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Our View: Grief support resources far-reaching in Southwest

We don’t always know about local resources available unless we’re deliberately looking for them. Grief counseling being one of them.

So we’re happy to learn, as reported in The Durango Herald on Sunday and The Journal on Monday, that The Grief Center of Southwest Colorado in Durango has kept open its doors for 15 years, offering specific bereavement services to residents in La Plata, Montezuma, Archuleta, Dolores and San Juan counties. Some people travel from New Mexico for therapy.

Fifteen years. That’s quite a milestone.

Grief is highly individual. When acute, an act as natural as breathing might be forced. Grief can debilitate us or settle into our being, a sharp pain that – over time – becomes a dull, familiar ache. Moving through it isn’t always linear. And it can show up like an unwelcome guest in surprising moments.

Judy Austin, founder of The Grief Center, said: “Grief can shake up our entire framework of the way the world works. People may question their sense of justice, faith or interpersonal relationships.”

Austin said grief can take us back to core issues, including self-worth, the meaning of life, betrayal and abandonment. Maybe our identity is one as a partner or parent or sister or brother.

Who are we without those relationships?

Since the pandemic, other forms of collective grief are showing up around climate change, charged politics and, more recently, the Israel-Hamas and Ukraine-Russia wars. In fact, there are growing opinions that the grief of Americans closely affected by these wars will change the political landscape of the 2024 elections, particularly in battleground states. Deep-seated grief is sharpening divisions and changing minds.

This pain will show up at the ballot.

Of course, grief cuts deeper than general sadness. Although The Grief Center most commonly counsels clients who experienced loss around death, incarceration or deportation, the definition of grief in contemporary culture has expanded to anticipatory grief, after say a troubling medical diagnosis, and secondary grief, such as moving away and leaving behind friends, family members.

Or even grief related to the loss of who we thought we’d become.

After a major defeat, a sometime companion to grief – anxiety – shows up. A lack of lasting relationships or meaningful work ramps up feelings, making it easy to lose one’s bearings and sense of hope. Adding to collective pressures is unstable housing, a reality for so many, continually seeking that elusive place to put down roots and call home. Wages that don’t meet the standard of living add to the trouble.

Here in the Southwest, we’re glad, at least, we have far-reaching professional help. Especially for people without close-knit groups, The Grief Center can help with the process.