You may not yet have suffered a devastating loss, but even losses that may seem trivial to others can throw us off our equilibrium - How could your best friend just dump you like that? It wasn’t the best job in the world, but it was your job. What kind of person would deface your car for no reason?
The stakes grow immensely higher – there are losses that you are pretty sure you can’t survive. Your health takes a bad turn. Your home is no longer yours. Your spouse calls it quits. A beloved friend or parent dies. Most unthinkable, you lose a child.
Loss is an inescapable part of every life, but that’s pretty thin comfort when you’re in the middle of the hurt. The pain can take over your life. Getting out of bed seems pointless. You ache everywhere and can’t keep your mind on anything. You can’t imagine anyone or anything that would make it feel any better.
Sadly, the survival strategies that seem most doable can also be the worst for your eventual recovery.
- Pretending it didn’t happen – Life was fine before this terrible loss happened, so why not just live in that world? The problem is, something awful did happen and the effort to pretend otherwise will become more and more consuming and unsustainable.
- Blaming – It can be greatly comforting if you can identify the party responsible for your loss and they admit their role and confess how badly they feel, but if that does or does not happen, miring yourself in obsessive hatred will do more damage than you’re already suffering.
- Wallowing – It’s natural in the wake of a loss to feel there’s nothing else in the world, to be unable to think of anything else. You have to feel those horrible feelings for a while, maybe for a long while, but eventually it’s time to release them and to consider the possibility of regaining your life.
We are resilient creatures, wired to recover, even to come out of the experience of loss smarter, stronger, and more appreciative of what was not lost. When you’re ready, the following steps can help you move toward that future.
Experience the Loss
This bad thing happened. Allow yourself to recognize that fact and to feel the feelings that come to you. It’s not fun, but it’s necessary to get through this.
Recover What You Can
This refers to physical loss, obviously. No point dwelling on what’s gone; it won’t magically come back. Research what assistance is available to help you – insurance, disaster relief, physical help to rebuild.
Journal About the Loss
You don’t have to be a Steinbeck, just find a quiet place and scrawl what you’re feeling and thinking. No one needs to see it, you don’t even have to read what you’ve written. Just the act of putting your pain on paper can help you separate from it, just a little bit.
Let Others Help
The people who care about you are aching to do something useful. This is the time when you can ask. Let a friend clean your house or take you out for a hike. Ask a neighbor to feed the dog while you’re distracted. If you need a hug, they are available all around.
Find Emotional Support
Getting support now isn’t weakness, it’s a sign that you have the courage to work through pain and come out on the other side. Shared pain is divided, as participants in support groups report; it’s healing to be reminded that others are suffering loss. Individual counseling, on the other hand, allows you to focus on your issues with someone who understands but is not struggling through the same emotions.