Shadowloss: A New Understanding of Loss & Grief

May 31, 2020 aurora 0 Comments

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post was written for and originally appeared in The Real MainStream on April 17, 2020. What appears here is an abbreviated form of the full column. Please GO HERE to read the full article.


As COVID-19 sweeps across the globe, we are faced with the very sudden and very real concept of loss.

Loss, as it is associated with illness, often revolves around the idea of death. And while the thought of losing loved ones to the virus is without a doubt in the forefront of many people’s minds, it is not my intention to discuss that kind of loss. 

Instead I want to talk about a different kind of loss: a type of loss that, until recently, did not even have a name. It is an incarnation of loss that is elusive and misunderstood, shadowy by nature and in name.

Shadowloss is any type of loss where there is no dead body present. The term was coined by Cincinnati-based thanatologist Cole Imperi, who says she created the word because “we have a gap in our language for how we can describe certain kinds of loss.”

Every version of loss is accompanied by grief, which is a normal and natural response to loss of any kind. … While there are some “typical” responses to grief, there are no absolutes. Grief is individual and unique. There are no reactions so universal that all, or even most, people will experience them. There are no stages. There are no rules. Grief is feral and wild and refuses to be neatly categorized or tamed.

It is important to recognize that there is no correct way to grieve. Read that again: there is no correct way to grieve.

– Dawn Frary, The Real MainStream

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