Understanding Non-Death Losses & Grief

Non-Death Losses

by Karen Omand,
Thanatologist (counselling that specializes in bereavement, loss and grief)

In my last semester at Western University, one of my professors was Dr. Harris. He is a pioneer and educator in the Thanatology field of non-death losses. I didn’t realize at the time, how relevant this course would become as COVID19 took over our lives. Thanatologists and grief specialists could see that this pandemic would bring a grief tsunami of non-death losses.  These losses were going to be felt by everyone.

In general, society associates grief with the death of a loved one and there is no denying that. However, non-death losses (losing a job, infertility, a relationship break up, failing at school, chronic illness, financial trouble) can be as devastating and extremely difficult to deal with. Unfortunately, society doesn’t always recognized that these non-death losses also require some grieving. Some people may think it’s ok to grieve a job loss, while others may say there’s lots of jobs out there, just get another one.

As 2020 unfolded, the pandemic hit and we were all shocked and in disbelief. We all experienced sudden losses to a varying degree including the loss of our freedom, disruption of our comfortable routines, loss of certainty in our lives, the feelings of deep isolation, job insecurity, health care uncertainty, the stresses of schooling and working from home, the feeling of loneliness, conflicts in relationships caused by different ideologies and being with the same people 24/7, loss of social gatherings and traditions and the very common loss of not being able to connect physically with others. The list is long and our world has changed for all of us.

COVID19 is invisible. This virus lingers around us causing great anxiety and fear amongst some of us. We cannot see the virus but we know it can be anywhere. This has shaken our assumptive world. Simply put, our world is no longer as predictable as it once was. We feel that we have lost control over our lives. We felt safe and secure but now some of us don’t. However, the question remains, how much control did we ever have when a tiny, microscopic virus can virtually take over the entire planet. For many of us, it may take years to feel safe and secure again. This pandemic has forced us to view our finances, our relationships and our health a little less securely and this has had a profound effect on how we view our world.

How do we heal and cope with these losses? Firstly, we need to acknowledge that these events are losses and then we can begin to address them for what they are. When you are feeling sadness, heaviness or anger during this pandemic, you could be experiencing the grief of a non-death loss. It is important to recognize these feelings and validate them. For starters, reduce your media exposure, try to create some structured routine in your daily life, exercise, eat a nutritious diet, walk and forest bathe, and maintain social connections.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and have recently experienced a non-death loss, this may be the time to seek some professional help, support and some self-care.

At C’est La Vie Wellness our team is available to help you through this grief in many ways. Visit the services section in the C’est La Vie website to see the many ways that our staff can help you heal. If you would like to chat with me, you can book a FREE 15-min initial phone consult.


Harris.D.(2020). ADEC in conversation: Covid-19 and non death losses. https://www.adec.org/page/ADECconvo7
Harris,D,L. (2020) Non-Death Loss and Grief. Routledge https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429446054