One of my workshops recently got into an interesting discussion about what constitutes a “significant loss” as presented at the beginning of Chapter 7. Someone brought up pets, which many others in the group agreed with. However, there were a couple of instructors that felt pretty strongly that the death of a pet should not warrant “significant loss” and would therefore not be a traumatizing experience.

This discussion carried out the way many such discussions do – each side making their argument and pleading their case. In the end the group sort of collectively turned to me for guidance.

I will tell you, for the sake of honesty, that I have lost more than a few pets and some of them have had profound effects on me and my psyche. I have felt more devastated by the loss of some pets than I have felt at the loss of some humans in my life (I’m just being honest here). However, the big picture is the fact that it is not up to you and I as caregivers to determine whether or not a person has been traumatized. That is up to each person.

If something has happened in a person’s life it is absolutely not our call as care providers to determine if it should or should not be traumatizing. We have to take the lead from the people in our care.

I think this is a good time during your trainings to emphasize how important empathy is in our interactions with the people we serve. We may not fully understand the why, but surely we can identify the how – how does it feel when you’ve experienced loss? It really doesn’t matter why a person feels traumatized, it just matters that they do feel traumatized.

Nikki Wince – Mandt Faculty Supervisor