in your life to share with others?
  • If you were going to write your own version of: “To lose someone today is to…” what would your write up say?

What other questions or creative prompts might you offer in your own creative grief support practice as clients are exploring with you?  If you’re curious to learn more nuanced, creative, and unique ways that you can help your client to experience a sense of belonging as they grieve, apply to join our next Certification in Creative Grief Support.


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