Blog Short #47: Dealing with Loss
Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday, I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you. My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!
Today’s blog is a bit of a departure from my usual focus on problem-solving. It’s more from the heart as it hits close to home for me, and maybe it will for you too. The subject is loss.
As we all know, loss is a part of life that can’t be sidestepped. But there is much we can learn from it if we allow ourselves to deal with it honestly when it occurs.
Losing someone you love, whether a partner, child, friend, extended family member, or beloved pet, is painful – most often, very painful. There’s no way around that.
The choice we do have is in how we deal with it. When we allow ourselves to feel our way through it, we eventually find acceptance and resolution.
That doesn’t mean that things go back to the way they were. That never happens because when you lose someone, your personal landscape is forever altered. The goal is to come to terms with that and find peace as you move forward with your life.
Let’s start with what to do right after a loss occurs.
The Days After
Very often, the first reaction is to feel numb, shocked, or disbelieving even though you know it’s happened. This is normal, especially if the loss was unexpected. If you knew it was coming, you might have been able to prepare some, yet when it actually happens, you might still feel some shock or numbness.
Over days or even weeks and months, other feelings will surface, such as sadness and a gnawing emptiness that you might try to alleviate with manic activity or other distractions.
The best approach is to allow the feelings to surface whatever they are, and do your best not to avoid or deny them. You need to go through them. You can’t go around. If you avoid them, you won’t resolve and find a place for them. They’ll pop up in other ways and negatively affect both your future happiness and capacity to reengage in your life.
Things you can do to help with the pain are:
- Watch the feelings as you have them. That doesn’t mean not feeling them, but rather having some compassion for yourself as they arise. It helps you to brave them without retreating. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
- Remember that the intensity of your emotions won’t remain the same over time. It will eventually shift and let up, and you’ll be able to look at things differently.
- Talk to people who love you and will allow you to share your sadness. Talking helps you release the emotions so that they don’t build up and remain inside.
As time extends out, other feelings may arise, such as anger and disappointment. You might alternate between sadness and anger. If the relationship was complicated or unresolved issues were left over, you might feel cheated, frustrated, or have regrets.
Let yourself feel all of it. No censoring. Talk it out when you can, and approach yourself with care and compassion, even if you have things you feel ashamed of or regret doing (or not doing).
The goal is to feel your grief, forgive yourself or the other person if that applies, and eventually move forward feeling whole with interest in the future.
A second goal is to feel peace and resolution when you think of the one you’ve lost.
Now, there’s one more piece to dealing with loss, and it’s actually a gift.
Loss is an experience that that allows us an opportunity to take stock of ourselves.
If we lose a partner, we might question whether we loved that person enough or did right by them. We might be angry that we never got the love we truly wanted. We might have regrets about some of the ways we behaved or regrets about decisions made.
Looking back is natural when we lose someone, and questioning things we might have done differently often comes up. Sometimes we don’t have regrets, but just intensely miss our loved one. Often both things occur simultaneously.
As you work through the loss, it’s helpful to review any regrets or unresolved issues. You can’t address them directly at this point, but you can learn from them yourself.
Loss is an opportunity for growth, even if you’re older and feel like you’re coming nearer to the end of your own life. We evolve until we die – if we want to. And loss helps us do that.
Questions you might ask are:
- What did I gain from the relationship? What do I appreciate? What are my best memories?
- What have I learned about myself? Is there anything I want to change going forward?
- What shifts in my sense of self are occurring as I have more time alone?
- Do I want to change any of my current relationships? With other family members? With friends? If so, in what way? What actions can I take?
- What might I have done differently if I could do it over?
- Are there things I need to forgive? Of the other person? Of myself?
Transitioning from Two to One
Depending on the length and depth of the relationship, part of the process of working through the loss is to recreate a sense of yourself without the habitual interactions and spoken communications with the person you loved.
At first and for a time, you find yourself automatically thinking as though they’re still around, and then your catch yourself and have to recognize all over again they’re not.
Eventually, this subsides, but it reflects a process of psychically withdrawing yourself from the merged you (in that relationship) to just you. You take the person with you in the form of memories and feelings, but you see yourself as being on your own again.
This is why some people say things like “I feel like my heart’s breaking,” or “This pain is so gut-wrenching,” or “I feel shattered.” Emotional and physical pain activate the same areas of the brain.
The physical pain you feel is real in a sense and represents the psychic withdrawal of yourself from the other person in their absence.
Using the questions above helps you work through that pain while feeling whole and keeping your loved one with you.
What You Can Do Right Now
The best approach to loss is to examine your relationships before a loss occurs. You can do that by imagining how you would feel if you were to lose that loved person. Ask yourself,
“What needs resolving, what’s most important, what do I appreciate?”
Right now, you have an opportunity to answer those questions and act on them.
By doing so, you’ll find yourself being more tolerant and kind. That doesn’t mean you’ll cave to things you object to, but you’ll sharpen your feelings of love and engage in the relationship on a deeper level.
That’s all for today.
As always, I hope you have a great week!
All my best,