What You Don’t Know About Grief and Loss

Michele DeMarco, PhD
7 min readDec 29, 2023

A healthy, new approach to an age-old human struggle.

Joshua Earle / Unsplash

So much has been written about grief and loss — nearly 250,000,000 articles, as of this writing, via a quick Google search. Could there really be anything more to add to the Brobdingnagian body of literature on the subject?

Yes, indeed, there is.

For the last two decades, I’ve been on what I’ll call a “souljourn” — studying, on the one hand, world religion, philosophy, ethics, culture, and conflict; and on the other, psychology generally, trauma specifically, and resilience. I’ve also worked as a therapist, clinical ethicist, and researcher. I’ve been present and births and deaths, held hands with those in the throes of despair, listened to and counseled people struggling with the weight of moral injury and moral distress, and sat in the room when the ultimate decisions about life were being made. I’ve also been on the precipice of existence myself on a few different occasions, having to do with my health. The human condition, with all its funk, strife, awe, and wonder, has been — and remains — the landscape of my life.

So, when I say that there is something crucial missing from all the “grief and loss” talk and approaches to healing, it comes from direct experience. And what’s missing is this: the understanding that meaningful loss — whether that is a loved one or friend, pet, your health, security, job, finances, relationship, faith, trust, moral compass, dignity, an opportunity, and so on — is a dual loss: you’ve not only lost the thing itself, but also a part of yourself: your innocence. This is a subtle distinction and not one I’ve seen put in this way; but it is an important one because how you engage this loss of innocence speaks directly to your ability to heal and move forward in life with resilience.

What it means to lose your innocence

One of life’s greatest ironies is that we spend our childhood waiting to be adults and our adulthood trying to recapture that childlike innocence. When we’re young, we yearn for the secret code that unlocks the forbidden door that only grown-ups can access. But as adults, having witnessed in any number of ways the mysteries that lie behind that door, we sometimes wish we had…

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Michele DeMarco, PhD

Award-winning writer, therapist, clinical ethicist, and researcher specializing in moral injury. I talk about the stuff many won’t. micheledemarco.com