Hello SOTGC community,
Loss is so much more than what our fears make it out to be.
Change that results from loss is part of what makes us who we are, and it often determines whom we choose to become. That’s pretty important!
So let’s not pretend it’s just something to get over.
It’s more like a tunnel we travel through to emerge new on the other side. It can be a dark one at times, but no less transformational.
In this post I want to help you see how to embrace loss for what it is: a human experience that causes us to re-evaluate who we are, what we value, and what we want to do.
Why? Because I don’t want you missing out on a big opportunity to experience your inner resources, embrace your full self, and clarify your direction.
And before you think this post doesn’t apply to you, let’s acknowledge the fact that loss is involved in all kinds of change, not just tragedy, as we often think of it.
These are all times of loss:
-When you suddenly get laid off or fired.
-When you lose a promotion you thought was in the bag.
-When you lose your community after transferring to a new location.
-When you realize your career path isn’t what you dreamed of.
-When someone you love hurts you in a way you never expected.
-When you get promoted, and lose the safety of your old role.
-When you outgrow a group of friends.
-When you have your first child, and your life changes…
Loss is fundamental to life. As little as we like to talk about it, it’s an experience we all share.
Not only that, but it’s a meaningful part of the story of our lives.
In our minds, we often reduce loss to pain (and then run from it!). But when we slow down and really observe what’s there for us, we also find appreciation, recognition, love, forgiveness, self-compassion, letting go, a renewed sense of what’s important, new purpose, and new decisions to make.
Loss is less like a pit of discomfort (though some moments may feel like that), and more like a crossroads.
It’s where the course of our life breaks off into a slightly—or entirely—new direction.
Loss stops us momentarily, and asks us to consider … what just happened? How have I changed? What am I leaving behind? Who am I now? What’s important? And what new purpose or action is calling me?
Consciously embracing loss as a crossroads can help us feel empowered to complete the journey that loss begins, instead of assuming it’s only an ending. In this journey, we let ourselves have the wholeness of our human experience.
And in that experience, as we allow pain or sorrow to naturally shift into other sensations like release and gratitude, we realize our strength and resilience.
We see that loss changes us, but it doesn’t break us.
We acknowledge our connection to humanity, what’s important to us, and witness a new story of our life beginning.
We get to know our change from the inside out, and listen for our heart and instinct to point us in the right direction. Often, this can resonate so much deeper, giving us more confidence than conceptualizing our way forward would.
You and your experience of loss are precious, and not to be glossed over. Here are some tips that may help you embrace it:
- Choose your perspective.
Your approach matters. The meaning you assign to your loss will guide your journey. If you choose to look at it as punishment, for example (the “why me?” mentality), then you’ll seek a meaningful answer to that question. Notice how it feels to imagine that ending.
But if you choose a perspective that holds the biggest possibility for you, one that is meaningful to you, like “This experience will help me build the courage I want to bring to my new role.” Or, “It will take a miracle to see a way forward, but I will look for the miracle,” you’ll head in a similar direction.
To find a perspective that’s meaningful to you, try asking these questions:
What if this experience were given to me so that I could serve the world in a bigger way?
What very important question is the universe asking me right now?
What is the best possible outcome that could emerge from this challenging experience?
Like almost anything in life, the perspective you choose to approach this experience will have a big impact on what happens next.
- Feel your emotions.
It’s worth mentioning that repressing emotions will increase your stress hormones, and as seductive as that is in our fast-pace society, it’s not worth the tax on your nervous system. (It’s likely to stifle your productivity, not enhance it.)
Two things you can do to keep feeling your emotions are 1) focus on sensations without judging them and 2) do what relaxes you and makes you feel safe enough to let go.
When you clear your own judgments about your emotions, you actually create a safer environment for yourself to feel. Focus on the physical sensations you’re having, rather than your interpretation of them. Locate where you feel disappointment, for example, and observe that as you feel it. If it’s in your belly, show a little tenderness and put your hand on your belly.
(If you have trouble with this, imagine someone you know who is loving, accepting, and who makes you feel ok just the way you are. As soon as you bring up the feelings associated with being loved by that person, you’re actually doing that for yourself.)
To take the best care of yourself, give yourself permission to follow your instincts. Often we already know what we need to heal. Take walks in nature if that calms you, or watch a sappy movie marathon. Try connecting with someone who’s had a similar experience. Or solicit a tender friend to sit with you as you fall apart a little.
If the process is overwhelming, don’t hesitate to find a professional to hold space for you. Do whatever helps you be with the sensations that are a part of this important time.
Once you have a created a positive context for your experience (by choosing a perspective), all you need is time and reflection to complete your journey and emerge stronger on the other side.
Grab a journal, or spend a day at the beach. Find enough idle time for yourself to get curious, reflect, and listen for what your heart and instincts are telling you.
I’ve mentioned a host of questions already in this post to get you started, and here are a few more:
What’s important about this experience?
What am I honoring?
What is it time to let go of?
How will I commemorate this loss and honor this change in myself?
What new direction is calling me?
What do I need to commit to, in order to move in that direction?
What do I need to refrain from, in order to move in that direction?
I know from experience that the more time you give yourself to really sit with these questions, the richer the clarity that unfolds.
- Be patient.
Don’t force an outcome or insight. It will happen on it’s own.
Feelings are sensory experiences that are always shifting. They have a pace all their own, and when they’re done, they’re done. The nature of our experience will evolve if we don’t resist it.
Sometimes when we move through a really big change (that can be sparked by a surprisingly small event), it can take time to complete it. There’s no rush. Savor your process with great respect for yourself and what you’re going through.
Remember, you don’t have to push yourself; you only have to point yourself in the right direction. If you feel lost, that’s okay. Clarity will emerge on it’s own as long as you patiently keep listening for it.
When it’s time to act, you’ll know.
I appreciate your openness in exploring this take on loss. And I’m curious: what resonates with you about this? Have you experienced a loss or disappointment that turned out to shape who you are?
Let us know in the comments!
*William Bridges’ Transitions; Making Sense of Life’s Changes is an enormously insightful book I read after experiencing a recent loss. Bridges does a wonderful job of contextualizing the entire experience, and opening the reader’s eyes to the meaning behind it. It influences how I now approach loss with my coaching clients as well as in my own life, and is an important part of the research behind this post. I recommend reading it!