Loss is complicated. The experience and interpretation of loss are personal, and no two people approach it in the same way.
Some try to prevent it. Some try to embrace it. And, some struggle to accept it.
Without the proper acknowledgement of our loss, it can be easy to spiral— and become an emotional nomad.
Loss is Subjective and Personal
As someone who has experienced loss on several levels, I have learned that the meaning of “loss” is nuanced…and complicated.
When I joined the Army, I lost a level of freedom. When I left the Army, I lost part of my identity. There have been times when I have struggled not to lose my sanity. I have lost a child.
Each circumstance was:
- Uniquely challenging
- Had a beginning
- Came to an end
- Followed by a new beginning
Loss is a part of our relationships, friendships, careers… it is all around us. It’s a part of life. Our perspective is what will determine our reaction and subsequent actions. We have a choice to run from it, get stuck in it or grow and gain. Sometimes…all three.Whole Story Health Coaching
Whether or not we want to accept it, loss happens.
Responding to Loss
In the past, my typical response to loss (or to my perceived threat of potential loss) was with anxiety and a tight clinging desperation.
Endings and even change would send me into a downward spiral of negative emotions, while trying to control everything around me.
Instead of getting the stability that I was fighting for, I only created more chaos for myself.
By confronting and sitting with my fears and discomfort, I (slowly) developed the capacity to process my emotions in a healthy way…which strengthened my resilience and trust in my ability to overcome challenges.
Once we acknowledge and embrace that loss and change will always be with us, we can begin to move forward in knowledge and strength.
Admittedly, learning not to struggle against the current of what is can be a draining process.
I had to learn to (mentally and emotionally) swim parallel to the shore.
It was difficult to come to the realization that I had no power over the people or situations around me.
So, I learned to take a curious approach, instead of a fearful one.
And in that realization were the keys to my freedom.
1. Grieve the loss
Grief isn’t just about death and dying. We can grieve the loss of relationships, status, jobs/careers…parts of our identity.
Grief gives us a chance to process our emotions. But first, we have to acknowledge them.
Too often, we can fall into the trap of moving on to the next step before we complete this one. We can be tempted to jump into trying to be happy and to get over the loss.
This only delays our healing. Give yourself the time and space to go through this stage. Allow it to become a valued asset instead of the monster under the bed.
2. Embrace Impermanence
When I first learned about impermanence it was a relief. It gave me hope and strengthened me to be able to surrender to things that I would ultimately learn to realize were beyond my control.
Surrender, acceptance and impermanence became my constant companions on my road to balance and joy.
They allowed me to experience a sense of calm, stability, and security in any mood.
By understanding that life ebbs and flows, like a wave approaching and leaving shore, we are able to more fully relax, be present and appreciate life.
There is a certain peace that comes from realizing that everything is temporary, and that life’s circumstance come and go—no matter how encompassing they feel in the moment.
Eventually things will shift.
I have learned to experience each situation, mood, emotion and feeling as a visiting friend.
Each has its own unique beauty that can only be appreciated within the concept of impermanence.
3. Accept What Is
Acceptance is a practice that allows us to work through and deal with what is happening.
Without it, we can’t move forward. We stay stuck in a suspended reality.
Most of us already know that acceptance can be an incredibly difficult, ongoing process. Sometimes, it’s messy and ugly and painful.
Those things are totally normal. They are also a few of the reasons that I fought against it.
I wanted to avoid the stress, sadness, and the unknowns.
But, I had to remember that, no matter how hard we fight against accepting something, especially loss, we can’t change the outcome.
4. Stop Resisting
Life has taught me that my resistance to something will not stop things from changing.
Resistance keeps us fighting a battle we won’t win. It often stems from feeling a sense of control that we don’t actually have.
Resistance is an active denial of our reality.
We may want things to be different…we may even try desperately to force things to be different. But we only end up frustrating ourselves and making a bad situation even worse.
That word used to make me cringe and the concept felt like accepting defeat.
However, surrendering is self-care. It is self-compassion. It is self-love.
For me, surrender became a healthy form of giving up — it was giving up my false sense of (manufactured and manipulated) security and control.
When we wrestle against surrender (when we resist), we fail to understand that we are fighting a losing battle.
Being unable to accept what is forces us to live in a fantasy world—with an illusion of control.
The result is that we delay our healing, and become stuck in place.
Focus on the Gains
Rather than focusing on controlling loss prevention, we can shift our attention to the grieving process, strengthening ourselves, and what we can gain.
If we allow them, the lessons we learn from experiencing loss can provide valuable insight.
Reflect on a loss you’ve endured. What can you take away from that experience to help you build a foundation of wisdom?