Grief and Loss: Healing Through Stories

We all go through grief and loss at some point in our lives

Everyone has their own individual experience of grief, and no one can tell you how you should grieve or how long it should take. In grief counseling, I have worked with many people who have suffered through the loss of a loved one. The one thing I have seen in common in all of these cases is the importance of being able to experience your own grief and the emotions that come with it.

The only place I have ever seen anyone “go wrong” in their grieving is when they try to bottle up their emotions and move on without allowing themselves time to truly process their loss. I know I said earlier that no one can tell you how to grieve. That’s right, but avoiding and burying your pain is not grieving. It is important to let it out.

Sometimes it can be hard to get in touch with our emotions and experience the pain that we feel after the loss of a loved one. When this happens, it can sometimes be helpful to connect to someone else’s experience of grief and loss through a story or a movie. In grief counseling I occasionally refer people to stories I have heard over the years to help them connect with the hurt they’re having trouble with. The following are two stories from Japan that I have recently thought to share in grief counseling.


Sometimes in grief counseling I meet people who are suffering through complicated grief, have a history of trauma, or have experienced the traumatic death of a loved one. In these cases, grief can become something more than just grief. It can feel traumatic, frightening, and overpowering. If you find yourself in a situation like this it may be best for you to look into grief counseling. Trying to force yourself to access your emotions while feeling overwhelmed or unsafe can be bad for you and may even make things worse.

Hachiko: The Dog Who Waited

In Japan there is a story of a dog named Hachiko who lived in the early 1900’s. This dog was the companion of an agriculture professor at Tokyo University. Every day for two years, Hachiko would walk to the train station with his companion in the morning and then return to meet him on his way home from work in the evening. In 1925, when Hachiko was 2 years old, the professor died unexpectedly.

Hachiko soon found a new home and people to care for him, but continued to wait for the professor. Every morning and every evening for the remaining 8 years of his life, Hachiko went to the train station to wait for the return of his companion.


In 1934, a year before Hachiko died, a statue of his likeness was erected at Shibuya station, on the exact spot where he waited for his companion every day. Since then, this has become a popular meeting spot for friends, couples, and family members to wait for each other. Hachiko has come to symbolize loyalty and the everlasting bonds of love.

The story of Hachiko has touched people so much, that there has even been a Hollywood movie made of it.

The story of Hachiko speaks to the experience of grief in many ways. Anyone who has lost a loved one can tell you about the experience of waiting for them, and even years later, having the feeling that they’ll come walking through the door again. When we grieve, the pain gradually lessens and we become more able to go about our daily lives. But the loss stays with us. There will be times when you think of your loved one years after their passing and feel sadness. In these times you may feel like Hachiko, waiting at the train station for them to return.

new hachiko editorial
In 2015, on the 80th anniversary of Hachiko’s death, Tokyo University unveiled a new statue in Honor of Hachiko. This one depicts Hachiko and his companion finally being reunited.

The Wind Phone

Unless you’re one of the teenagers I see in counseling, you likely remember the devastating tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. The tsunami killed over 20,000 people and resulted in over 2,500 missing. Many people were left grieving the loss of loved ones and experiencing trauma over the incident at the same time. Due to the nature of the tsunami, many people were suddenly gone. People experienced the kind of loss where they didn’t get to say goodbye to their loved ones.

A year before the Tsunami happened a man in a small ocean town that was hit particularly hard by the tsunami was grieving the loss of a cousin. Like so many who are grieving, he wished that he could talk with his cousin again. He went out and bought a phone booth and placed it in his garden. He then used the phone booth to voice his thoughts to his cousin. Knowing that he couldn’t physically speak directly to his cousin, he thought of the phone as carrying his thoughts and feelings on the wind. Through this sentiment he came to call it the wind telephone.

wind phone.jpg
*not the actual wind phone*

After the Tsunami, word of the wind phone spread and people started visiting to talk to their lost loved ones. People have been visiting the wind phone for this purpose ever since.

I first heard of the wind phone when listening to This American Life a couple of months ago. They have a great piece on it that you should really listen to. Rather than say anything more about it, I’ll just let you listen.
*this segment contains people expressing their emotions around grief and loss and will likely make you cry*
visit the above link to hear the story.
The Wind Telephone

If you have experienced grief and loss, these stories likely resonate with some emotions you’ve had. After losing a loved one, we all struggle in our own ways and wish we could see them and speak with them again. If you or someone you love is struggling with grief and loss and you feel like you could use some help, give me a call sometime for a free brief phone consultation. We can talk about what has happened and how grief counseling might be helpful. You can also click the following link to learn more about grief counseling with me.

Joe Borders, MFT
Grief Counseling in Roseville and Sacramento
(530) 448-6602

1722 Professional Drive,
Sacramento, CA 95825
775 Sunrise Ave., suite 110
Roseville, Ca 95661


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