Coping with the Pain of Loss.
(In loving memory of Sharon Praise Arolowo)
The pain of loss is something that is difficult to comprehend. It could be a loved one, the loss of a dream, a limb even a pet. One thing common to these is the grief we feel after a loss. Many people misunderstand grief. They think crying or showing emotional pain is a sign of weakness. They try to deny grief, but the truth is feeling the pain helps the person to cope with and return to normal ways of living. Many people however go through the five stages of grief which are denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. Other stages not typically mentioned are those of sadness, anxiety, having physical symptoms such as trouble sleeping or breathing, even dreaming about the loss.
It’s wrong to try to rush through or avoid any part of grieving. Mourning is a complicated process. It takes a lot of time to adjust to the changes that result from loss. This does not mean we should wallow in our grief. (Many experts believe that any grieving process that takes longer than 6 months to return to a functional state is abnormal)
In order to really heal from the pain, we need to go through the ‘tasks of mourning’. This includes:
1. Accepting that the loss is real: Sometimes you can’t grasp that it won’t be restored. You may pretend that the loss is not important. . You may even believe you can gain back what you’ve lost. However with time, as the absence confronts you, the loss becomes more real. Accepting its full reality takes time.
2. Feeling the pain follows accepting the loss: Trying to avoid pain is natural but it only prolongs the process. You may try to cut off your feelings, to keep yourself too busy to feel or think, to dwell only on pleasant memories. The pain will only appear in another form such as depression or illness. Remember the pain is a necessary part of healing so allow yourself to feel it. Releasing the pain could happen through crying. Stiff upper lips don’t do anybody any good. Laughter works too; it can release tension caused by fear or anger. Talking it out with a friend or counselor could also be very helpful.
3. Adjusting to the environment after the loss takes time also. The loss might make you feel isolated from others in a physical or emotional way. A period of accepting help from others can help you adjust to a new situation and give you time to gather your internal resources so you can start again.
4. Releasing the attachment means letting go of the emotional energy attached to what was lost. At first, one may feel disloyal especially if the loss was due to the death of a loved one but over time these feelings pass. It is important and healthy though to cherish those memories that make you feel connected to your loved one.
5. Forming new attachments may help to heal the wound of loss. You may build new links to people, activities or commitments. New attachments may be scary because of the risk of loss again. However if you really want to heal, it is a process that you need to go through because they help restore and maintain your emotional and physical health.
6. Beneath all this psychobabble though, there’s a High Priest who is touched by our infirmities. He wept too out of compassion for humanity. He knew grief on the Cross. If we allow Him, He’s waiting to hold us in His arms and give us the comfort that we need.
Here’s a prayer from a book that deals with grief1:
Sweet, Gentle Father, as we cross the threshold of this day with all our burdens and fears and feelings of hopelessness, we commit them to Your Cross. We commit ourselves to You; mind, body, spirit and soul and we ask for strength in our recovery efforts and healing in our lives. We ask for your healing waters…that they would flow in us, through us and around us, that we would be swept away in you. We commit our relationships and all of our goals to your care. We ask for Your mercy and more grace in our lives and in our journey. Amen
1. Held by Leslie Haskin