Losses come in all sizes, shapes, and forms.
You may have lost your spouse, your child or other beloved family member or friend. Sometimes, it happens with the normal progression of age.
Sometimes it is with the unexpected telephone call bearing bad news, or a spouse’s request for a divorce. It might be the loss of your job or the discovery that the symptoms of discomfort you have been having is due to cancer or other degenerative diseases.
Even though each loss is different in some way, there is a commonality between them; something of great importance has been taken away that had purpose and meaning to you.
How do we move past them? How do we rise above them? How do we grieve them?
There are many books on the market that talk about grief and loss. But grieving is more than just walking through the pain of sorrow in those early days and months. It is more than coming to terms with the unexpected and uncertainty about the future. It involves a transition from what was to what is now. It is answering the question, I knew who I was before, but who am I today?
People want to live again with purpose and meaning. They want to love again. They want to feel whole and complete. They don’t just want to survive, they want to thrive once more.
When losses begin early in life and remain unresolved and ungrieved, the troubled thoughts and emotions locked in our memories are triggered again and again until we address them. These losses can be the result of abuse, bullying, unfair comparisons, being ignored, rejected, or not seen. A child can feel okay and know they are loved even within strict rules and boundaries if they get the attention that says, I don’t approve of your behaviors, but I love you. Children need words of encouragement even if those words come from a caring teacher or coach.
Healing our past requires defining that loss, working through the issues associated with it so we can move beyond it. Grieving past losses allows us to integrate them into the fabric of our life that promotes strength, appreciation, and confidence in who we are and who we can become.
Here are some ways to address losses, whether from our past or those you are currently experiencing.
- It takes courage to grieve, and a willingness to be honest as we work through our sorrow, uncertainty, and vulnerability. Losses will continue to exact their toll on us until we work through them and put them to rest. That means working through the fears, pain, emotions, and anxieties associated with them. Building walls or running away may be expedient at the moment but only delays the healing process.
- No matter how independent we may think we are, we need the support of others. Reach out and accept the love and support of those who want to help in some way. Get counseling by a qualified therapist to work through old losses.
- Tragedies demand answers. At some point, however, we need to come to terms with what has happened, the “whys” and “what ifs” and let go of unanswered questions, injustice or bad choices.
- Writing letters of goodbye can articulate what is in our heart and spirits and help resolve and integrate our losses. Much like journaling but more direct, writing to our losses creates a way to speak to subjective things such as loss of dreams, lifestyle, and expectations. Writing takes it out of the head, further illuminating both our thoughts and feelings. Write as you would any letter. Dear (dream, career, health, etc.) I remember how important this was, what I wanted, etc.
- Write a letter to your loved one who died. Tell them what they meant to you, the good times you spent together, how you are keeping your memories alive, what is the hardest part for you now, or what you wished you had time to do.
- Sometimes words cannot express what we are feeling. Art gives us the opportunity to say through fabric or clay or wood or paints what cannot otherwise be expressed adequately. Make a wall hanging or quilt or mold clay into a memorial of some kind. There are many art therapy classes available.
- Create a new narrative that focuses on who you are now. “I will be okay – I can make it. I miss what I had but the love we shared will go with me as I move forward. I am not the pain, shame or abused child of my past. I’m discovering new ways to live life fully and meaningful every day.”
- Focus on what you can do today instead of what was taken away. See yourself as a capable person instead of a victim, able to create a new life of purpose and meaning.
- Establish new social groups who share a commonality with you. Include laughter and fun as you encourage and support and enjoy each other’s company.
- Grieving losses is a spiritual journey. As a Christian, God was as much a part of my grief and loss journeys as anything I might have done on my own. I have found that when all is at its darkest, I look up and find the outstretched hand of God reaching down, giving comfort, love, and peace.
It is never too late to work through old losses. Until we grieve and work through them, they will remain in the background ready to sabotage our lives. They are usually loaded with anger, shame or guilt that needs to be worked through and emotions released. They can then be put into our memories.
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