On Dealing With Loss (Part 6)
Dealing with loss can be hard…I mean really hard. Suffering a major loss like losing your job, your house or a loved one can put you into a tailspin, with no immediate relief in sight.
Even smaller losses like losing an important customer, losing your health to a bad case of the flu or losing face when you fail, can cause a great deal of discomfort.
Whether we like it or not, suffering is a part of life.
And yet, loss doesn´t have to rule our lives. Like everything else, it´s a choice we make…
Dealing With Loss, in General
Not too long ago, I was washing the lead crystal champagne glasses I inherited from my great-aunt following dinner with friends, when I noticed a fine crack down the side of one of them. When something like this happens, it´s a loss that makes me feel both upset and sad.
Still, I have a choice…
I can either let it go and move on – in which case, I keep my suffering to a minimum – or I can get mad and resentful of who or whatever caused the glass to break.
Of course, if the crack happened while I was washing the glass, I could have kicked myself for not being careful enough and figured the universe was conspiring against me again because things like this always happen to me!
I know it sounds silly but the truth is much of our prolonged suffering comes from inside of us – not from the loss we´re actually experiencing.
We magnify our sadness and pain when we insist on holding on to what we want life to be – in this case, my wanting my collection of lead crystal glasses to be complete again! – instead of accepting reality as it is.
Dealing With Loss of a Job
If you´ve ever lost your job then you know what a blow it can be to your confidence and sense of self-worth. Losing your job is a major setback and there´s no question you may have to make some drastic changes until you find another.
Here, too, you have a choice.
You can let go of the loss, accept your new reality of being out of work and figure out where to go from here…start applying for jobs, look for a less expensive place to live, consider trading in your car for a bike, etc. Or, you can feel hurt, angry and resentful.
Of course, anger and frustration are hard to hide and may affect your chances during an interview. They might even keep you from taking any kind of constructive action to begin with. Or, you may start taking your anger out on those closest to you.
Just know that when this happens, the suffering is coming from inside of you – not from the loss itself.
Dealing With Loss of Love
A few years ago, the husband of a friend of mine (I´ll call her Susan) decided to leave her and file for divorce. When this happened, Susan was shocked, hurt, and angry. She felt betrayed by her best friend and wept over the loss of her marriage.
If you´re thinking that hurt and anger are only natural in a situation like that, you´d be right. Still, even when something as devastating as this happens, you have a choice…
After the initial shock, you can choose to let go of being the married person you were and accept your new situation, then do what needs to be done to reinvent yourself and your life.
Or, you can dwell on the loss, the sense of betrayal, the pain – all the time wishing things were different. You can spy on your ex, wallow in pity and comfort yourself with food, until you´re not just alone and lonely but you begin to hate yourself as well.
As terrible as that sounds, this kind of thing does happen. And when it does, the prolonged hurt and suffering are a direct result of not letting go.
Dealing With Loss of a Loved One
I remember how hard it was for a good friend of mine when her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She was in so much emotional pain, anticipating the loss of her mother within a matter of months that she found it nearly impossible to be there for her mom when she needed it most.
Instead of showing her mom how much she loved her and enjoying the time they still had together, she couldn´t let go of thinking about and dreading what was to come.
As painful as a situation like this is, love can help dull that pain. By letting go of the future and enjoying the present moment. By letting go of how you wish things could be and accepting the situation as it is.
You cannot change the fact that someone you love dearly is dying. But you can appreciate them for who they are in the moment. You can see their suffering, accept it and find compassion in your heart to help and comfort them in whatever way you are able.
You can be grateful for every moment you have with them, grateful for you own good health and grateful for the many happy moments the two of you were able to share in the past…
Our Role in Prolonging Pain
Whether large or small, loss hurts.
Even so, how much we suffer is up to us. We can prolong it, or we can choose to lessen it, by learning to let go.
The first step in letting go after a loss is to accept how you´re feeling because of it.
It´s okay to feel sad and angry. But once that period of mourning has passed, it´s time to look and see if you might be holding on to the past…some idea of how you wish life could still be… instead of accepting it for what it now is.
It´s holding on to that wish for life to stay the same that fans the flames of pain and hurt.
Acknowledging this makes it easier to let go.
Remember, you have a choice.
You can hold on to what was and suffer…or you can let go, accept what is and suffer less.
When you focus on what is, in this moment, it is easier to see the good in it; easier to appreciate it; easier to recognize the opportunity in it; and easier to find compassion in yourself and those around you who are suffering, too.
Right now is all we ever truly have. Embrace it. Live it!
This is what learning to let go is all about – and it can help you tremendously with any kind of loss that comes your way…
And keep an eye out for my next article where I walk you through my 5 Step Process for Letting Go