When we think of loss we usually think of big losses, such as the death of a loved one, our own life, our home, or our money.
Losing someone we love through death is certainly one of the most heartbreaking experiences; however, the truth is losses and life transitions begin at birth and continue for as long as we live. From the loss of our mother’s safe womb to a series of losses which follow us throughout our lives - we can lose marriages, friends, youth, dreams, independence, trust, jobs, health, a pet, a toy or a treasured memento. What life reveals to us is that nothing is permanent we will eventually lose everything, but what ultimately matters can never be lost, for it is through loss that we can come to experience love, compassion, connection with others, and growth.
Most of us fight and resist loss not understanding that life is about loss and loss is a part of life.
Life cannot change its progression and we cannot grow without loss. Growth occurs when we find meaning in what we no longer have, when we acknowledge our inability to control and possess and when our self-expression captures and reflects fragments of our need for wholeness.
Loss is one of our most difficult lessons, we try to make it easier by minimizing it, avoiding it, denying it and reassuring others we’re just fine, yet the pain we feel from the loss of someone or something is one of the hardest things we’ll ever experience.
Grieving is a natural emotion that allows us to let go of that which was and be ready for what is to come. Kubler-Ross (1969) outlines five stages that describes the way we respond to all losses, not just death, and can be applied to our losses whether large or small, permanent or temporary.
Denial - The shock and disbelief that functions as a buffer against the reality of the situation. Whether the reality of losing a loved one, a job or losing a treasured piece of jewelry.
Anger - Expression of rage or irritation at the unfairness of the loss or perceived failure to be in control.
Bargaining - Where pleas are made to forestall the loss or behaviors are undertaken to avoid grieving.
Depression - Feeling of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, remorse, and regret.
Acceptance -Resolving and acknowledging the painful void, moving on, and reinvesting in life and new relationships.
There are many steps to healing loss.
Feel and acknowledge the loss when you are ready.
Let the grace of denial work, remembering that you will feel your feelings when you are supposed to. You will find the only way out of the pain is through the pain.
A sense of helplessness, anger, frustration, sadness, and lethargy are normal and seem to all work themselves into the process of healing.
Genuineness to self helps to clarify and respect each of these normal emotions.
When each emotion is genuinely experienced as unique and valid, grief begins to release. The only certainty about loss is that time does lessen the pain and the healing journey finds its own path.