For some, loss shows up as a rejection and is quite personal, while for others it’s an annoying speed bump in their day. There are two truths to loss, the first is that it comes in many shapes and forms. The second is that sucks – period. Although there is little we can do about the actual loss itself, there is a lot we can do about our relationship to it and how we choose to move forward. This article will address this through three specific lenses:
- The realities of loss and disappointment
- What conventional wisdom and society has told and taught us about grieving
- A simple and practical method to dealing with loss that works
My first real experience of loss occurred when I was only 20 years old and lost my father to cancer. To say it sucked would be the understatement of the century.
It hasn’t been until more recently that I realized how great of a loss that was and how each day that goes by as father of two kids, I am reminded about how much I miss him and need him. Even as I write this now, my eyes swell, my heart aches and my throat closes just a bit.
However you view it, loss can be quite taxing on the mind, body and spirit – I should know as I have endured my fair share of loss and have had to dig deep to find a way to move forward. Through these experiences, I have learned that loss doesn’t have to be the end but rather the beginning and it all comes down to your mindset and how you choose to process it.
The Reality Of Loss
For the longest time, I thought when bad things happened to me that were out of my control, I would beat myself up for it – wasting a good amount of time and energy until I could come to a place of peace with it. Subscribing to the ubiquitous expression “that everything happens for a reason” and pretend that one simple phrase would make it all better was wishful thinking at its best. After working on myself and supporting others for twenty years, here is what I discovered:
- Life is not always fair. This is a fact, but count your blessings over your bitterness because in the end, being grateful will produce a more positive attitude and potential outcome.
- You may not ever know why something doesn’t works out in your favor. Trust there was a reason, find a way to be okay with that and keep moving forward. Analysis paralysis has killed more dreams than Freddy Krueger.
- Never give up on your dreams, goals, aspirations regardless of what anyone tells you. Most people are simply jealous and insecure that you have something bigger than yourself that you are working towards. Keep your inner circle close and audit the people and playlists in your life with intentionality and frequency.
What We’ve Been Told About Loss
There are too many theories, models and philosophies on “how to deal with” the different types of loss to name but one of the most popular is the Kubler-Ross Model most commonly associated with those dealing with the loss of a life.
Loss typically comes unexpectedly which unto itself leaves the human mind and body in a weak state looking for answers which sometime aren’t available. Here are some of the common reactions people around us love to say when trying to support you:
- Address it – means to deal with a problem or a matter by thinking carefully about it and doing things to improve the situation.
- Handle it – involves taking action as well to deal with a situation, a person or anything that is seemingly difficult
- Deal with it – is both handling and addressing a situation.
- Cope with it – is almost the same meaning as ‘to deal with’ and it has to be a difficult situation.
- Get over it – entailing a certain amount of suppression in both the loss, pain and ego.
Psychology has a lot to offer on this subject and one of the most compelling articles I read refers to the 5 Challenges Loss and Grief forces us to confront while disrupting our lives:
- Overcoming Paralyzing Emotional Pain: The first and most immediate challenge we face is that of excruciating and paralyzing emotional pain. The one thing that helps diminish the pain is time. Therefore, our challenge is to find ways to simply get through those first terrible hours, days, and weeks.
- Adjusting to Changes in Our Daily Lives: Loss can change almost every aspect of our daily routines. To recover we face the challenge of coming to terms with the changes that were forced upon us. Only then can we begin the process of finding new ways of living and being that can substitute for the loss.
- Reformulating Our Identities: Significant grief and loss can impact our very sense of identity – how we define who we are, how we see ourselves, and how we want others to view us. We have to reconstruct our identities and come to peace with our new selves and our new lives.
- Reconstructing Our Relationships: It is common for people to respond to profound loss by withdrawing into themselves. To recover we face the challenge of reconnecting to those who remain and forming new connections that reflect the new realities of our situation.
- Adjusting Our Belief Systems: Trying to make sense of our experiences in life is a compelling human drive and to thrive, we must find within ourselves a way to ascribe meaning to the events and discover a new purpose to drive our existence.
What’s Worked For Me
When one is able to gain some distance from what’s actually happening versus the emotional story we are telling ourselves, the loss becomes more about your relationship to it and (a little) less about what was actually lost. That in no way implies that what you lost isn’t important, in fact it’s the opposite. Separating yourself from your emotions allows you to gain a perspective and potential certainty at a time when your brain is craving it the most. Here is what I do:
- Reach out to loved ones: Sometimes what’s needed is simply knowing others are there for you. You may not need to ask for anything but by allowing others in begins to create an accountability partner when you need one.
- Identify the loss: One of the most critical steps before finding any true peace is to allow yourself to feel and experience whatever emotions are there for you. For some this is a quick exercise, while for others it can be a lengthy process of ups and downs.
- Identify the situation: Typically, the most challenging phase, as we are after all human and emotional beings which tends to cloud the facts from feelings. Look for just the facts minus the emotions associated with it. Hint: it’s never that interesting of story when you take the emotions out of it. Take your time with this one, you may need it.
- What are you making it mean about you: Our brains are hardwired to make everything mean something, including the bad stuff. In your current situation, what narrative have you created about your own self-worth? The key is to begin to stabilize your emotional mindset and take whatever responsibility you can from the experience.
- What is it costing you: As we discussed, loss in whatever form is taxing on the soul. Take a moment and list out just how this situation and your reaction to it is showing up in your life. What aspects of “you” are being impacted? Look at your wellness, relationships, finances and career.
- When will you choose to move on (pick a date): We all enjoy a good pity party but at some point, the band packs up and the lights go down. Choosing when you will move on is something not often discussed but it should because it begins to tell your brain that this too shall pass and it will.
Final thoughts: Check back in with yourself daily: It’s not always a one and done situation and more times than not, you will find residual emotions bubble to the surface. That’s okay. Address them for what they are and revisit the list above. This is less of a step-by-step process and more of a “things to consider” when faced with some type of loss. That said, I can’t stress enough that the one thing that will undoubtedly move you forward is “action” and the willingness to do something to improve your current situation. Dealing with loss will always be emotionally challenging. It can take a long time to get to a place of acceptance but the journey will be worth it – because you’re worth it.
The floor is yours: How do you deal with different types of loss?
Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.
Joshua / www.JoshHMiller.com
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