When most people think of loss, they probably think of it in terms of losing a loved one – a parent, a child, a partner, a friend – but loss comes in many shapes and sizes. My friend, Beth, experienced a variety of huge losses over a thirteen year period. She was involved in an accident that caused her severe brain injury, her brother committed suicide, her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and her 14 year old son died of osteosarcoma.
The thing is, though, not all losses are that drastic. Lesser losses might include life experiences such as the loss of a job or career, the end of a close friendship, a divorce, the death of a pet, or even the loss of an identity (such as parents who are taking their child to college and facing the beginning of the empty-nest phase), and a host of other possibilities.
Whatever the degree of loss, I think we can all agree that losses force us to walk down paths we would not otherwise have chosen to take. It’s during these journeys that we have to decide if we are going to use the heartache and confusion we are feeling as an opportunity for growth or allow it to whittle away at our emotions and curtail our vitality. And, by the way, though not all losses are equal, legitimate loss for you is defined by you. It is not defined by what other people think or say. If it feels like loss to you, grieve it.
The silver lining of loss, is that it can facilitate a precious time of reflection and self-awareness. During this time, there are three actions you can take to allow for growth towards self-awareness.
1) Grieve well. Allow yourself to fully experience the emotions you’re feeling. Tell your story as often as necessary for you to process your pain. Do NOT be silent and suppress your emotions – sweeping them under the rug and telling people you’re ok. That does not honor your emotions or allow for healing. Take as much time as you need to grieve fully. However, if in your grieving you feel “stuck” because you are not making progress and it feels like it’s be too long, you may need to seek help from a professional to allow grief to bring you back to a good place. It is possible for your grief, when processed properly, to yield a beautiful and pleasing end-result.
2) Take inventory. Loss brings change. Your life has changed. As a result some things don’t fit anymore. Now is the time to assess your true core values and determine what fits and what no longer does. Goals, relationships, your job/career, and self-care needs, to name a few, may need some adjusting or a major overhaul. Your self-awareness is emerging and developing. Take this opportunity to allow yourself to make those choices.
3) Be intentional. Now that you’ve revisited your true core values and decided what they really are, make decisions that align with those values. Muster the courage to move towards the life you’ve always wanted. Not the life that others have chosen for you, but what YOU want and what aligns with the values you’ve re-established through your self-awareness. Living intentionally will truly bring more joy, fulfillment, and depth to your life.
Loss in any degree is a game changer. It will be important for you to take deliberate and healthy steps toward processing it. Following the three elements of surviving loss can help you on that journey.
My goal is to help you be Present, be Aware, and be Intentional in how you live your life. If you would like more information on the subject, be sure to watch for my new book being released in December, MESSY, The Imperfect Journey to Self-Awareness, and subscribe to my monthly newsletter.
I look forward to hearing from you!
~Nancy S Kay