From Surviving to Thriving The Effects of Loss
By Judy Strong
Severe loss strikes when you least expect it. The blow knocks the wind out of you and sends you sprawling to the floor. After “What happened?” you usually ask “Why?” Chances are you probably can answer part of those questions already. Maybe you did see it coming, but not so fast. Or thought it wouldn’t really happen. For whatever that loss was - a person, job, home, finances, or yet something else, you’ve been broadsided and it hurts.
Grieving follows severe loss, and the period of mourning helps you to deal with the emotions, but that doesn’t resolve the fact of the loss. Shock, confusion, fear, anger, and frustration command your attention, leaving little energy for clear thinking and problem-solving. Decisions are made hastily, and anxiety muddies the deliberation process, undermining your plans and ideas.
When something you treasured and needed, or someone you loved and depended on is gone, a deep void is left. You watch in horror as parts of your life disappear. Plans have to be scrapped. Preparations get shelved, and your attention is now directed to managing the wreckage that is left.
How do you handle this impossible task? How do you move from barely surviving to thriving? Let’s look at a few positive choices.
1. Assess the moment. Get your bearings and try to clear your head. What has to be done first? Jot down two or three things – no more – and concentrate on those. It’s tempting to make a long list but that will become confusing and you need to focus.
2. Manage your fear. Fear is a primary emotion and will disable your attempt to handle the blow you’ve been dealt. Facing and acknowledging the fear gives you power over it. “I’m afraid, I feel sick, but I can deal with this” is empowering and gives hope and confidence.
3. Find resources. There’s someone who can give you good advice and solid direction. Find that person. It may be a friend or a stranger, personal or professional, hopefully there’s more than one, but keep looking until you find counsel that makes sense. You make the final decision.
4. Maintain a simple routine that includes self-care. A difficult situation often ties up all your time and energy, but you need to relax and refresh yourself. Time every day for quiet reflection, mild exercise, and socializing will yield better results in your problem-solving quest.
The pain that results from deep loss will stay with you, perhaps indefinitely. What is lost is gone. A person can’t be replaced. Neither can a job we loved, or a house, or our financial security, though there will be other jobs and houses and a new start on savings.
There will be many losses incurred during the course of a lifetime and a part of healthy, realistic living is letting go. The courage to heal and move forward takes, well, gumption. It takes seeing yourself as being greater than the sum total of your parts. Tap into your inner resources and see the wonder of who you really are. Survival is built into us.
In time, you’ll begin to move from surviving to thriving.
- Clear thinking will return.
- Support yields comfort and a warm place to land.
- Life will turn a corner and you’ll start to put one foot in front of the other.
It’s painful and usually slow, not all downhill, and requires continual attention for success, but that’s the beginning of growth. Profound grief and struggle become a foundation for new life.
Grief and support groups abound in our society. Perhaps you’re not ready just yet. But as you begin to heal, consider that the sharing process offers both giving and receiving. Someone may benefit from your story. You may learn of an appropriate resource and decide to check it out. Life balance is something we continually maintain.
Step out and claim health and well-being. Walk beside others who are suffering. Draw from the resources of your soul.
“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”