Brainstorming Loss


I use this exercise as an introduction to loss and grief.


I ask the following 4 questions, one at a time, and I ask the men to generate a list pop-corn style, as I write the list on the board. When one topic is exhausted, I go to the next.

  1. What are some kinds of losses we experience, both in coming to prison and in life, in general?
  2. What feelings come up when we experience loss?
  3. What physical symptoms can come up when we are grieving?
  4. What keeps us from grieving.

I then like to make the comparison with anger, including:

  • Both anger and grief have many emotions associated with them.
  • Both anger and grief have a physical body response. Emotions aren't just in our heads.
  • Loss is an integral part of life, and grieving is a normal, healthy process of healing from the loss.


These are the lists that I keep with me so I can check if anything major is missed.
List of losses:

  • Death
  • divorce
  • loss of job
  • loss of home
  • loss of relationships
  • moving
  • loss of freedom
  • self-respect
  • loss of time with children
  • loss of innocence
  • loss of happy childhood
  • loss of health
  • loss of opportunities
  • loss of control
  • loss of health
  • loss of privacy

Feelings associated with loss:

  • anger
  • sadness
  • denial
  • pain
  • insecurity
  • confusion
  • loneliness
  • resentments
  • abandonment
  • loss of control
  • hopelessness
  • scared
  • vulnerable
  • anxiety
  • relief
  • fear
  • isolation
  • depression

Physical symptoms of grief:

  • insomnia
  • sleeping too much
  • loss of appetite
  • over eating
  • tension
  • headaches
  • anxiety
  • loss of energy
  • over active

What keeps us from grieving:

  • Hurts too much
  • need to work
  • need to care for others
  • not socially acceptable
  • drugs/alcohol
  • denial
  • responsibilities
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