If your life is in danger, call the police at 110

Grief and Loss

Grief and Loss by Chikako Ishii

In Japan, August is the month that reminds us of losses due to death by family or loved ones. We remember the deceased families by observing the Buddhist rituals during Obon at the home altar or by visiting their graves. Observing those rituals with family and neighbors is soothing for those experiencing grief. Twelve years ago when the East Japan Great Earthquake hit the Tohoku area there were many missing family members in the tsunami. The rituals such as funerals and Obon were helpful for the families of the deceased. But those rituals are not for non-death losses. Many of us felt uneasy and sad for the families of the missing. To understand those people who are grieving non-death losses, three of my colleagues and I introduced the new theory of “ambiguous loss” by Dr. Pauline Boss in Japan. This theory helps us recognize grief with different kinds of losses. There are two types of ambiguous loss.

One is called “leaving without saying goodbye,” and another is called “goodbye without leaving.” Missing in a disaster is an example of “leaving without saying goodbye,” gone physically but present psychologically. When a person with dementia is present physically but no longer about to have a peaceful relationship at home, this would be an example of “goodbye without leaving.” Many of us faced ambiguous losses during the pandemic. Some lost the routine of meeting friends. Some lost their sense of taste after being infected by Covid. Some parents enjoyed the time when children had to stay home because of no in-person classes, while some other parents missed doing their job at the workplace. Grief is experienced not only emotionally, but also in many other ways, such as in relationships.

Focusing on the grieving person’s interactions to live well in spite of loss is one aspect of grief support. When you have more family time in August, you may notice some loss and change in your relationships. Please remember to take good care of yourself.

Chikako Ishii Reference: Chikako Ishii (1996). The Language of Grief in Today’s Japan.

Theologia-Diakonia, No.30. Kayoko Kurokawa, Chikako Ishii, Satomi Nakajima and Noriko Setou (2019).

Aimaina Soushitsuto Kazokuno Rejiriensu (Ambiguous Loss and Family Resilience) Seishin Shobou.