When we experience a loss, whether it’s the loss of a person to death, disease, divorce or breakup, the loss of a job or business to downsizing or an economic downturn, or the loss of a place to a move or foreclosure, it is not usually by choice. We have little control over the circumstances, only how we react to them. When I lost my husband, David, to pancreatic cancer, it felt like I was drowning for a very long time.
Redefinition of Loss:
Loss is the death of a future imagined or co-created with others which will now never come to pass.
It forces us into a transition process as we move from ‘what was’ to ‘what is’ and grief is almost always present, especially at the beginning of the process. Shifting our focus from loss to transition reminds us that the overwhelming feelings, depleted energy, diminished effectiveness and reduced capacity which happen immediately afterwards WILL pass.
But how can a person shift their focus from loss to transition proactively?
1) Do not expect everything to be the same as before your loss. It is a kind of death. Naturally, you and the people around you will interact differently. Expect it and you won’t be surprised or hurt.
2) Be as peaceful as possible with all the feelings. Let them be. When feelings are stuffed down for too long, they fester under the skin and keep us from healing and growing.
3) Understand that the loss changes not only what you can do but also who you are, your identity. That was incredibly disorienting for me.
4) Give yourself time. Culturally, there’s a lot of judgement personally and by the community. For example, my impatience with how long my healing was taking after my husband’s death, and that of my friends and family, escalated significantly after a year. It’s even more difficult for a divorce, downsizing or a move, when the loss is less final than a beloved person passing away. We are allowed less time to grieve and move on.
5) Learn how to ask for and accept support, cleanly. You are not a victim. You are a person rediscovering yourself so you can’t assume what you truly want now. Identify your needs, wants and desires right now, not based on history, that past which is passed. Lean on your community as needed, remembering that participation and contribution are gifts which connect us as human beings and bring us joy.
Any loss creates a fault line between ‘what was’ and ‘what is’, with a lost, past reality on one side and an unknown future reality on the other. Honestly, it was terrifying for me. We had 25 years together and, suddenly, we would never grow old together. On the other hand, I was vividly aware of how short life is and committed myself to living it as fully as possible.
There is no choice about the losses we will suffer in our lives, only about our response to them. Please share if this is helpful to you.