Loss is more
When we think about loss and grief, we automatically think about losing someone close to us and ultimately death. Loss is a thread that weaves its way throughout our lives, impacting on our young and mature selves and often the result of this is encountering change. Although it is not always obvious and may not always feel like it, with change can come growth.
There are many times this thread of loss touches our lives, but we don’t always register it as loss. It is felt not only when someone close or precious to us dies, it is also felt in redundancy, divorce and separation. For some people when their children leave home for college or University it can leave them bereft. It may come when we go through the changes that come with age, or maybe lose a home or move home, lose a friendship or a treasured possession that we’ve held dear. There can be layers of emotions around guilt and regret perhaps related to actions or decisions that have been made.
Having experienced the Covid-19 pandemic, we have all shared and added another layer to our loss and grief. For some it may have exacerbated existing unresolved issues and for many its impact has been highlighted even more. At times it has felt like we’ve all been tied up, bound and unable to break free.
There is no ‘right’ way to react to loss, as unique as we are we will all react in our own way. There is no way to measure how long some of the emotions and feelings related to loss will last. An individual may feel good one day and crushed the next, it’s not a linear process and it can make an individual feel disoriented and lost.
People sometimes mention the five stages of loss and grief, these are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Every individual will work through the stages of loss in their own time. No two people react the same, even in the same family. Elisabeth Kubler Ross said ‘’the reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not 'get over' the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to." The feelings and emotions that come with loss can be overwhelming both emotionally and physically and this can lead to an impact on our mental health.
We have all felt the shared loss of freedom and for some the impact of that has made it difficult for them to start to return to some normalcy. The loss of quality time spent with our family and friends has created loneliness and anxiety. The complexities of not having the choice to do things the way we’ve done them before, has been extremely tough for some and that thread of loss has touched us all more deeply than any of us could have imagined.
Developing some self-care strategies can help. Connecting to nature and breathing in fresh air and exposure to natural light may reduce sleep problems and anxiety. Taking 15 minutes a day to go for a walk, perhaps visit a park or the seashore will support self-care and make a difference to the day.
Some other key considerations for coping with loss and its impact on everyday life may be to spend some time focusing on the four P’s:
Take your time and agree with yourself how much time you can afford to give daily to thinking about and processing your loss, this may involve taking some time out of the day an hour or two to create a memory box or start to keep a journal.
Prioritise routines, habits and patterns
What order do you feel you want to take that may support you in rebuilding your life? Is it to connect to others as you did before, or do you want to try something new?
Plan - what will support you moving forward?
Are there specific tasks or things you feel you need to attend to? Are you able to do those tasks on your own or do you need some support to complete them?
People - Who is in your support network?
Are you alone or do you have some family or friends close by that you can talk to? Who or where else can you ask for further information or practical support if you feel you need it?
Time and self-compassion will help us recover and repair. In the words of Mary Van Haute ‘‘You will survive, and you will find purpose in the chaos. Moving on doesn’t mean letting go’’.
Taking time for ourselves to reflect on how we move forward will also support us in accepting a new normal. Listening to our body and taking time to consider what we need and when we need it is an important skill. This may include changes to how we go about our everyday lives from our working week to our shopping habits.
Loss is more and from it we can all learn something new and resilient about ourselves.