The experience of grief and loss is something that happens to all of us at some level throughout our lives. The level of loss we may feel will be unique to each of us and our tolerance level for grief will also be a very personal journey. The spectrum of loss is vast, including the loss of material possessions, to losing a job, losing your career, the loss of a friend or partner in a relationship break-up, loss of a pet, loss of health and well-being, and perhaps most difficult for the majority of us, the loss of a loved one.
How can we reconcile the loss of a loved one? I am not sure that we should. As deeply painful as it may be, perhaps it is the very pain of loss to which we should be mindful. As we strive to accept our loss, part of this process could also be to accept the pain. The pain of being left behind, the pain of the final good-bye, the pain of words left unsaid, the pain of deeds left undone. The pain that feels like an emptiness that might never leave, or an ache that penetrates your very core, and becomes a physical hurt. Without the full experience of this pain, and the acceptance of it, without judging it as a negative or positive emotion, we cannot grow and evolve our “humanness”. The experience of all emotions is an attribute of what makes us truly human.
The intensity of how we feel different emotions is going to vary for each individual. We cannot appreciate the emotions we may label as “good” or “positive” emotions (because they make us feel good), if we do not experience emotions from the opposite side of the emotional spectrum. The challenge is to be aware of how we react when we are confronted with the ultimate loss of a loved one. We should allow ourselves to grieve, and respect that we will all grieve differently.
Take care of you: allow yourself to cry when you feel sad or depressed; give yourself time to be alone if that is what you need; recall the memories of your loved one with friends and family and be OK to laugh or cry with them too; talk to a stranger; join a grief support group; seek out a grief counsellor; be selfish in your grief; give yourself time; listen to your body if is it displaying signs of stress; try to maintain healthy eating and exercise habits; accept kindness from family, friends and strangers.
There are many options to do whatever you need to do to experience your loss and for most*, time will allay the intensity of your grief. In this intensity of emotion, there is a new opportunity for personal growth and self-discovery. The way in which we conduct ourselves in our career and our lives can also be significantly affected by this loss. As with other challenges throughout our careers and our lives, we need to be cognizant of how we deal with this particular hurdle. Hopefully we can incorporate the experience of grief to help us be more empathetic and sensitive to others and communicate better with those around us. The ideal would be that we come to fully appreciate the precious gift of life, and to live our own lives to the fullest of our capability.
*If you are finding that you are unable to work through your loss using your own resources, I would strongly urge you to seek professional assistance. Please let me know if I may be of assistance or can refer you to grief support resources.