My last blog post focused on the pervasive relationship losses your clients experienced since COVID hit. Today we turn to intrapsychic loss. This is the loss of dreams, visions, and plans for the future. It frequently occurs in everyday life – everything from infertility to divorce to not getting into a hoped-for college. Death causes intrapsychic loss too, as we let go of the physical presence of the person AND the dreams and plans we had together with that person.
With COVID, intrapsychic losses have compounded. The loss of a previously-thriving small business. The switch to remote learning along with the loss of events and social interaction that education normally entails. The cancelation of planned vacations. The postponement or complete restructuring of weddings, major birthday parties, and holiday events.
Are you aware of these losses among your clients? You should be. Remember, they are grieving every loss, even the small ones.
When you have your next meeting, remind clients that your purpose is to help them achieve their goals and dreams. You’ve kept in touch with the financial aspects of that purpose, and you’d like to take stock of other elements as well. Then start asking questions about what plans or dreams they’ve had to let go of in this past year. What didn’t happen that they had been looking forward to? What traditions weren’t able to be?
As they talk, note the items that raise the greatest emotion so you can empathize and then ask more about them. For instance, “It sounds like that was really tough. What was the hardest part about it for you? Were you able to talk about it together or not really?” Compassionately discover what is truly important to clients and what they were most affected by.
If appropriate to the situation, ask if there’s anything they would like to do about it. For instance, if they missed a planned family vacation, would they like to plan another one? If they weren’t able to be there when a loved one died, do they want a small gathering of those closest to the deceased so they can tell stories, share, laugh, and cry together? Reassure them that you understand nothing can “make it right” or take away the pain of their losses, yet there are many concrete steps that can help make the best of it or regain some parts of the experience.
With this understanding of intrapsychic loss, do what you can to recognize and respond to your clients’ experience. You will find gratification as you genuinely help them. At the same time, it solidifies your relationship, and they become even more devoted to you and your firm.