Trauma, Loss, and Grief

Influences that shaped your life

By Arlene Harder, MA, MFT and John Fabian, Ph.D.


“Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.”
— Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor

“Fortunately, all trauma and loss can eventually be transformational. . . . Yes, as hard as it may appear when trauma first hits, by the time we’ve been dragged, often kicking, screaming, and gnashing our teeth, into new circumstances without the object we lost—be it spouse, house, job, dream, or belief in a fact that proves untrue—we discover we are different people.”
— Doug Greene, Grief to Grace: From Turning Trauma Into Transformation

There are thousands of ways in which your genes impact your experiences as a child and as an adult..

Likewise, your inborn temperament has caused you to react to life somewhat differently from your friends, acquaintances and even members of your family.

To explore how your basic temperament has impacted your life, all you need to do is to remember some of the traits your parents claim you’ve expressed almost from the day you were born. They may have said something like, “You’ve always been a talker, chattering away and wanting to be with people,” or “You’ve always been shy and preferred your own company to that of others.”

Topic Stimulators

  • When you think back on the worst thing that ever happened to you, how did you survive both physically and emotionally?
  • What inner strengths did you discover that you hadn’t known you possessed—strengths that you most likely could not have learned without that experience?
  • How have relationships with friends and family changed because of your need to deal with tragic events in your life?
  • How have you used loss and grief to remind you to take better care of yourself than you did before?