How to deal with loss
I’m often asked about coping with loss – whether it is a bereavement or a hard break up. It’s a super tough subject, and one I never address lightly.
For one, when a loved one dies or a relationship fails, it is a deeply personal moment of vulnerability. As the singer Paul Simon says:
‘Losing love is like a window in your heart: everybody sees you’re blown apart. Everybody sees the wind blow.’ It is raw, and exposing.
So, my first piece of advice to anyone who is trying to help someone who is grieving anything is simply this: go gently and go carefully.
How to deal with loss
But how do we begin to cope with something as fundamentally unknowable as the ending of things?
As humans, we cling to life, to love, and to concrete things that we can see and hear and understand.
Absence, or loss, is a far tougher concept, and it is much harder for our minds to comprehend. And when it comes to death in particular, unless we have a strong personal faith in an afterlife then it can be even harder to deal with. There is an apparent finality about death that we are understandably terrified of engaging with.
But here are a few suggestions on how we can begin to work around this challenge. We can:
- Try to see life as beautiful, even in its most painful moments
- Practice gratitude
- Accept that nothing lasts, and that everything changes
That first point is a very tough one. We are naturally averse to any kind of pain – emotional or physical. But pain is a part of life too. We’re born but we also die; we meet wonderful people, but we also lose them too; we’re happy sometimes and sad at others. These different aspects of life each enhance the other. So, it is important to try to engage with every part of our existence and accept it in order to move on.
The second point, around gratitude, is important too. It’s not about slapping someone on the back and saying, “don’t worry so much about what you’ve lost – look what you’ve still got!”. Rather it is about a subtle change of mindset. One where, with practice, we begin to change our outlook until we’re fully aware of, and grateful for, our lives and everything in them, in this moment.
And then that final point about the impermanence of life and the inevitability of change is the most important of all – it informs both the other points.
Nothing lasts for ever. Life really is change. If you don’t believe it, just ask someone who has adult children, or someone who has lost a loved one – or simply look at an old photo from ten years ago. The people and places and things that are important to us never stay the same, because nothing ever does. The pain comes when we try to hold on to things or don’t recognise this truth.
And yet, at the same time, the other crucial thing to remember is that while nothing stays the same, also nothing ever really goes away completely, either. That young child you see in a photo might be gone forever in one sense, but in a way they still live on as the adult you know today.
And when someone dies, they live on through their children and their friends, and through the things they did in their lives that had an effect on others – and of course, in our own thoughts and actions too.
About Graham Tomlinson’s blog
Graham Tomlinson With this blog I aim to create an open website for sharing my mindfulness & self-improvement tips with as many people as possible.