Dealing With Our Losses

By now, in life, you’ve faced many losses: loss of a loved
one, a parent, divorce, loss of a career, loss of health,
physical beauty, sexual desires, a stillbirth, an abortion,
loss of your childhood home, or even innocence. Loss is
the injury where blood does not flow. It is not defined
by the severity of the event but by how you experienced
the loss. This article will address how to deal
with loss, whether in your life or in the lives of others.
It is not about fixing the loss but about honoring and
respecting it. An ancient Chinese proverb says, “You
can only go halfway into the dark forest. Then you are
coming out the other side.” First, let’s address the issues
of grieving losses. Grief shows up in our emotions,
depression, anger, physical sensations, and our behaviors.
Grief is a hemorrhaging of the self, a loss of passion,
sense of purpose, creativity, humor and perspective.
Grief can causes feelings of despair, exhaustion,
loss of resilience and a blaming of others. Jamie Marich,
in her excellent book on grief, says there are four stages
of grief: accepting the reality of the loss, experiencing

the pain of the loss, adjusting to an environment of loss
and a withdrawal of emotional energy and investing
in something/someone else. To grief well, we need to
work through our sadness, despair, fear, anger, abandonment
and powerlessness. From there, we can seek
resolution and even celebration of the loss.
Let’s discuss specific losses, beginning with the loss
of parents. This is a journey all of us must eventually
take. When a parent dies, we may feel abandoned,
orphaned, and closer to death ourselves. When both
of my parents died, I realized I was “next in line.” We
might feel vulnerable, frustrated, relaxed or relieved, or
the loss of a protector. “After all, dad was always there
when I needed him.” To grieve the loss of parents, it is
helpful to pull out the old family pictures and feast on
them. Do a family tree, seeing how all of the limbs of
the tree are united.
Some of us may have lost a partner, perhaps a life-long
companion. We may feel dismembered, a deeper sense

of loss than anticipated, or physical and emotional
symptoms. Often, loss of a partner can cause intense
self-examination. “Was I the best mate I could have
been? Was there more I should have done for them,
particularly during the latter part of their life?”
When living with someone who is dying, there are
many lessons to be learned. Perhaps one of the best resources
for how to deal with a dying loved one is Sogyal
Rinpoche’s The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying,
a textbook used by groups such as Hospice and other
caregiving organizations. Here are some suggestions:
• Be present to them, offering the dying person your
unconditional love.
• Let go of your hopes & fears. All of your dreams for
the future are gone, and likely never will happen.
• Listen to the person, especially
for “unfinished business.”
• Measure your words & tell the
truth. There is always the question
of how honest to be with the
dying person. One rule might be
how you would like to be treated
when entering the dying arch.
• Say “Goodbye” to them and let
them say “Goodbye.”
Parker Palmer, the Quaker academician,
writes, “One of the hardest
things we must do is to be present to
another person’s pain without trying
to fix it, to simply stand respectfully
at the edge of that person’s mystery
& misery. Standing there we feel useless & powerless,
which is exactly how the person feels–& our own unconscious
need is to reassure ourselves that we are not
like the soul before us.”
When a sibling dies, we face other feelings: a change in
your position in the family, anger, resentment, survivor
guilt, an awareness of your mortality or a diminished
self-esteem: compared to your deceased sibling. And
then there is your own death to face. Buddhist teachers
have wisely reminded us when facing death to live in
the present moment, in the days given us. The Psalmist
wrote that we are to number our days and ask yourself
what is unfinished for you. What is on your bucket list?
What’s keeping you from doing those things?
The prayer we would offer is, “May you be at peace.
May you be free from suffering. May your heart remain
open. May you awaken to the light of your own true
nature. May you be healed. May you be the source of
healing for others.”
Stealing a line from Speedy Alka Seltzer, “how do you
spell relief?” (from losses). First, give yourself permission
to “lose it” emotionally. Don’t be stoic about the
loss. Build in extra time to deal with the loss. Usually it
takes the first year of birthdays, holidays, anniversaries,
etc. to realize the person is gone. Give yourself permission
to be alone, but not too much time so you are
lonely. Allow yourself to feel your
deepest feelings. Provide a private
place in your home and life for remembrance
of that person: a shrine
in your house, a space in your heart,
to remember them.
In 1993, when two of my daughter’s
high school classmates were driving
to school, they were blinded by the
sun coming over a hill, and plowed
their car into the back of a parked
dumpy truck. One of my daughter’s
classmates was instantly killed. This
loss had a devastating effect on my
daughter and me. So, whenever I
drive past the cemetery in a nearby
town, I silently drive into the graveyard and past Renee’s
gravestone, and sit for a few seconds to honor
that loss. My silent, secret time and space for remembrance.
How do we let go of our losses? If you are like me,
everything in life I’ve had to let go of has claw marks on
it—I don’t let go easily. Here are five steps to letting go:
1. Create a space for inquiry. Ask yourself why you are
doing this? Does it have a healthy purpose? He who has
a WHY can live with any HOW. The antidote for exhaustion
is not necessarily rest but wholeheartedness. Even
as we teach others, we overcome our losses through

activities: writing, breathe work, meditation, muscular
relaxation techniques.
• Write a forgiveness note
• A letting go note
• An amends note
• A personal creed, something that you hold dear
about the lost loved one
Joseph Campbell wrote, “You must be willing to get rid
of the life you’ve planned so as to have the life that is
waiting for you.”
2. Choose a new focus. See the world through a fresh
set of eyes. Ask yourself, “What went well today? What
should I leave behind not?” Think longer-term not just
in the moment. Can you accept yourself as a “good
enough” person? Can you forgive yourself for what has
happened in the past, especially with the lost loved
one? Rumi wrote, “Let yourself be silently drawn by
the pull of what you truly love.” What do you truly love
today? Wendell Berry said, “When we no longer know
what to do, we have come to our real work, when we
no longer know which way to go, we’ve begun our real
Emerson wrote, “To laugh often & much; to win the
respect of intelligent people & the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics & endure
the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to
find the best in others, to leave the world a little bit
better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a
redeemed social condition; to know even one life has
breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have
3. Find or build a new community, whether that is a
self-help group, a faith community, or friends with
whom you’ve lost touch over the years.
4. Find a new balance in your life. You can do this by:
• Finding a safe place to go for rest, refreshment and
• Make an appointment with sleep
• Mae West said, “When in doubt, take a bath.”
• Practice breathing exercises, laugh a lot, enjoy life’s
“small stuff”
• Take care of your body, eat well, walk
• Don’t make any major decisions when fatigued
• Forget the “if onlys” and negative self-talk
• Ask yourself what makes you happy today? When
was the last time you had sheer fun?
• Practice an attitude of gratitude for what you have
and have been given, especially in the life of the
lost loved one. Feast on those memories.
• Practice kindness to others. In giving, we receive.
• Express gratitude to someone everyday.
• Write a gratitude letter, five joys in your life today.
5. Practice centering in your life. Here are ways of having
a daily practice of centering:
• Find daily moments of mindfulness, rest
• Give yourself Sabbath days, “lazy day,” time off daily
when you have no obligations
• Install a “mindfulness bell” on your computer than
rings every hour (or even more often) to bring you
back to the present moment. (Google on “Mindfulness
Bell” for a free download of the bell).
Grief and loss is one of the most painful experiences
we have. Finding tools to deal with our losses is critical,
especially if we are to be caregivers to others, and to
take care of ourselves.


This article donated by TheSoberWorld