Why does it hurt so much when we experience a loss?

Every experience we have forms actual, physical connections between our brain cells (neurons), as real as a bridge connecting two shores. 

Repeated experiences strengthen and increase those connections until the images of the loved one, the sights, the sounds, even our thinking about them literally become part of us. 

When we are no longer seeing them or hearing them, when we are no longer living that familiar reality, our neurons have to connect in a different, new way.  Just our neurons having to connect in a new way can be felt as distress, frustration, anxiety. 


Added to that is the reason for our distress.  The loved one is gone forever.  The friendship is irrevocably changed.  Our innocence is taken away.  The thoughts and beliefs - and then behaviors - swirling around those realities connect us to whole circuits of brain neurons that are ancient, primal, alarming.   The longtime and very effective means of our neurons getting our attention is through discomfort and anxiety.


Our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors trigger the release of neurochemicals in our brain that increase and amplify - or minimize and subdue - our emotions and reactions. 


Genes and a lifetime of experiences also contribute to our individual grief process, either in a helpful or not so helpful way.  If we are ‘naturally’ anxious, if we have experienced too many losses too close together, if this was an especially important person or situation or dream, the grief will be greater, and we hurt. 

We hurt physically (waves of pain, fatigue), mentally (we can’t think clearly), and emotionally (we long for and miss them).   

The pain is very real, whether we are mourning:

  • the death of a spouse, family member, pet, friend, co-worker
  • the end of a marriage, friendship, partnership
  • the loss of a job
  • the end of a dream
  • the decline of health through normal aging, accident, or illness
  • the theft of innocence because of violation, trauma, abuse
  • the ambiguous loss situation of not being able to grieve or to rejoice


What can we do about it?

While we cannot change the past, we can influence our present and our future thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  Research into the brain is providing us an unparalleled opportunity to do just that - and attain some peace and control.

My coaching combines that brain science with simple yet profound tools of Martha Beck, neuroscientists, philosophers, researchers, and others.   Just learning about the role that our brain plays in grief can help comfort; learning about and practicing the techniques hastens the healing journey. 

Whether you are analytical / technical or creative / emotive, whether your loss is recent or decades old, I can help you to a new normal life… a full, fulfilling, less pained life. 

This does not mean we forget about our loved one, or that loved life!!  We can keep with us all the good memories and all the lessons we learned for as long as we want.


For poems

and selected pieces

from books,

click here.

Even in midst

of pain,

we can still smile;

click here.

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