Dealing with loss

Dealing with loss can be hard, especially dealing with the loss of a loved one. We could feel all emotions at once – anger, grief, despair, denial, fear, worry, regret – and sometimes not feel anything at all.

None of us can escape sadness, loss or life’s disappointments. The best option is to know how to deal with them. When dealing with a tragedy, we don’t just deal with the suffering but also the thought that we are suffering.

From the book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant:

Part of every misery is misery’s shadow..the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer – C.S.Lewis

If you are dealing with a loss or have a friend or family member who is dealing with loss, I hope these tips come in handy.

1. Respect your feelings

Respect your feelings and do not try to suppress them. Sadness might creep over at odd times and it is OK to take a cry-break and pour our hearts out.

Growing up, I used to think that crying was a sign of weakness. I would force myself to suppress my feelings and put up a brave face, no matter how I felt inside. It never helped.

It is OK to feel anger and jealousy. It is OK to feel sad. Notice these feelings and let yourself feel them. Do not suppress them.

2. Beware of the 3Ps

The 3Ps stand for Personalization, Pervasiveness, and Permanence.

From Option B again:

After spending decades studying how people deal with setbacks, psychologist Martin Seligman found that three P’s can stunt recovery:

(1). personalization – the belief that we are at fault; (2). pervasiveness – the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; (3). permanence – the belief that the aftershocks of an event will last forever.

Personalization is the belief that we are at fault. When we lose someone dear to us, we tend to find ways in which we could have stopped it from happening. We blame ourselves for the loss. It’s important to accept the tragedy is not our fault. In order to move forward with the loss, we need to set ourselves free of the blame.

Pervasiveness is the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life. When dealing with a tragedy, it may feel like everything in our life is falling apart. We feel that we cannot be ourselves in any area of our life. But that’s not true. A personal loss need not affect every area of our life. It need not steal our identity.

Permanence is the belief that the aftershocks of an event will last forever. It is natural to feel that way in the aftermath of a loss. But remember, it gets better with time. We will always carry a scar from the loss, but the effect of the event will fade away.

3. Talk about it

When dealing with a loss, we are naturally inclined to shut ourselves down. Sometimes its the anger that this happened to someone we love or it could be the feeling that constantly talking about our loss is a burden to our close ones. Either way, remember that talking about the loss helps us accept it and the people around us who care about us truly would never treat it as a burden.

From Option B:

The two things we want to know when we’re in pain are that we’re not crazy to feel the way we do and that we have support. Acting like nothing significant is happening to people who look like us denies us all of that.

When we deny ourselves the support we deserve and bury our worries, they tend to multiply and take shapes that become hard to deal with later.

And if you have a friend who is presently going through a difficult time, remember that simply showing up for a friend can make a huge difference.

4. Take up journaling

I was never a writer, but taking up a journaling practice has helped me deal with personal losses. Writing taps into a part of the brain that has direct access to our feelings. Even if you do not have a writing habit, take up journaling for a few days if you are dealing with a tragedy. Just write down how you feel, whatever is in your heart. Write down your worries, your regrets, your fears.

From Option B:

Turning feelings into words can help us process and overcome adversity. Life can only be understood backward but it must be lived forward. Journaling can help make sense of the past and build the self-confidence to navigate to the present and future.

If you can’t stand the thought of reading what you wrote again, it is ok to tear it down. Just the act of writing down our thoughts helps us get clarity.