By Susan Golicic
We’ve all experienced loss in our lives, from missing out on a big opportunity to being hurt in relationships to the death of a family member. We feel sadness, anger and pain at these times because we care, we love and we invest ourselves in the opportunity or person. Loss is not easy to deal with, and we often try to mask the pain from ourselves and hide it from others. We numb it rather than feel it. We don’t let anyone see how we are doing. We tell them “I’m fine” or even lash out by saying “I wish people would stop asking me how I am and worrying about me.” We do this to protect ourselves because coupled with the pain of loss comes doubt, about ourselves and of love in general.
Stages of Grief
When we experience loss, the way through is to grieve. That is the way through. The stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They may occur in different orders. We may bounce back and forth between them. There is no timeline for any of them. There may be additional emotions felt like confusion, frustration, sadness. Grief is unique just as the magnitude of each loss we experience is unique. But grief is necessary to help us learn to accept what has happened. Acceptance doesn’t mean we are okay or have forgotten what happened. It simply means we accept the reality that the loss occurred. Depending on what happened, forgiveness might be necessary to achieve acceptance. I recommend reading Desmond Tutu’s The Book of Forgiving.
Grieving helps us learn to live with the loss because it doesn’t go away. If we refuse to grieve and instead hide behind a mask, we will be stuck in a false reality requiring continued efforts to protect ourselves. And while hiding we wouldn’t really be living, and all the while the loss will still be there.
My Personal Experience with Grief
I would like to share a personal story. Eight months ago, my sister-in-law was killed in a car accident. Three weeks later the man I was in love with ended our relationship, and two months after that my best friend told me she didn’t feel like we were friends and wanted time apart. I felt like my heart was shattered repeatedly over those three months. I felt alone and in the dark – those closest to me were no longer there to help me. I was afraid to trust in anyone else – I didn’t want to risk more of this kind of pain that comes with loving. I hid for a time, but nothing felt better and I actually started feeling worse. I knew that if I would coach a friend or client to face the pain, that I needed to as well. It has been a long, hard road through the grief, but I learned that I was strong enough to get through the emotions. I accepted what happened and even found gratitude for what each person and experience brought to my life. Light always follows darkness.
The beauty of life and love is that we don’t know what is beyond the present moment. Just as we will all experience loss, we all have the power to heal if we are willing to go through the grief. The universe will bring us what we need. I do believe love is worth the risk of loss and that belief will help mend a shattered heart.