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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

Not all Loss Feels the Same

I just woke up from a dream that my mom was in.

She was so real in the dream. She had gone away on a trip unexpectedly and I called her to demand that either she come back or I was going to go and join her on her trip.

I wish this was true. My mom died eight years ago. I wish she could come back. I wish she was just on a lovely vacation from which she will eventually return.

When my grandfather died, it didn't feel like he actually died. I normally only saw him when we went on vacations together or when I went to visit him at his home.

So when he died, it didn’t feel real. It felt like it was just the waiting period until we would go on a trip together again.

A person sits as a pillow, crying, with sticks in their hands.
"Loss" Illustration by Jackie Schuld

It was very VERY different when my mom died. We were living in the same house at the time. We spent time together daily.

After she died, everything around me reminded me that she was gone. Even after I moved out of our home, I still thought of things I wanted to tell her daily… and then felt the punch to the gut when I remembered I couldn’t just call her. It felt VERY real that she died.

I have experienced other deaths in my life. The impact of every death is different, largely dependent on my relationship with the individual, how present we were in each other’s lives, and the cause of death. My grief is therefore different for each person, too.

I once found a man, a stranger to me, who had died that morning. The circumstances of his death were so extreme that it impacted me on a deep level. For the first month, I dreamt of him nightly and thought of him daily. It was also difficult to not know his identity or anything about his family who must miss him dearly. I think my body and mind had a normal and natural response (thinking of him, dreams, etc.) to such a bizarre event.

It was certainly not the same as grieving someone I knew, but it was its own unique kind of grief. Sadness for a fellow human and his family that I never knew.

I chose to make an illustrated book about grief called, “Grief is a Mess” because grief IS messy. It’s complex and complicated. It’s unique and strange. It’s up and down, and sometimes more like being caught in a tornado where you don’t even know what direction you’re going.

I wish I could sit down in a room with all the people I’ve lost. Have a lovely meeting with all of them. Let them know what they meant to me, still mean to me. Let them know the unique ways their absence impacted me. We could analyze and delight over it together. A communing of sorts.

That wish in itself is an expression of grief. A longing for connection that death forever altered.


Thank you for reading. If you need support navigating grief, you can explore working together here.


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