How to Handle a Loss
Loss is part of life. We all suffer from it at some point and in some way. Death and divorce are among the most obvious, but we also can experience loss of hope, approval, aspirations, friendship, social standing and trust, among many other examples.
Like the ensuing grief it brings, loss is unique to the person who is experiencing it, and is handled differently by everyone. There is no right or wrong to the method or timing involved. Since loss is inevitable and part of the fabric of life, the key is coping and eventual acceptance.
To accomplish that, first and foremost you must acknowledge and recognize that you have a true loss. Some losses are obvious and heartbreaking; others are not as clear. Glossing over a situation will eventually bring deeper pain than necessary. Avoidance is equally as destructive.
Be realistic about the significance of the loss and the subsequent impact on your life. Clearly the absence of a loved one, a major influence, your self-view, your way of life – these are intense and can’t be minimized. Their effect is life altering.
On the other hand, some losses that are painful and disappointing at the time may become nothing more than a bad memory, and you move on. You wanted so badly to win that game or to get first prize in the dance contest and it hurt to lose. Ten years later will it be important? Probably not. Try not to inflate the power of the loss.
You’ve undoubtedly heard people tell you to work through it. Wonderful words, but just how do you accomplish that, especially when the pain is raw and intense?
The first thing to do is talk about it; share your feelings. Talk to the people who love you, who care about you. You don’t need advice from them, even if they have the best of intentions. Tell them you just need to talk and let them listen. People generally find it awkward in that situation and want to be there for you.
Talking also can include specialized therapists, religious leaders, and groups. The avenues are out there for you. Just make certain to avoid toxic people and toxic situations.
Also, as well meaning as people are, words such as “you’ll get over it” or “just move on with your life” or “I understand how you feel” are empty. The pain is yours and it’s real. Grieve in whatever way you need.
Honor your emotions. If you want to have a tear storm, do so. If you want to hit a pillow, it’s available. If you feel anger, you’re justified. If the ocean is calling you, take a walk on the beach. The caveat here, however, is unless your doctor prescribes medication for you, do not take drugs to numb yourself. Excessive alcohol won’t solve the problem either. You can’t prolong the process. In fact, grief is very patient. If you don’t address it now, head on, I assure you it will come back when you least expect it or want it.