If there’s one thing all people have in common, it’s that we experience loss many, many times in our lives . Loss is a reality and there is no right or wrong way to experience loss. Each person will have their own unique way of dealing with their loss. A loss is not just the death of a loved one. Divorce, robbery, moving home, losing a friend, loss of income or changing jobs are all losses people will go through the loss process for each one. Probably the most painful part of life is loss. Grieving is the processing the loss of anything or anyone that matters significantly to you.
You probably remember a loss from early childhood. It may have been a broken toy, or a beloved pet, or maybe your family moved away from a community you knew so well. As we grow older, we lose important possessions, best friendships and loved ones. It’s a natural part of our human experience, and yet we’re rarely prepared to deal with the grief that accompanies loss.
We live in a culture that doesn’t support our experience of grief. We aren’t taught to embrace and explore our feelings and move through the natural process of our loss. Most of us have picked up some damaging and erroneous ideas about loss that keep us stuck. We might minimise our feelings, or pretend we feel fine when we’re feeling a deep sadness. We’re often encouraged to repress our feelings, deal with them alone and move on quickly.
Well-meaning friends and family may give us the wrong advice. We might be encouraged to replace the loss right away, as in: “Don’t be sad. We’ll get another dog.” Or, “Don’t worry about him. There’s plenty of fish in the sea.” We might be distracted from our feelings momentarily by a new relationship, object or environment but we still need to deal with our pain.
Or we may have heard, “Time heals all wounds.” While the passage of time might help clarify our feelings, time alone doesn’t magically make us feel whole again. Again, we need to do the work to allow, accept and move through our grief before we feel better consistently, and before we can create something new in our lives.
Just as we naturally become attached to people, places and things it’s natural to feel loss. It’s normal to grieve. The common practice of avoiding or repressing difficult feelings can have us miss an extraordinary gift. Grief provides the profound opportunity to expedite our growth and deepen our compassion for ourselves and other people. It can be a life-altering opportunity to further our personal evolution and expansion, if we allow ourselves the experience. Grief can open our heart and unfold a greater capacity to love.
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”
Viktor E. Frankl
Some Positive Steps for Dealing with Loss and Healing Grief.
1. Remember that grief is natural. It’s important to keep in mind that your experience is real and a natural part of being human. Everything you feel is perfectly normal, which brings me to the next point.
2. Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel. Grief stirs up a wide range of emotions. It’s very common to feel anger, hostility, anxiety or numbness. You might feel afraid or disoriented by sudden change. Whatever you feel, it’s ok.
3. Talk about it. Talk with good friends or consider joining a grief support group. Depending upon the loss, you might be best served by seeking help from a good psychotherapist. Whatever you choose, talking will help the healing begin.
4. Keep a journal. While talking will have you feel connected, writing about your emotions will help you clarify and understand your feelings. Write every day as your feelings and thoughts will shift and change over time. It’s a great way to externalise your experience.
5. Take care of your body. It’s important to support your process with good food, lots of rest and daily exercise. Moving your body helps you move through your feelings.
The more you are present to your loss and grief, the deeper your growth and understanding. With your loving attention, you’ll move to new levels of awareness and gain valuable skills to deal with future loss, which will surely happen. Loss is just another facet of our humanity, as is love, joy and peace.