The experience of losing something we value is a part of life no one can escape from. Loss has many shapes and forms, it could be a relationship that comes to an end, a loved one dies, a break up comes, children leave or any other sort of transition that brings about a feeling of loss. When a feeling of loss happens, learning to cope is essential to be able to bounce back. When we lose something, we go through a period of grieving process which can generally start with denial and then go to feelings of anger, sadness and then acceptance. Awareness is important to make sure you're not stuck in any of these stages and that you can process each and move forward.
Here are some general steps you can follow when you're hit with a loss:
1. Acknowledge and accept the feelings: The first step is to learn to bring the feeling out. Many people avoid, suppress or repress these because they feel uncomfortable not knowing that these feelings will only make them feel more uncomfortable in the future if not processed at the right time. Research shows that people who do not deal with their negative emotions in a healthy way have many more physiological problems as well as psychological ones. Feelings like anger, sadness, confusion, being overwhelmed, loneliness, frustration, resentment, shock, disbelief, guilt, regret, emptiness, confusion, fear and many other negative emotions may come to work their way through you when you are facing a loss. You want to find a safe place to face these. Maybe a trustworthy friend who is a good listener, a counselor, a support group, reading books on the subject, praying, meditation or any other tool that may help you deal with the emotions. Find what works for you and get to face these feelings and deal with them.
2. Start taking steps to fill up the void within: When you lose something of value to you, there is usually an empty spot within you that craves your attention. The closer your connection and the more intense the loss, the more profound the emptiness may feel. When ready and within a reasonable time frame that you set for yourself, you have to find ways to fill up this gap with something positive that makes you feel good whether it is another relationship or an activity that generates vitality and gives your life a new meaning. Redefining parts of your life after a loss may be needed to compensate for the empty spot. Getting into a good relationship, doing volunteer work that gives your life a new meaning, joining fun recreational activities, or traveling are just some of the examples of how to bring about something positive.
3. Learn to grow from the loss: Every loss has a message. Whether the message is for you to be more loving and accepting, to learn to be more resilient, to learn to adjust to what you cannot change, or to change something you can; if you can step out of the emotion and observe the message clearly, you can grow out of it with a little more awareness. Almost anyone I have talked to who has come to a place of acceptance with the experience of loss can look back and find an element of growth in it. There is an old saying that says "help me change the things I can change, adjust to the things I cannot change, and give me the wisdom to know the difference."
4. Replace the negative feelings with positive ones: Cognitive modification is a great tool to be used here. Using statements that focus on looking at the loss as something temporary. For example, "that was a rough period of my life but I will move forward." Or, seeing the event as not being your whole life "I have so many other things to look forward to in my life." Or, looking at it as a learning lesson, "now I know how to do this" or generalize positively "so many things are working out great." Sit down and write a list of what is good or great in your life and put it somewhere you can take a look at on a daily base until you're at peace with your loss.
5. Feel liberated and move forward: When you lose something of value to you, you need to focus on modifying your relationship with it. You can do this by changing your relationship from an attachment to a detached way of connection. This means you can have a place for it in your heart if you chose to but a place of peace without the pain. Any kind of pain or negative emotion will create anxious attachment. However, this takes time and practice, it takes an effort to modify your cognition to prepare for this, so don't force it and be patient with the process. When you get to this place, you can let go when you need to and move forward without feeling like something is holding you back. In other words, you can cherish the good moments and release the painful ones and cut the cord.
6. Learn to become more emotionally stable: Emotional health is important to be able to go through life's ups and downs. People with high emotional intelligence learn to feel more positive emotions and less negative ones even when life's challenges hit them. They learn to regulate their emotions and become more resilient.
7. Start evaluating your faith: People with a set of value system that brings about a sense of reassurance and trust in life and in something bigger than themselves can bounce back easier from a sad situation. Whether through meditation, prayers, relaxation, quiet time or self reflection; identify what it is that you have or want to have faith in. Then evaluate your life, look at the past and see how things have been unfolding for you. Ask yourself what it means for you to have faith, how you can implement it to lift your spirit up, and what it can do for you and your heart's peace.
At the end, do things that positively impact others, engage in meaningful and creative activities, make time for your self-reflection, pay attention to your senses and enjoy simple things with full attention, and learn to discover new things in life and never lose hope since many people in your situation have been able to pass through it and there is no reason for you not to be able to do the same.
Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD
Self Knowledge Base & Foundation
A nonprofit dedicated to public education