Adjust To The Bends
In my opinion, water is such an overlooked, precious gem we are blessed with on this planet. Whether you are swimming in it, boating in it, tubing across it, drinking it…water is a pretty amazing thing when you think about it. And one of the most beautiful things about water is how it just flows. It naturally moves, bends and adjusts depending on its surroundings and environment. So we are going to channel our inner water god or goddess and learn to do the same. You know, just let it flow baby.
So we all strive to achieve individual plans and goals. And we should! We 100% need to have a game plan and vision like we’ve discussed in the blogs and podcasts Goal Digging and Strategy (among so many others). However, we are playing a game called life. And the only constant in life is change itself.
We Can’t Avoid Loss
So what then happens when our plans don’t go according to our vision? How do we flow and adjust, so that we can land back on our feet after we’re knocked down? The hard truth is that we all get knocked down in life from time to time. We all have or will experience loss and pain. There is no getting around it.
No matter how hard you might try burrowing your head in the sand and pretending this won’t ever happen to you, you really can’t avoid it. Because life is a mixing bowl of both wonderful and not so wonderful experiences. It’s the yin and the yang.
One part of life is loss. Experiencing loss is part of the human experience here on this astoundingly, awe-inspiring planet we call Earth. And just to be clear, loss sucks. Like really bad! But it is also one of our greatest teachers and catalysts for growth and transformation. Assuming we handle this experience the right way that is.
What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger
We’ve all heard the saying what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And this is so true. Coming out on the other side of loss can certainly make you a stronger, better version of yourself if you properly deal with the experience. Unfortunately, loss and pain are a package deal (you know, a little nightmare bundle in one!)
So loss can take the shape of many forms. It can be financial loss such as: filing bankruptcy, losing money on an investment, closing your business, losing a job, decreasing assets or net worth due to a medical condition or divorce, etc. Or loss can spread deeper and apply to many other areas outside of finances such as: loss of a close friendship or special love interest. Loss is simply a part of life. However, it can be quite transformational as well.
In order to get the transformative benefits of loss (and not just the horrible experience of actually surviving it), I think we should really examine grief. By understanding the grieving process, we can then understand what to expect emotionally and psychologically after we experience a major loss.
Stages Of Grief
Some of the most notable science on dealing with grief comes from Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She defined the five stages of grief in her work as the following:
The first stage of grief is denial. So after we experience a loss by typically receiving news we don’t want to receive, our first reaction is often to outright deny its existence. No way, it certainly can’t be true! We will often originally try to avoid the loss all together, because we just don’t want to believe it. This can also be referred to as shock.
The denial stage will also often come with a nice, grotesque tornado of both fear and confusion swirling around in your head. We may even freeze up and flat out refuse to accept or receive the information. This is often because we are not emotionally ready to deal with the loss.
Unfortunately you can’t avoid the truth forever, so you will eventually come to grips that the loss is actually happening. But now what? Now what the heck do you do with yourself? Well…you get angry as heck of course! You rage against whoever and whatever you may feel has blame in the situation, including God himself sometimes. Basically you rage against humanity. Because after all, they all deserve it anyway right? LOL.
There are many shades of anger ranging from mere agitation to pure rage. It really doesn’t feel that great to be living in a state of anger. However, understand it is a normal part of the healing process to be angry. Just don’t hurt anyone during this tumultuous stage of the grief process! Don’t end up doing 10-20 in the local penitentiary because you couldn’t keep a lid on your anger.
Embrace anger as a natural emotion that you will need to experience and then release. But don’t ever release it physically onto others. That is never the answer and will only cause more issues which you don’t want or need. Find healthy outlets to release your anger like kick boxing, screaming from the top of your lungs, or whatever other productive method works for you. There are anger management resources online which can also provide tips for dealing with this stage. So definitely use the resources available if need be.
Now let’s talk about the bargaining stage. So the loss is not a fun experience, so how about we do some bargaining now to get rid of the nonsense once and for all? In the bargaining stage of grief, we like to play a little game called “Let’s Make A Deal”. You know, “make ‘em an offer they can’t refuse”. This stage often involves quid pro quo bargaining.
This can sound like “hey God you do this, and then I’ll do that” type of talk. So for example, please just magically make my debt go away or let me win the lottery to pay off and not go through bankruptcy. And in return, I’ll never use (or even look at) a credit card ever again. You know, that kind of bargaining.
This stage can also have a great deal of guilt intertwined with it, in addition to “what-if” talk. So in this stage, you revisit the crime scene and start relentlessly asking yourself what if you had done things differently? The old “would of, could of, should of” game. You may hear yourself ask questions like: How could I have been so blind or dumb?
We’ve all been through this before. And you can legit drive yourself nuts if you stay in this stage for too long. It’s a great thing to reflect in order to fully understand what happened. However, living in the past and holding onto guilt will not change your future! So be aware of this. Reflect and learn. But then let the past (and what you can not change) GO. If you made mistakes to cause your loss, forgive yourself. Learn from your mistakes and then move forward with forgiveness.
As you come to grips with your loss and your new reality, you will often then experience overwhelming sadness. Does anyone like to be depressed or sad? NO. But this stage (like the others) is critical to your healing and strengthening. We must feel and experience the pain, sadness and/or disappointment. We can’t numb it. We can’t avoid it. We must go through it.
Is the depression stage fun? NO. But is it necessary to heal, grow and become whole again? YES. Remember sadness is an emotion, and you can handle any emotion that you were born to experience. Just remember to handle the sadness through healthy coping methods such as: relaxing in nature, connecting with trusted friends, relying on faith if applicable through attending church or partaking in spiritual practices, enjoying a creative hobby, etc. Whatever works for you!
Also if the depression becomes too much, don’t be too proud to seek the help you need by talking to a professional counselor or joining an appropriate support group. There is zero shame or weakness in that. Certainly ask for help from outside resources if you need it.
Finally the last stage. So we’ve made it through the horror show and are now at the happy ending, right? Not necessarily. We may not be singing like a bird in the sunshine, but the great news is we now accept the loss for what it is. We accept it as an experience we needed to endure that we could not change.
In this stage, we accept the pain and sadness we endured. We are also much stronger for having endured it. Once you reach acceptance, you will probably feel like a changed person having survived what you went through. The battle will have made you stronger and wiser.
Learn The Lessons, So They Don’t Repeat
The hidden treasure of experiencing loss and transformation is actually learning through the experience. Once you’ve healed and are back on your feet, it is important to reflect and ask yourself what lessons you were meant to learn. Reflect. But not from a place of dwelling or trying to change the past. Reflect instead from a place of finding meaning behind the experience. What lessons we don’t learn, we are bound to repeat. So if there are any lessons in your loss, make sure to learn them as you move forward to brighter days ahead.
There are so many incredible people in history who have experienced loss before rebuilding to achieve success in life. And we all possess this mighty potential within us! The following quote is from best-selling author, J.K. Rowling, who is one of the most successful authors in the world.
J.K. Rowling said the following:
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
Her ability to overcome adversity and loss (along with so many others in history) is a true inspiration that we can all do the same.
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