Today during my 30 day blog challenge, I had something totally different planned to share with you. (And don't worry, I still will, but you'll have to wait until September 23rd.) But today just didn't feel right to share that topic.
It's been a day of loss all around me.
And that's one of the hardest stressors for us to face.
So I thought it would be fitting to shift today's topic to one that is making my heart run over today.
My day started at the gynecologist's office. Believe it or not, I was actually thrilled to find out the answer to a mystery today, though I was braced just-in-case for something big and scary.
As I waited for my results, my heart went out to someone I knew who was having surgery this morning, and what she would lose over the next few weeks as she works to heal and regain her strength. I thought about someone else who would be saying good-bye to a cherished family member today, and how I could help soothe the hole in her heart. I remembered that today was a sad anniversary for another friend, who lost one of her children many years ago today. And then I was reminded of some of my own dreams in life that were unfilled, as I was surrounded by a sea of pregnant bellies.
And I silently sent love and prayers to each person who crossed my mind.
While I waited, another patient who had been zigging and zagging behind my path all day sat beside me. As we both waited our turn for another series of tests, we struck up a conversation about the “fun” we were having at the doctor's office. She shared that she was having a miscarriage, and I shared my sympathies with her.
For the rest of the day, I kept noticing all kinds of losses, some silly and others more profound. Oddly enough, instead of feeling drained by each instance, I found myself feeling more and more connected to others. There's strength in numbers. Knowing that I was not alone as I embraced my own challenges was a source of comfort.
When I was in Target, instead of being consumed by own problems, and automatically imagining the picture perfect life of every other person in the store, my heart was quiet enough to notice a determined young man who has a physical disability, twisting his body to scan our items in spite of his shortened arm-span. No matter what life handed him, he was committed to doing his best in whatever way he could.
When I got home, I was able to focus my energies on giving support to a family member who needed some guidance on how to handle a situation that was tugging on her heart, and I was able to reach out to others to offer them comfort and support during a day of change and pain.
How We React to Loss
There are a variety of ways we tend to react to loss (regardless of what the loss is).
- We can run from it and try to deny and avoid it as long as we can.
- We can blame others for it, as a way to detour some of the pain.
- We can go to battle and try to keep it from happening.
- We can resign ourselves to it, and just give in.
- We can embrace what we can change and accept what we can't and allow ourselves to feel and learn from the experience.
Today, I was surrounded by people who chose to embrace what they could change and accept what they couldn't. No, it's definitely not the easy way. And sometimes it can actually take longer to feel “back to normal” again by choosing this route.
But it is the way that seems to have the biggest return on your happiness- and growth.
Over the years as I've worked with families, I've gathered some insights on healing from a loss in your life. Some of these were learned when a family faced the loss of a child. Some were learned when families learned that someone's health would be forever compromised. Some were learned when love disappeared in a marriage.
7 Tips to Help You Deal with Loss
I hope that some of these insights will be of help to you the next time you are faced with a loss in your life.
- Be gentle with yourself. It's easy to get tense during stressful times, but when facing a loss, this is a time to be consciously mindful of your expectations and what your capabilities are. Don't plan too much. Take time to be by yourself. And do things that nourish your spirits.
- Give yourself the gift of time. Most losses take longer to recover from than you realize at the beginning. By letting go of a time frame, you free yourself from deadlines and pressure. Even though on the outside your daily actions may “return back to normal,” it's OK to grieve longer.
- Allow others to be there for you. This can be especially difficult if you are usually the person who is caring for others. Don't deny them a blessing by turning down their offers of service.
- Let yourself feel. There are moments when you try your hardest not to feel, because the pain is just too great. And that can be OK at times. But when it comes seeping through, just go with it. It's easier on your mind and body to do this, and it actually accelerates the healing.
- Don't feel guilty for laughing. It's easy to think that you shouldn't feel happy at all when you're experiencing something tragic. But in the words of Joni Mitchell, “Laughing and crying is the same release.”
- Be aware of differences in how you and your significant other react to the loss. Everyone reacts to loss, but we tend to show it differently. It can be easy to think that your spouse doesn't care and is unaffected to the change because s/he may not show it the same way you do.
- Find your own way to pay tribute. Create your own rituals and celebrations to pay tribute to this change. Thing beyond funerals and focus on things like eating your grandmother's favorite foods on her birthday or going to a special place that rejuvenates you when you think about them.