HUMANS 101

A Grief Therapist’s Take On Our Longing to Be Seen

What would the neon sign over your head say?

Katy Friedman Miller
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readJan 9, 2022

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The Eye of God Nebula. Photo: Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

A young man I work with lost his sister suddenly several years ago; she died of a congenital medical condition, which had never been diagnosed. It is a rare and tragic death — a seemingly healthy young woman simply dropping dead. In their family of several siblings, the two were best friends. They challenged one another, they brought out the best in one another, together they were a powerful force in their family, and encouraged one another as they both launched into the wider world of adulthood.

Without his sister, his identity in life is totally different. It is a source of astonishment, rage, and bereavement that every person he meets going forward in his life will not know him in the context of his sister. He will have to make a special and herculean effort to let it be known, “I had a sister. She was my best friend. She died tragically. The person you see before you is a totally different person than if you would have met me and my sister didn’t die. You don’t know and will never know something essential about me.”

Yet, he will probably never say this to most people. The people he will encounter in life will never know something so intrinsic to what’s shaped him and what he’s been…

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Katy Friedman Miller
Human Parts

I’m a grief therapist and former hospice social worker. Sharing stories from life, death, and work and where they all intersect. TEDx talk at www.ted.com