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How to Move Through A Loss
By Art Ramsay, Ph.D.

 As humans we have several ways of relating to ‘the world’ and what happens within it. Our intellect guides us through the ‘how’ and sometimes the ‘why’ of our experiences, and our bodies take care of the physical aspects, but our emotions are at the root of what most of us experience. Thus when someone or something that has been close to our hearts, leaves us we become engulfed by emotion. Moving through the loss of a loved one, whether a family member, friend, or animal companion is never painless.

 Having some direction to make the experience easier is always welcomed by someone grieving and encouraged by others. We should not have to bear such an ordeal alone, so the first step is to tell someone. Depending on who has left the earth-plane, call the appropriate people first, then anyone else you can think of that will both help with the process and comfort you. Be careful that the ‘sympathizers’ don’t drive you deeper into despair though.

 When we are grieving we need compassion, not sympathy. There is a big difference. From Wickipedia: Compassion is a profound human emotion prompted by the pain of others. More vigorous than empathy, the feeling commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another's suffering. Most definitions for sympathy relate to pity and sorrow for the person suffering.

 Grief is usually about our loss and not about the one who left, but at first, it can be about both, especially if the person’s transition was violent, like a suicide. Most of us believe in some way that the person or animal that left is a spiritual being first and a body second. Which means that essence of the bodily form is a life-force; something that lives and breathes the body. When the body dies it is because this life-force has left. The person or animal is the life-force and only uses the body to function on this plane of life. Most religious traditions speak of this change in some way as did the ancient masters. Whether you believe this statement or not doesn’t matter to this discussion, but you might want to consider its possibility; it will make your own transition a lot easier.

 The next step is to consider your relationship with the ‘deceased’ and how this loss will affect you. For example, the loss of a spouse or child would have a greater effect than that of a friend in most cases. The relationship aspect can get very complex and I don’t want to focus on that, just give you something to consider during the first stages of grief. By surfacing how your life will change due to that person or animal no longer being in it, will help you readjust over time.

 Remember how the two of you related, the experiences you shared, the fun you had, the sad times you lived through, and the adventures you experienced. Reliving your experiences will solidify your relationship and what the person or animal brought to your life. What did you learn from that person or animal? How did it help you at the time and after? I still remember subtle lessons I learned from my grandmother even though she has been gone for a quarter of a century. Understanding what you learned will help you know the many reasons the person or animal was in your life.

 Take time to grieve. This is a natural process and it takes awhile to unravel the pain you feel within due to someone close to you leaving. Do not mistake the feeling of loss for the person who left as one of self-pity or of feeling sorry for the ‘deceased’. You are the one who is feeling the pain of loss and have the right to be with that as long as it takes to come to closure. Know, however, that there is a timeframe through which all of this takes place and is different for everyone. You feel loss for something that was in your life, perhaps for a long time, and is now gone. That is why it is important to make every effort to sort out how things will be different and what that person or animal gave to you.

 All of us have gone through a loss in the past and will go through more in the future. It is a part of life; it cannot be avoided. Therefore, accepting it as a natural occurrence even thought the circumstances may have seemed unnatural will help resolve some of the pain more easily. We will all leave this life at some point; as someone said, it is the only thing that is guaranteed.

 A different kind of loss might be the dissolution of a marriage or partnership, or someone disappearing and not knowing what happened to them. For some, it can be as devastating as a physical death of a loved one or maybe even more acute. The steps for grieving such an occasion aren’t much different than what I have written above; grief is grief.

 The main point here is that grieving is a process and will last as long as it needs to for each person. We can make it easier by following a few simple steps or lose control and fall into an abyss of anger or pity. Anger my well be a temporary mode of grieving, but extending it beyond a short period of time is devastating. Having compassionate people nearby to help you through the experience is probably the most important action you can take during this process.

 

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