For many people the loss of a parent, child, relative or other loved one is an earth shattering experience. The loss of a job, moving away from familiar stomping grounds, or having a child leave the nest can also be jarring and disorienting. What was once routine, what brought us strength, love, and a reason to live is gone - leaving a hole which was once so full.
How Could God Do This to Me?
This type of loss can create emotional shock that shows itself in the form of physical symptoms such as fatigue, heart palpitations and increased blood pressure, and pains throughout the body. How do we deal with such loss? Emotionally, we can feel depressed, helpless, and hopeless. Mentally, the once positive thoughts have shifted to the negative. Suddenly our thoughts are filled with rationalizing what has happened, a focus on what we could or should have done, and it is not to uncommon for suicidal thinking to take place. How could God do this to us? Isn’t He (or She) benevolent? These are natural feelings and questions as we try to cope and process the loss.
There are books written on bereavement and loss. In “On Death and Dying,” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross describes the stages of loss that people go through:
- Denial and isolation
- Depression and
Since 1969 this book has been the subject of lectures, individual and family therapy, and life coaching. Knowing these stages and being self-aware about them can help us in these difficult times. After going through denial, anger, and bargaining, it is not uncommon for a person to go through (sometimes deep) depression in times of great change. We tend to be creatures of habit. The daily routine brings us a feeling of safety and comfort but when that routine disappears, it tends to send us into a downwards spiral.
How to Deal with Loss: Working Through Depression
There is no denying that the pain of loss cannot be avoided. People try to use many avoidance behaviors, including staying overly busy, turning to alcohol, and sometimes other substance use. But when the dust settles, they have only delayed the inevitable.
Unfortunately, we weren’t taught how to work through depression, anxiety, and healing traumatic experiences in school or at home. Psychology has been taboo because if we were to admit that we had an issue we could be labeled as weak or flawed by “them.” The glorious “them” being those who sit in judgment of us. We may not have realized, however, that we are "them." It is our own self judgment of our own specific situation that is the issue at hand. As we judge our change in mood it continues to lock it into place. The first step in drastic mood change is befriending ourselves.
“The issue is not the issue. How you relate to yourself as you go through the issue is the issue.”
This is a cornerstone of Spiritual Psychology, a practice and healing modality we practice here at The Clearing. Someone may have left you or passed away, have you left yourself or died to yourself in the process?
We learn about our relationship with ourselves when our routine is shaken up. Our spouse may be sent away for a week for business. How are you with you during that week? Are all your thoughts on them and a desire to check in with them on the hour? Do you think they are cheating or having a better time without you? If this is the case you have an opportunity to discover yourself at a deeper and more intimate level. How we are with ourselves is mirrored in the relationships we have with others. Do you love you? Do you trust you? Do you even know you? These are important questions to ponder. Without an intimate relationship with yourself, a traumatic event - for instance the death of somebody close - can send you into a free fall.
As we grieve the loss of somebody close there can be a double mourning: the loss of the loved one, of course, but also the loss of our life with that person. This leads you back to you. How are you with you?
In the face of loss, be gentle with you. Treat yourself with kindness. Balance out the time focused on them with the time focused on you. Do the things you like to do. Get involved. Talk things out. This isn’t a time to hold things in. Go to counseling. Often friends will get annoyed with hearing the same old story so using a friend as a therapist may not do the trick.
Additionally, be mindful of and make sure you include each of the following areas in your recovery process.
How to Deal with Loss: The Four Areas of Holistic Healing
Get exercise, eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetable, and unprocessed foods, take dietary supplements if needed, and get plenty of rest and sleep. Body work (like a massage) can also be very beneficial.
Replace negative thoughts with positives. Negative thoughts can be absolutely destructive. According to Psychology Today, the average person has up to 50,000 negative thoughts per day. Think about it, that’s a negative thought every two seconds! You must replace the negative thoughts with positive affirmations and then repeat them over and over again throughout the day. Also, reduce abstract thinking and keep things simple.
Open your heart to you. Praise yourself often. List out what you are grateful for - yes, write it down! There is a powerful connection to the physical act of writing and our brains. Listen to uplifting music. Hug a friend. Write letters to the recently departed and burn them as a way to send them off.
Meditation and prayer tops the list. Attend services if you belong to a certain faith. Seek out and speak with your local priest, pastor, rabbi, mullah, or other spiritual leader. Men and women of the cloth are often excellent counselors and therapists in the own right.
Loss is something to share with friends, clergy, therapists, and even the dog on a long walk. As painful as it is, it can also be used as a way to improve and even enlighten yourself, if it is your intention. All it takes is the willingness to do so.
About The Clearing
The Clearing is a residential treatment center located on beautiful San Juan Island, Washington. We created The Clearing in response to the pervasiveness of treatment centers that focus more on luxury than modern, evidence-based therapy.
Our approach is based on healing the underlying core issues that cause addiction. If you'd like to learn more, contact us, or download our free eBook: