How to Manage a Loss

"The worldly hope men set their hearts upon turns ashes - or it prospers; and anon, like snow upon the desert's dusty face lighting a little hour or two - is gone" - Omar Khayyam


For many, the death of a loved one is life's most harrowing experience, leaving you crippled with grief and wondering how you can ever go on, or even if you want too. But it is also inevitable that at some stage in our lives we will experience loss. So how do we manage loss and grief in our lives?

Experiencing Our Suffering as Means of Overcoming it

One of the most difficult and salient problems that face those experiencing a loss is the suffering it brings. The psychotherapist Irvin Yalom titled his book about death and loss, Staring at the Sun, for to look straight at the sun only blinds you, and in the same way, the suffering you experience from a loss cannot be managed straight on. For most, the only response is to repress the pain: denial is a common way to deal, some busy themselves endlessly as a distraction from it. However, this can prolong and complicate the process. Many who have studied and written about the issue state that to proceed through a grieving process, you must first accept the loss and then feel the emotional response.

This insight is nothing new. To deny and repress your feelings can only lead to further issues down the road. Judith Edger, psychologist and survivor of the Nazi death camps, states in her book, The Choice, “Far from diminishing pain, whatever we deny ourself to accept becomes as inescapable of brick walls and steel bars”. Judy Tatelbaum, in her book, The Courage to Grieve, writes that the path through suffering is to “not put your head in the sand, but take the pain and learn to accept it”. The belief is that through experiencing pain and suffering, you are moving through the process that helps you turn its negative energy into something positive and meaningful, growing as a result, or as Carl Jung once said:“Suffering is the winged horse that carries us fastest to wholeness.”

How Counselling Can Help You

It is easy to outline all of this in the abstract; it is not so easy to put it into practice. Some losses are so great that to even open yourself just a little to the thoughts and reality of it can stop you in your tracks. Denial and busyness aren't necessarily negative, they become necessities to get you through the day. So how do we function day to day and yet allow moments for us to process our grief?

For some, taking the time to visit a grave allows an opportunity to think on the loss; for others writing in a journal about their pain can help, or opening up to a close friend. They all essentially do the same thing: create moments in your life to think on the loss. The problem is they are not for everyone. And this is where counselling can help greatly. By giving you a space where you are safe to express your pain and anguish without judgement and have it be fully accepted. It can become that hour in your week where you can let go of the usual defences that get you through the day and instead begin to experience these strong emotions, in the process helping you to move through the pain and gain a release from its grip.

Making Room for More

When loss happens its a big ball that fills your cup, leaving no room for anything else. And when you start to move on in your life, it's not that the ball grows smaller, eventually allowing you to add more things in, its that your cup, gets bigger. The ball, your loss, will always be there, but you can still grow and create space for more.

You don't overcome loss, you learn to live with it. And counselling can be that space where you begin to tentatively open yourself up to the pain and eventually transcend it, creating room in your life for more.

If you feel you could use the services of a counsellor to help you manage a loss, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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