Life will at times involve loss. It could be the loss of a job, relationship, of heath, our past, our future dreams and aspirations or any number of things. If we do not accept that these losses have occurred we are likely to be consumed by them and stuck in a repeating cycle of unhappiness. Equally important however, is to acknowledge and include the loss, into who we are, as part of our life experiences that has happened, but without becoming defined and consumed it.
Denying the loss has occurred or being defined by it, are both unhelpful to our wellbeing.
Part of dealing effectively with loss and change involves adapting and adjusting, and still moving forward despite of the loss. This might involve changing our routines, making new friends or finding new hobbies or employment. Things, for a while at least, will be different, difficult and possibly confusing and uncertain. As we begin to make changes, we might find that the old life, the old normality has been lost and we need to adapt to the changes of our new life, our new normal. This takes time and it is important to give ourselfs that time.
To help adapt to loss and change, we can use expansive and constrictive mindful evaluation and reflection. This allows us to be appreciative of what has left, holding it in our memories, part of a bigger picture, part of the sum of all our different experiences and the things that contribute to who we are, without letting it define who we are.
At the same time, we can be compassionate and kind towards ourselves and give ourselves the time to adapt to the new changes we are making until they become natural and normal ways of being to us. As we continually adjust and change in light of the losses, we can be open to the new experiences, the new relationships and connections that we have with others and ourselves.
Wellbeing involves a constant organic growth of our own self and who we are. This will of course impact our relationships with others. Some may become stronger, but we might also grow apart from others or out grow certain relationships as we change.
All of this while normal and natural, does require us to use our life skills, our ability to evaluate, reflect and identify new avenues for us to explore and this of course involves leaving some of the old behind us. When we work on improving our wellbeing and happiness, make positive life affirming changes, it is helpful to be aware that even changes for the better can result in a sense of loss. Old unhelpful ways of doing things are familiar and there is comfort in the familiar even if it is detrimental to our wellbeing.
Take a moment to reflect upon all the changes you have made in your life so far. Think about what has come into your life and what has been lost at different stages. When you began school you would have changed and become someone new, then again as you left school and went to work or university, as you became someone’s partner, or employee and as your career progressed. Maybe you experienced parenthood, moving home, taking on a caring role for either a child or your own parents or maybe your own physical health changed.
At each one of these stages you changed, become someone new and lost an old part of your life. You were able to adapt to those changes and you will be able to adapt to the new changes. Being open and accepting of change, and the loss that is required for it to occur, is vital for our wellbeing, happiness and growth. At times, it can be scary and frightening and at other times, it can be exciting and liberating, but ultimately it is all just part of the rich tapestry of life and is as it is.
The loss, of a loved one, our health, our sense of who we are, reshapes our world and we have to learn new ways of being. We might realize how fragile life is and how easily and quickly loss can occur. Francesco Petrarca the 14th century Italian renaissance scholar and poet observed “How easily life loses in a day what many years of toil and pain amassed”
One of the hardest things we might need to accept is that life involves loss and to truley live involves loss. We will all grow old as will our friends and family, or we might grow apart, employment will end and eventually our own lives will end.
When we fall in love or begin the adventure of our lives we don’t really think about this and that one day it will be gone. This is quite sensible and wise, maybe we only need to remind ourselves of it when it happens. However, when it does happen either through death, simply growing apart from a loved one, or growing old, it is helpful to remind ourselves that we have little control over external events and we can really only control how we respond.
If before our loss occurs, we try to protect ourselves from the inevitable pain loss brings by distancing ourselves from others or the world and its pleasures and joys, we will live a restricted, insipid, unfulfilling life missing life’s richness and beauty.
We can only live a well and happy life that fulfills us, one that contains joy, pleasure, meaning and love, by grabbing hold of it fully, connecting and engaging with it, accepting that in order to have light, we will also have darkness. The alternative is likely to be a tedious, meaningless and wretched life that squanders our brief time here and that misses the amazing opportunities and adventures that our life can offer us.