Most of us tend to resist change and loss. We want things to stay the same, thinking this is what is best for us. This is most pronounced when someone we love is dying. But loss happens in many forms; it could be a change of a job, a child going off to school or college, moving houses, a pet dying, a divorce.
These are all part of life, and yet we tend to resist these changes. Acceptance that everything has a beginning and an end and nothing remains the same helps us reconcile these losses and stops us from resisting the pain.
I’ve been musing on change and loss while watching my mom struggle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Knowing we are coming to the end of this journey, I sit with sadness of what she will miss out on, what we have lost and what missed opportunities were not taken up on. But this is the cycle of life and one that we all face at different times of our lives.
Grief is normal, but resistance does not need to happen. In fact, the resistance keeps us stuck in the pain of the change. Grief is healthy and allows us to feel the pain and move through it, while resistance holds us stuck in one place.
It is not easy to move through grief, and for some reason we feel holding the resistance stops that pain when it only creates more of it. It is our fear of the unknown, that our pain will overwhelm us or if we resist it, maybe it is not really happening that makes us buy into the resistance.
Eventually we do make it to the other side and find that our fear of the grief is greater than actually experiencing it. So working through grief allows us to come to a place of acceptance. Remember that acceptance does not mean we like it, but rather we are facing our reality without resisting it. When we can accept our loss, we have more opportunity to learn and grow. Each experience we go through enables us the opportunity to know ourselves more, to embrace the support of our friends and family and make those relationships stronger, to know how truly strong we are inside and learn more about life itself and all its complexities.
Many factors come into play when we go through a loss, but here are some common ways to help you get through it, rather than resist it:
1. Get support of family, friends, therapist, your church, or a support group.
2. Read about and understand what you are experiencing.
3. Do not use alcohol or recreational drugs to help you grieve, as they will only postpone the grief (we are also more prone to addiction when we are grieving).
4. Give yourself permission and time to grieve (shock, sadness/depression, anger, acceptance – not always in this order, and you may go through it in a different order).
5. Know that if you have childhood loss, these losses may be triggered so do not judge your grief.
6. Know what you need to help yourself through this time (massages, walks along the beach, journaling, time to talk to a friend about it daily, extra sleep, exercise).
7. Know when you are struggling and need extra help.
8. Be kind, gentle and patient with yourself through the process (do not be critical of yourself no matter what).
9. Learn and grow through the experience.
10. Find a larger purpose in your loss (many people start non-profits from a loss they have experienced).
But as Steinbeck said, “It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.”
In other words, we only experience loss when we have experienced pleasure. Don’t forget to embrace the pleasure, as we never know when that will end.