Why aren’t we taught in school on how to deal with loss and grief?
We could have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering so we could build bridges or an MBA so we could be the CEO of a multinational company. But, we could still be at loss when tragedy hits us on our personal life.
How do we handle losing a loved one to cancer or a tragic car accident? What do we do next when the 10-year old marriage ends? Where do we go from here when the life we have built our whole life is gone in an instant?
How can we handle situations like these with grace? If only life comes with a manual, right?
When we experience such a huge loss, it can throw us into a downward spiral that eventually leads to deep depression. It is helpful to know the emotional stages that we might experience after we suffer a huge loss. It provides us with a framework so we are aware of what is happening inside us. Thus, we can have a better idea on how to deal with it and eventually how to get out of the valley of depression.
These are the emotional stages that one might experience after a huge loss:
- Shock, numbness and denial
- Emotional outburst and anger
- Fear of the future
- Searching and disorganization
My most recent trial caused me to lose the life that I have built for 16 years, move to the other side of the world and start over from scratch. The first year was really hard.
I went into shock, numbness and denial. Questions that ran in my mind like a broken record: Is this really happening? Everything that I had worked for is gone. Had it all been for nothing? My head hurt. My whole body hurt. Many days I cried myself to sleep and when I first woke up in the morning – when I first came to consciousness and remember what was happening.
I was angry at life (and dare I say at God). I had worked hard and followed the rules. Why is this happening to me? Why God didn’t answer my prayers? Had I not been serving faithfully and selflessly? My emotional outbursts took form in being irritated at every single thing that was different from the way I was used to, and they were lashed out to the people nearest to me indiscriminately.
Fear of the future gripped me for the longest time. How am I going to get out of this? Where do I go from here? My plans and dreams that I have pictured on my mind were now broken into disorganized puzzle pieces on the floor. I was searching for new ways of being.
And yes, I suffer loneliness. I had been pretty active at church and the community. Now I was thrown into the middle of nowhere – where I knew no one and could not do the things that I loved doing. I missed my hiking friends, the babies I played with on Sunday mornings and my community.
All these lead me to depression. What do you do when you lose hope and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel?
I wish I had someone to give me some emotional guidelines on how to deal with the negative, toxic emotions I was feeling. But, I had no such luxury. I was all on my own.
I suppose this is the season in to uproot the life that I have built – not by my choice, but it’s the path that I have been given anyway.
It is said that God breaks you down in order to build you up. It hurts deeply to be broken apart. So, weep and mourn if you need to.
Here are some of the lessons I have learned on how to deal with a huge loss:
Take your time to grief the life that you have lost.
The future that you have carefully planned for yourself and your loved ones now is all gone. Your hope and dreams have shattered to pieces. You are allowed to be sad and angry. Give yourself some time to process your grief and heal. It might take a month or a year or longer …
Learn to lament and pray.
Even if your faith takes a good beating during this time, keep talking to God. Voice your anger, fear, disappointment and anguish to Him. He can handle it. Although it is hard to believe it now, He has a greater plan for you. Trust in Him. Pray and then lay down all your burdens at His feet.
On many nights when words fail me, my lamentations and prayers to Him came out in simple sentences like: Why is this happening, God? Please take this cup from me. Why are You punishing me? What do you want me to do here?
Practice self-care while you are grieving.
The stress, hurt and disappointment will take a huge toll on your body, mind and soul. You might just feel like locking yourself in your room and never see anyone anymore. You are allowed to shut out the world while you take care of yourself. Do remember to practice self-care during this time.
Maintain some sense of normalcy.
You are grieving inside. After your shutting-out-the-rest-of-world period, try to maintain some sense of normalcy. Keep going to school or work. Keep going to church and find some emotional support from your friends and community group. This may help you from suffering a full-blown depression.
If you don’t have any dependent and there is nothing normal anymore in your life, go on a sabbatical.
Go away to a new place where you don’t know anyone and just be with yourself. The change of environment will do you wonder in changing your perspective about life. Take up meditation. It’ll help you quiet the chatter in your mind. They say prayer is the act of talking to God and meditation is the act of listening to God. So, listen to what God is whispering to you. Figure out what really matters in your life and how you want to live your life next.
So, grief if you must. But, remember that this too shall pass. You will heal from the hurt. If you have lost someone you love, remember that they live on in your heart. If your dreams have been broken to pieces, dream up a new dream to build a better tomorrow. You have what it takes inside you to survive this fire and paint something beautiful out of the ashes.
As there is time to weep and mourn, there will be time to laugh and dance. And your time will come to laugh and dance again…