When Loss can be a Lesson
It took me a long time to see that my brother's death was more than a loss, it was a lesson. It was an opportunity to grow, and to help others. He took his own life, and in that final act I was lost for a long time, but now it is my mission to help others to heal from the pain and learn to connect to themselves again, in a way that brings them joy and passion and a renewed sense of Self.
His life and death have taught me a lot and for that I am forever grateful, and I know that he came and left this world to teach all of those he met, particularly his immediate family - the true essence of love, living in the moment, being true to oneself, believing in oneself even when others don’t, and to not let other people’s opinions and baggage, define you or affect you.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/sumetho
Loss doesn’t always have to be the end of the story.
I’m not talking just about death and loss of a loved one. Loss comes in many forms. Being made redundant, the end of a relationship, children growing up and leaving home, questioning your identity, moving towns or changing jobs, leaving school, and even misplacing a cherished item. Loss can be felt when an illness or financial strain forces you to modify your lifestyle.
One thing I need to make clear is that it is ok to grieve. You need to give yourself time to grieve. You need to grieve for that ending, that loss in and of itself, but also, the future you had imagined that will no longer be. You need to grieve the loss of your comfort zone and your stability, and grieve the fact that change is afoot and things won’t be the same again. You can’t take back what has been lost, and so you need to grieve the situation, accept the situation, heal, and move on. Some losses are easier to heal from, some aren’t. There is no set time-frame and everyone is different. There are five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance (Kübler-Ross, 1969) and if your loss involves other people, you need to recognize that they might not be in the same stage of grief as you are, and you need to afford each other the chance to grieve in your own unique way.
So how can loss be a lesson? A loss can teach you something about yourself, about your priorities, what you want in life, what your purpose is, and what steps you need to take to achieve your goals. Loss can teach you that certain values, qualities, and moments are more important than others and help you to focus on and give time to, the most important parts of your life first. Loss can teach you that some people, behaviours, and attitudes in your life are detrimental and need to be released. Loss can teach you the importance of relationships and expressing your feelings as if there is no tomorrow. Loss can teach you the importance of taking action. Loss can give you an epiphany, a clear insight as to how your life had been progressing prior to the loss, how it has been affected by the loss, and how your life is going to unfold from this moment forth.
For me, my brother’s death … eventually … taught me to live my life. I was for over a decade very numb and depressed and I let his death define me. One day I woke up, and realized I wanted more. I wanted to be more than the withdrawn and damaged girl who lost her brother to suicide. I wanted to be more than the broken shell that I felt that I was. When I realized that I wanted and could be ‘more’ my world changed.
But enough about me, what does this mean for you? It means that your loss doesn’t have to be all encompassing. It means that the pain you feel will lessen. Time will make it easier to see that there are always new beginnings waiting to happen. It means that there are opportunities for your own personal growth.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What can I learn from this?
- What positives can I take from this change?
- What could I do to make their life have meaning?
- What could I do to make my life have meaning?
- What opportunities does this loss or change provide me?
- If a close friend was experiencing this loss what advice would I give?
- If a close friend was experiencing this loss what comfort would I provide?
The last question is a very important one. How would you comfort a friend going through this situation? What would you do or say to them to ease their pain, or to show that you care? When you have your answer, do this to and for yourself. Self-care is very important, and you need to give yourself the time to grieve and then heal. You need to give yourself the time and space to look objectively at your situation, and to look for solutions. Be gentle with yourself, don’t compare yourself to others, just feel what you feel, and use it, and see what benefit you can get from it. Owning the pain, and recognizing that you need to grieve the loss but that you can learn from it, empowers you to move forward.
For me, my greatest loss was my brother, but my greatest lesson is that if I can help just one person, through my words, through my love - to not lose hope, to not give up, to envision a new, rewarding life, and to feel that you can get through this and grow, then I’m on purpose, and my brother didn’t die in vain. I can celebrate his life and death, knowing that it will help teach others to connect with Self, find your own meaning in life, and find hope to carry on, making the most of your loss and turning it to an opportunity. Make your life mean something. One step at a time.
Remember: when your loss lessens find the lesson.
Reference: Kübler-Ross, E. (1969). On Death and Dying. Scribner: New York.