Before anything new can be created, something must be left behind. But many endings aren’t the ones we wanted or expected. Many of us are still left holding an empty bag of dreams; jobs lost, ‘forever’ relationships abandoned, or loved ones who have passed on. Losses are as much a natural part of life as your breath or the sunset. Somewhere, we got the idea that loss should be avoided at all costs because they are too painful. The result: no one’s taught us to effectively mourn when a significant ending occurs so we stay stuck in a flat, gray place.
Loss is a double whammy. There is the loss itself, but also when you don’t deal with important endings effectively, your ability to feel open, safe, and vulnerable vanishes. You carry around your emotional wounds like 100-pound weights strapped to your back. Confidence to climb out of the abyss shrinks. “You’re forever shattered,” your mind says. “The world is cold, cruel, and unfair.”
Life’s colors fade into monochrome as you lose interest in everything. No motivation, meaning, or sense of belonging. Or you can take the opposite coping strategy and just carry on as if nothing significant happened. Handling losses can feel like an impossible assignment.
And sadness and flatness won’t be your only companion. Fear edges you out of meaningful interactions, keeping you to itself, for worry you’ll get your tender heart broken again. Anger equally vies for occupation, turning you against everyone– yourself, others, and the universe.
These dark visitors make sorrow and grief feel bottomless with no end in sight. But facing your emotions will push them out of your body and out of your space. Whether you’ve been laid off from the job you’ve had for the last 20 years or your sibling unexpectedly died, here are five tips to help you move through, according to Attitude Reconstruction:
1. Freedom comes from facing your loss and crying. Tears are nectar. Crying is healing. It’s the body’s natural reaction to hurts and losses. Acknowledge your loss and cry it out. You can be alone, or with someone else, in therapy, or with a friend or partner.
The listener’s job is just to provide a safe place — not offer “wisdom” or personal experiences. As the silent witness, lovingly keep offering a safe ear. Keep offering. Often it takes repeated respectful invitations to venture into this painful domain.
When you do talk, voice what you miss and what you appreciated most about the person. Talk about and relive the wonderful memories. Speak about all the qualities you loved, what you won’t experience any more, and all the adventures you had together. After each memory or quality, over and over, say “Thank you” and allow yourself to cry when the tears surface.
2. You also must say the “dreaded” G word — good-bye — to fully acknowledge the ending. Saying “good-bye” can be incredibly hard and usually brings up tons more sadness. With the loss of a subling, say good-bye to your dreams of growing old together and doing fun things. It’s painful but necessary in order to heal. Say, “I miss you. I love you. Good-bye. Good-bye.”
3. Express any fear or anger that surfaces physically and constructively. If you’re left feeling anxious, shake and shiver that fear out of your body while reminding yourself, “Something greater than me is in charge. This is not in my control.” Anger will also rear its ugly head, reminding of you how unfair this tragedy is, so find a constructive way to pound, push, shout, or stomp out the anger energy – hard, fast, and with abandon — where no one or nothing of value is destroyed. While moving the anger energy, remind yourself that, “It is the way it is. It’s not the way I think it should be.”
4. Attending to your emotions and thoughts frees up some energy to start to say “hello” to life again. If you’ve isolated yourself, take tiny steps to reach out and reconnect with others. Do something easy-breezy like shopping, sharing a meal, or seeing a movie. Even if you feel like a robot going through the motions, do it anyway. It will get easier.
5. Whenever you feel yourself sinking, take a few minutes to cry and say good-bye again. Like the proverbial onion, you’ll have to peel away the layers of missing, bit by bit, to thoroughly process your loss.
It takes time to move through that helpless-hopeless feeling that descends when you lose something or someone dear. But have faith. Gradually, you’ll find your enthusiasm, confidence, and energy returning. And little by little, the light will begin to return.