This is the second part of a two-part blog post on Living With Loss. To read the first part, click here.
When I lose you, I lose me too
Loss changes our world. The world we live in after a loss is no longer the familiar place from which we can draw comfort. It is unknown and uncertain, and we don’t know how to navigate it. Grief and mourning are natural responses at these times—expressions of the “love that has lost its object and has nowhere to go” (Michael Stone).
Loss can contract our world so that we are unable to see beyond our sorrow—we find ourselves unable to conceive of feeling any joy in the future. We can be mired in self-pity and hopelessness, believing that nothing can ever make up for what we have lost. And indeed, nothing can make up for it. But no matter how overwhelming our loss, there is still a larger world that we are part of, which is waiting for us with open arms, to offer its beauty and joy. The narrowing of our view to focus only on our loss can become a prison if we are unable to eventually see past it.
What really chains us down is our unwillingness to accept our new reality, the wish that things could go back to how they used to be. Our tendency is to try and hold on to what we have lost by ruminating on the experiences that we had in the past. This rumination prevents us from being thankful and appreciative of what we had; instead making us bitter about what we have lost. The issue is not the grief—which is only natural—but rather, our unwillingness to let loss change us. We are unable or unwilling to face the questions that our experience of loss has forced upon us: What is my new life? What does it look like? Who am I now?
Exploring these questions can often reveal the emotions that keep us tied to the past. What we might assume only to be lost love, may harbor a fear of the new future—how will I manage? The loss of a job can feel like the loss of livelihood, but underneath might be the fear—what will people think of me now that I have been fired? Exploring our experience of loss can reveal guilt about things not done, time not spent, words not said; even guilt about betraying someone by moving on from the loss. A death can spark our fear of our own mortality, something that we may have avoided but now insists on being seen.
What we discover in this exploration can be revealing, presenting us with “aha” moments; it can be scary, showing us things we don’t want to face; it can be confusing, as we may not understand what shows up or how to work with it. During this exploration it can help greatly to receive support from a therapist, as well as from holistic healing modalities like homeopathy, reiki and the like. These tools help our system deal with our emotions, while we do the important work of processing our loss and rebuilding our lives. This self-exploratory work is the only way to maturity, wisdom and compassion. When we are able to look inside and discover what keeps us bound, we can choose to work with it to become free; to realize that loss is a part of life; and that going through it is part of our shared humanity.
When our personal and particular grief opens a window, even for a moment, onto the universal truth of impermanence, of life and loss, then through our grief, we walk with all the world.