Supporting clients suffering “the worst kinds of loss”

Most of us made the decision to devote our work to supporting people who are struggling with grief because of our own experiences with loss and grief. We care deeply about helping others to find their way to living well again after loss. As committed grief support professionals, we know that you want to be well-equipped for supporting people who are suffering the worst kinds of loss and the hardest grief journey.

What is the worst kind of loss?

There are a lot of claims that are made – both in the grief literature, and in popular culture – about what kind of loss is “the worst” kind, and the hardest to grieve: some say it’s the death of a child, some argue it’s hardest when a loved one dies by their own hand, or when someone with whom we had a difficult relationship dies. Others say that the death of a precious companion pet is the worst kind of grief – worse than the death of any person they’ve lost. Adoption loss is said to be a significant and terrible loss. Traumatic loss is often claimed to lead to a difficult journey of both grief and trauma recovery. Unexpected loss is thought to be harder than expected losses. And still others experiencing chronic loss as a result of chronic illness or disability that they or a loved one lives with say that this kind of intangible and continuous loss is much harder than losses that have a clear beginning and a finite nature.

Quit the grief olympics

As trainers of Creative Grief Support Practitioners, what’s our take on this? Well, we don’t think there’s a kind of loss that’s objectively “worse” than any other, or “the hardest” to live with. Within the model that we teach, one’s experience of loss and grief is shaped by a great many factors, such as state of relationships at the time of loss or other things like age, race, social support, geographic location, coping skills, and many other circumstances, all of which can have different meanings to different people.

In fact, we think this “grief olympics” of claiming the worst kind of loss is really not helpful for anyone. It encourages grievers to compare and judge their own responses to loss with other people’s – at least what they see of other people’s responses. And we know that a lot of people hide a great part of their grief experiences and responses to loss from others. Comparison and judgement only separate people, at a time when grievers may most need to feel a sense of belonging and community.

Diverse and unique loss and grief experiences

This is why we don’t only teach about supporting people who are grieving the death of a loved one. Our course includes approaches and creative explorations that are relevant to helping people make sense of a wide range of kinds of losses. We also provide materials that share people’s experiences of a range of losses, including adoption loss, grief after an early miscarriage, abortion loss, the loss of a spiritual community or community of support, losses that result from gender and race discrimination and abuse, disability, conflicted and estranged relationships, divorce, chronic illness, and more. Our course participants, just like yourselves, also come with a variety of life and loss experiences of their own. In our teaching approach, we invite you to explore and share your own grief experiences in different creative ways throughout the program. Through these creative explorations and group reflective journalling, we’re able to discuss and help you apply our teachings to a wide variety of kinds of losses. In so doing, we all expand our imaginations for the unique experiences and meanings of different people’s loss and grief, and we equip ourselves to be able to help more people; most especially those experiencing the kinds of losses that are not acknowledged or validated by society.

Social justice and grief

One of the things we’ve held in mind in the development of our curriculum is our strong commitment to the ethics of social justice. We believe that grieving is a social experience, and that the ways that others think, talk, and behave in relation to different kinds of losses impacts on people’s grieving. Some kinds of losses receive clear and abundant social validation and support, while other kinds of losses, despite being significant and painful, might be overlooked, silenced, or stigmatized, making it even more difficult for grievers to make meaningful lives after loss. We also know that the death of a loved one often brings with it “secondary losses” which can sometimes be even more painful or difficult to adapt to than the loss of the loved one. Our course prepares caring professionals to be able to be sensitive to the unique grief experiences our clients are having, to be able to notice and attend to any kind of loss, and to support their clients to live wholeheartedly after loss.

Explore further

If you’ve been looking for training that will equip you for supporting people above and beyond grief after the death of a loved one, so that they can make meaning of all kinds of losses, please check out our Certification in Creative Grief Support course  to learn more about what we offer. And please enjoy our gift to you: a 90min audio class of our teaching team and alumni discussing the core ideas in Creative Grief Support , and sharing what it’s like to learn with The Creative Grief Studio.

Retired, Executive Director Harbour House transition shelter Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada

“My work with women and children survivors of domestic violence was enhanced by the Creative Grief Studio course work. I was able to apply so many practices and learnings when working with the loss and grief experienced by residents at Harbour House. Staff also benefited, as I shared some of those tools that they could also use in their work. I will be reconnecting as a volunteer with palliative care, and know that the work I did with Creative Grief Studio will be invaluable in that role. The resources offered are rich, and I know that I will be dipping into them for inspiration and further learning


Certified Creative Grief Practitioner and Certified Parent Coach,

I initially had some hesitation signing up for this course because I have not experienced grief in the form of loss of a close loved one. But I saw so many parallels between grief due to bereavement and my own grieving over losses due to my depression and progressive illness. Something was drawing me to this course and I am so glad I listened. I needn’t have worried about the material applying to my situation, as it honestly applies to my entire life. The content is so incredibly rich and deep. Cath & Kara really over-deliver, in terms of the top-notch quality of the course materials and also the authenticity, experience, and love that they both bring to this work. Every week the calls were intimate, engaging, meaningful, and full of ideas and tools to ponder and apply. The homework was challenging, and the time and emotion I put in was greatly rewarded with brand new insights and perspectives. The discovery and exploration of shame alone was an eye-opening and life-changing experience. I have taken many courses and certifications, and can truly say that this is the most powerful and fulfilling. I leave this course with new relationships, exciting possibilities, and a vault of invaluable resources to return to again and again


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