we are going to look at loss in a wider context and one that is not just the loss of a loved one. Loss is a natural part of life. When grief is fresh, you probably don’t even want to talk about it. But as the weeks and months go by, processing some aspects of your loss—by talking with loved ones, seeing a therapist, or simply reading loss quotes—might help you gain a new perspective and can offer some comfort.
Loss can take many forms. Maybe a loved one or pet has passed away, maybe you lost your job or home and need to work on perseverance. Or maybe your relationship has ended, and you need to process the situation. However loss appears in your life, it is important to remember that you’re not alone. And while there is no quick fix, finding ways to heal and recover is vital.
It is quite common to only think that loss is connected to loss of a person or animal although we can experience grief and loss about anything that we have an emotional connection with. It can be a loss of a job, a relationship, body shape, health, wealth, confidence, safety or purpose, to name but a few examples.
Many of us may be unknowingly living with grief having experienced loss, and all grief is valid. What we can pay attention to is what we can learn from the change in our life through the loss, or we can work out what we can do to be able to recover.
One of the first places that we need to start with is self compassion and self care.
I think it is helpful to highlight a few important points to help us cope with a loss.
- It won’t feel like this forever
- You can handle it, even when you feel like you can’t
- Be gentle with yourself
- Your feelings are normal
- You’re not alone
Let’s delve a little deeper at how we can deal with it:-
- Acknowledge your pain. It is fine to feel upset or unhappy and not fighting with it and ourselves is really important.
- Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions. This can often be a bit of a surprise and even a shock. We can experience a loss and this triggers old, unresolved, often deep rooted loss or grief. I can give you a personal example of that, when I lost my horse who I had owned for 24 years, I was obviously devastated but in my grief, I felt that I was being presented with a lot of issues such as a loss but unresolved. I have heard this in many of my clients too. It can feel like you have been hit from nowhere.
- I think it is important to remember and understand that your grieving process will be unique to you. No one person is the same and we need to be careful that we listen to ourselves rather than thinking that we ‘should’ be managing in a way that someone else does or tells us too.
- We do however need to seek out face-to-face support from people who care about you. People who can hold a safe space so that you can freely talk about how you feel and have your feelings honoured.
- Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically. On this show we are often saying that we need to put self care higher up the agenda, and when dealing with loss of any kind this is a must.
There is often so much pressure to ‘get over’ or ‘deal with’ and I am doing “” in the air when I say that but it is so important to look after yourself.
I often get asked How long does it take to recover from a loss?
The answer to that is there is no real answer, there is no set timetable for grief. You may start to feel better in 6 to 8 weeks, but the whole process can last from months to years. You may start to feel better in small ways. It will start to get a little easier to get up in the morning, or maybe you’ll have more energy.
That said, even many months or years after a loss, you may still continue to feel sadness and grief especially when confronted with reminders of their life or their death. It’s important to find healthy ways to cope with these waves of grief as part of the healing process.
One thing that we do need to pay attention to is to make sure that you don’t get truly stuck and not able to move forward. I have worked with clients who may have got divorced 20 years previously and were still struggling to accept the loss and move on. We definitely want to get some space to explore those kinds of blockages.
I want to put a little more attention on something that was mentioned in my chat with Shelley (on the radio episode). It is the idea that we can gain our greatest learning or insights when we actually sit with an uncomfortable feeling. Often when we feel anxious or very upset even angry, our first inclination is often for relief, which usually consists of avoidance. We can distract ourselves with TV, social media, games, food, alcohol, and other things. While these all have a role, we need to be careful that we may create new problems for ourselves.
Or, we can be brave and sit with the feeling. Yes, just allow it. Breathe into it. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings. With practice, it may help you accept yourself and your reality. By resting in awareness, you stop fighting what is true for you now and open to the possibility that it is all OK. You can handle what you do not like.
Many intelligent and insightful souls—such as the Buddha, Ram Dass, and Eckhart Tolle—have encouraged us to be here now. That means being with whatever comes up. Your job is not to like everything, but to be aware and open. Luckily, this becomes easier when you remind yourself that everything passes—the pleasant and the unpleasant.
It is crucial to understand that the goal here is not to figure out why you are feeling what you are feeling, but to stay with the discomfort. You may even want to cultivate some curiosity about what you are feeling.
Once you allow yourself to be with what is true for you now.
It may be helpful to think of Pain as being inevitable though suffering as optional.
By resisting the urge to rate your feelings—or yourself as bad for having them—you will begin to know the peace that comes from acceptance, and your discomfort will not morph into suffering.
Here is an exercise to help you on your path to emotional freedom:
- Consciously stop yourself a few times a day to do an internal check.
- What am I feeling now?
- Can I allow this feeling, whether physical, emotional or spiritual, without trying to repress it or distract myself from it?
- Stay with whatever comes up, especially if you don’t like it.
- Try to label what you are experiencing. For example: tightness in the throat, muscle spasms in the low back, tension in the jaw, etc.
- Name your emotions as if you were simply observing them—anxiety, sadness, anger, resentment, grief, etc.
- Breathe into any area of discomfort and keep drawing your breath there until you feel it relax.
“The truth is that each day, we might be letting go of a plan, a dream, an idea. It might be about meeting a friend for lunch, it might be around losing a job, or perhaps you woke up ill. At any given time each of us is grieving something”
– Shelley F Knight