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Cobble Blog

Let's Look at Loss

‘Grief’ is a word used to describe our body’s natural reaction to loss and change. At times, grief can be a whirlwind of indescribable feelings and emotions which may last a long time and challenge even the very best of coping methods. It is not uncommon for a person who is grieving following a significant loss to start doing things they may not usually do, such as acting differently, dabbling in risky lifestyles or developing an obsession or addiction. Such behavioural changes can be a person’s attempt at finding a new way to cope with their whirling emotions, and can often be a normal part of processing grief. When managed well and the person has adequate support around them, the behavioural changes are usually short-term and eventually the person reverts back to being themselves.


Sadly, however, some people don’t feel they have enough support to recover and allow their short-term behaviour to have long-term consequences.


Let’s look at one particular person who experienced multiple losses over their lifetime - a person that lived in a society where suitable, reliable support may not have always been readily available, a time when prescribed medication through regular GP visits was not recognised as a useful coping tool for people faced with complicated grief.

This is a person who lived in an era when pills were the common “go to” for coping with tough times and often led to a heavy dependence on a string of other substances. Sadly, it was a time when a person in the wrong place at the wrong time may have been misdiagnosed and mismanaged. The person we’re looking at is arguably one the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century, but this article is not about whether we like him or not. It’s about focusing on the significant losses one man faced and exploring how a lack of support and unprocessed grief may have had long-term consequences for the ‘King of Rock and Roll’.


Since the release of the recent Elvis biopic, I’ve heard many people comment that they “had no idea Elvis faced so many losses”. Before watching the movie, some assumed he took drugs "just to match his rockstar lifestyle". The film has been a wake-up call for many of us and a big, cinematic reminder that we all face hardships - often unnoticed and bubbling under the surface. While some parts of the film may stray from the truth, Elvis did indeed face many losses with minimal support and his poor choice of coping methods spiralled him into unhealthy, addictive behaviours.


Elvis Presley with his parents Vernon and Gladys in 1958.


Elvis Presley, the "King of Rock and Roll".

If you’ve seen the movie, you probably lost count of the number of sad scenes it presents. Although some were likely polished with “movie magic” exaggeration, the flick has certainly got people talking. So let’s put the movie aside and look at some of the actual losses I believe Elvis faced.

  • Twin, sibling, identity – he grew up missing a part of him, he wasn’t meant to be an only child. 

  • Father imprisoned – a loss of his father for a period, possibly never explained and tough for a three-year-old to understand.

  • Home(s) – moving home at a young age and losing connection due to the consequences of his father’s actions.

  • Security – Lack of family income due to fathers’ difficulty in obtaining work.

  • Culture – Although he adapted well to a new culture, he lost connection with his roots.

  • Name - Aaron

  • Mother – loss of the mother that he knew to alcoholism, loss of reliability from a loved one.

  • Restricted identity – Being told the music he grew up with and loved was not acceptable for him to be playing/dancing to.

  • Choice – To succeed, he was guided to follow not choose and was stripped of decision-making.  

  • Opportunities - His dreams of touring the world were dismissed by management.

  • Mother – Experiencing maternal grief while distanced in the military service.

  • Death of idols – Loss of connection with reality, motivation impacted by assassination of role models such as Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Trust – Betrayal by manager, questioning loyalty. 

  • Reality – Rapid rise to fame, no time to adapt and process lifestyle changes.

  • Separation – Loss of relationship with a person he loved and disconnected from his daughter.

It’s easy for people to criticise Elvis’ “bad” behaviours and poor lifestyle choices, but it’s important to recognise his many losses (most of which occurred before the age of 30), the mountain of grief he grappled and the lack of support services accessible to him.

Even the most famous people on the planet, with more public attention than anyone could ask for, still need to feel supported in processing their loss. It’s a tragedy that Elvis may have never had the opportunity to process his losses in a supportive environment.

Take the time to stop and count your own losses and review how you have coped with them. As you reflect on what you’ve been through, admire your own strength and be grateful for those who have made you feel supported. If you think you’re still processing loss or change and could benefit from additional support, have a chat with Cobble Counselling about your grief journey. 


As always, should you require immediate help, call Lifeline Crisis Support on 13 11 14, or dial 000 in an emergency.


Published July 2022.


Shelley Carolan

Lead Counsellor, Cobble Counselling

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