By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
Losses are a painful part of life, whether this means the death of loved one (a friend, spouse or pet), the breakup of a relationship, or becoming disabled in some way through injury. At its core, loss is about losing relationships. Even the loss of a job, whether through retirement or being fired, is about losing relationships – in this case, it includes the loss of your relationships with co-workers and with your identity as a working person. As with most other difficulties in life, coping effectively with loss means having to find peace within yourself.
Achieving such peace involves becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings so that you can learn what you need in order to soothe your pain. You can do this by:
Accepting your loss. It is natural to want to deny the loss or push it out of your consciousness. Undoubtedly, though, you know in your heart that change, including loss, is part of life. Accepting your loss, grieving, and coming to terms with it is the only path to truly finding inner peace and to once again embracing life.
Accepting your need for comfort and love. Despite how it might feel, you are not alone. When you open yourself up to the caring offered by others, you will find that accepting this gift is healing. While people might offer caring or comfort in big ways, such as by checking in regularly or suggesting that you spend time together, they might also offer it in small ways, such as by simply saying they are sorry for your loss. In either case, it can be helpful to fully absorb that others are sympathetic.
Remember, it’s okay to ask for support in whatever form you need it. Similarly, offering help to others – whether giving to friends or volunteering – can also buoy you up.
Being grateful for the positives still in your life. While nothing will make the pain of your loss disappear, being grateful can help to ease that pain by offering a balanced perspective. It enables you to see your loss within the larger picture of what life has to offer, and even what your relationship (now in the past) has given to you. With gratitude in mind, consider how the future can appear even just a little better.
Open yourself up to personal growth. While sitting in your grief or gently urging yourself forward, remain open to insights about yourself and life. This can help you build inner strength and resilience. For instance, you might gain a new perspective about what your relationship has meant to you or about how you connect with others in your life. Many people who wrestle with loss find that their other relationships improve, their sense of spirituality and appreciation for life are enhanced, and they feel emotionally stronger despite their sad feelings and sense of vulnerability.
Take care of yourself. Most of us know that it’s important to take care of our emotional and physical well-being. The problem is that we often don’t do it. So, prioritize this even when you don’t feel like it. Exercise regularly. Eat healthily. Do what you can to get enough sleep. Make time for those activities that you enjoy and that tend to rejuvenate you. Consider incorporating prayer, meditation, or other spiritual practices into your daily life.
There is no getting around the fact that loss is painful. However, you can move through this pain, and even be better for it in some ways, by being aware of your needs and working to address them.
The Art of Relationships blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.