Everyone goes through a form of death, on a regular basis. Be it a loss of something important, a breakup, or even a death of someone close to our hearts, death is a part of life. Loss is a part of life. It’s something traumatic that we have to deal with. And yes, the occurrence is regular.
Most people dread loss, but what we don’t realize is that it is central to being human. It is inescapable. It is unavoidable.
We lose material things we’ve loved dearly. We lose pets. In fact, we lose friends to moving away to greener pastures. And we lose loved ones to distance and changes in life phases.
We lose relationships with significant others when we discover we can no longer continue with the relationship one day further. And we experience the most intense form of loss when someone close to us dies. So we have to accept the fact that loss, death, is a part of life. Nothing can change that. Least of all, wishful thinking can’t eliminate loss from our daily existence.
So what do you do when loss visits you?
- Admit the truth. Nothing can be as detrimental to your healing as the denial of the truth. The first step to anything in this world is admission of the truth that there IS loss. Then you can make the steps to healing, growing, and moving on.
Go through the stages of grief. And go through them with flying colors and aplomb. You’re grieving. You’re miserable, so you might as well do it in a big way, in a fabulous way. Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross formulated the Stages of Grief model for grieving for death. However, you may find that you go through the same stages, even with just the loss of a crucial object or a favorite pet, or even in a breakup. Here are the stages, as Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross formulated them:
Some therapists say that these stages are interchangeable, but the progression is generally linear. In fact, going back to a previous stage may connote regression. We recommend moving out of Denial as the most crucial way to get a headstart on your healing. When we recommended #1, an admission of the truth, it’s the first way to grapple with and move on from Denial.
Work on getting to the Acceptance stage steadily. While you should be kind to yourself and not beat yourself up when you do regress to a previous stage, always work towards properly and speedily moving forward and up to Acceptance. Do not linger on Depression way too long, either, and watch out for the signs of clinical depression.
Arm yourself with ways to cope. There can be no growth in a vacuum, so don’t just mope there. Cope! And while getting drunk is a way to cope, don’t buy into escape or just ruminating over what-might-have-beens. There are healthy ways to cope:
Catharsis. It’s a fancy way of saying, “Let it all out.” Find a friend, or five, who will listen to you hash and rehash the event. Some friends may not be emotionally available to help you with this, but identify the ones who will be patient with you to work with you through the process. Choose friends who will be able to keep your woes in confidence, and who will give you the right perspective on what happened to you. As much as possible, avoid those who will judge you and belittle your feelings. When you are well, return the favor.
It would also be great if you could set a timetable for yourself to quit talking about the issue. Talking about it for a month or two is healthy, as long as the friend will let you. After that, distance yourself from the issue so that you can move on. What is important is that you let it out and gained perspective.
Systematic Desensitization. It’s another fancy word that simply means, “Feel the pain and feel it, baby.” Here are some things you can do:
- Build a YouTube playlist of all the saddest songs you can find. Listen to them for hours on end. Feel each emotion as you can bear. Mope, and mope strategically. You may find yourself a glass of your favorite alcoholic drink to go with the playlist, and SING! SING!!! Then when you’re done with the playlist, move on. And watch your alcohol intake, so that you don’t turn into a case for Alcoholics Anonymous.
- Force yourself to think about the trauma or the loss. Force yourself to face your demons, those bad feelings, for around five minutes. Or until as much as you can bear. Facing the feelings and the trauma will cause your psyche to avoid repression. Repression is an unconscious coping mechanism that drives the memories of the traumatic event deeper into your psyche. Repression will cause your unconscious to haunt you back years later, or to react to a similar trauma later in life in unconscious, possibly unhealthy ways. So it’s better for you to be conscious while you face your feelings. Don’t be scared of them, and face them bravely. Eventually, you’ll heal because you let them run their course in your mind. At least, for this moment that you’re healing.
- Journaling. This is also a form of catharsis, but you’re doing this alone. Journaling is a great outlet to use, because it keeps the issues private. You should also reread your entries, to gain better perspectives on what happened. Rereading allows you to pick out flaws in your own logic and help you change the way you saw the event. It will also help you grow and be a better person, because you now see the flaws in your logic or perception of it.
- Distraction/Activities. There’s nothing wrong with choosing distractions or distracting yourself by adding more activities to your schedule.
- Exercise. Start a regular gym session. Walk. These will cause your body to release endorphins that will make you happy.
- Laugh. Watch funny YouTube videos. Rent or buy funny movies. Laughter releases endorphins, as well as stimulates happiness that will help you overcome your loss.
- Change things. Change your diet. Move apartments. Read up on health and add supplements like Fish Oil to your daily vitamin intake. Fish Oil helps with one’s mood, and helps avert depression. Adding changes to your life will replace the bad memories with new good ones, and will change the routine you used to have. Moving is especially helpful for breakups, especially those breakups that involve moving out and separating assets and properties. The change of environment will help you erase the old memories and create new ones.
- Therapy. If you find that all of these coping tips still do not work, and you need professional help with changing the way you think, even the way you live, then don’t be afraid or ashamed to seek professional help. A trained professional is better equipped to guide you through coping with the loss and helping you heal. And even when you’re a Psych grad or you’re in the therapeutic industry and you still hit a wall with your coping, there’s no shame in turning to a professional to help you through this time. Think of it as an emotional crutch for an emotional accident. You’ll need it while you’re healing, but you can certainly ditch it when you’re well.
- Catharsis. It’s a fancy way of saying, “Let it all out.” Find a friend, or five, who will listen to you hash and rehash the event. Some friends may not be emotionally available to help you with this, but identify the ones who will be patient with you to work with you through the process. Choose friends who will be able to keep your woes in confidence, and who will give you the right perspective on what happened to you. As much as possible, avoid those who will judge you and belittle your feelings. When you are well, return the favor.
There is no one way to cope and to heal with a loss, and no one is immune to being broken when bad things happen. So face your moment of brokenness with a resolute heart, and work on healing. Remember that focusing on your healing is far better than making bad choices because you dragged yourself through life without facing this moment bravely.
Instead of becoming a dysfunctional person who flits from relationship to relationship and uses those as an equally dysfunctional crutch, work on healing, finding wholeness, then make choices. Never make major choices, such as a new relationship, when you are unwell, or even confused. Remember that a bad fit or a bad relationship will make for another chance to get broken if it doesn’t work out.
So live life better. Make better choices. When loss visits you, heal. Work on growing. Work on being whole. And this is how you heal, and live, fabulously.