In my last post I mentioned that my mother just passed away. Since then I spent two days with my siblings and children going through my mom’s memorabilia, reminiscing, along with some crying too. Overcoming loss is an art. I don’t know if I have the technique down but I thought I’d pass along what I know and what I’m learning along the way.
I say that overcoming loss is an art because there is no formula for dealing with loss. There are only principles to consider. How well you work the principles determine how much of an artist you are.
Following are some principles to consider. I relate them to the current loss of my mother but they apply to all losses in life.
The Art of Overcoming Loss
- Understand and appreciate the power of loss. We deal with loss every day. Every day we have expectations that aren’t met. Every unmet expectation is a loss. Loss produces a range of emotion; anger, fear, sadness, etc. Be aware of this. Explore it. Seek to understand it. Ignoring it won’t make it go away.
- Give yourself permission to experience the range of emotion. Too often we think that we have to control our emotions. We don’t allow ourselves to feel let alone emote. Why? God gave us emotions for a reason. Feel them. Express them. Let them speak to you about your loss and teach you the depth of your connection to what you lost. I keep getting hit by waves of sadness. But I don’t want to block that or ignore it. It’s okay. It’s normal. Some of the sadness has to do with missing my mom. But as I reflect on it, some of my sadness has to do with sensing that things will never be the same.
- Give yourself space to grieve the loss. There is something in us that wants to “move on”. In fact, some of us pride ourselves in not skipping a beat in life. There’s a word for that: denial. We set my mother’s memorial for six weeks out. But I needed to grieve now, not later. I grabbed my family and joined my siblings in Arizona the last two days to purposefully process our loss together. It was very valuable. I’m so glad we dropped everything to do it.
- Understand all the losses associated with the bigger loss. Every loss has a chain reaction of other losses. For example, it hurts to lose my mom but there are a string of losses that come from her death:
– my family won’t get together as much
– I will rarely visit Florida any more which I’ve done for 30 years.
– I will no longer have the rhythm of calling and visiting my mom
– I am now, with my siblings, the keeper of the legacy. Not mom.
– Holidays and vacations will be absent her presence. There are many more.
- Understand that your loss experience is unique. Don’t force your experience or expectations on others. How my siblings and children deal with the loss of my mom is different from how I deal with it. Our experience with mom has been different. I can’t judge their experience – or mine – as good or bad, right or wrong. It just is what it is.
- Talk to people about your loss and their loss experience. When you talk about your experience things come out of your mouth that gives insight. When you bottle it up you lose that insight. Talk and keep talking until you feel like you have moved through it.
- Don’t think you are “over it”. The more you love someone or something the longer the pain of loss. The pain may never completely go away and that’s not a bad thing. That just shows how deeply your life was knit to what you loved. If you expect yourself to “get over it” but don’t….then that’s yet another loss. Don’t set an unrealistic expectation like that.
I find grief and loss fascinating. I’ve written some about it in my upcoming book (STUCK). Overcoming loss is an art. I hope we can all develop the artistry.
Question: My list isn’t exhaustive by any means. What principles have you learned about the art of overcoming loss? Leave your comment below. Consider “sharing the knowledge” on Facebook.