by Carol Fredrek
You’ve experienced grief and loss at one time in your life. As a child the loss may have involved the death of a parent, pet, or friend; your parents separation or divorce; the breakup with a boyfriend; or losing an important toy.
As a young adult you weren’t accepted into College or University, you had a breakup of a relationship, or you realized that you lost your childhood because of abuse.
As an adult you might have experienced a divorce or the loss of parents, or the loss of a child. The ageing process often comes with the loss of youth. You may experience a loss of identity with retirement or children leaving home.
These are all common losses. But there are many. How the loss impacts you and the many aspects of your life will depend on your history, your coping skills, the unresolved losses prior to this, and the support you have in your life today.
What to Expect
You feel numb. You are in shock.
You feel angry. You feel deeply sad. You may even feel depressed.
You feel helpless so you try to bargain your way through this. “If I would have been there, then this wouldn’t have happened”. “If I had been a better child then my parents would not have fought so much”. You don’t feel you can move forward. You are stuck in time.
You are feeling what would be expected. Some people move through this process quicker than others depending on the support they have, any unresolved losses, and how similar the previous loss is.
You feel stuck. You can’t get out of the anger, the guilt, sadness, bargaining, or shock. You are doing just what I would expect.
My Story of Loss
I have just lost my 90-year old mother which brings up older losses that have been unresolved. I didn’t feel safe to explore those losses prior to my mother’s death.
I lost a part of my childhood as a result of abusive and neglectful parenting. This created many, many challenges which made relationships and commitment a significant struggle for me.
I was diagnosed in 1993 with multiple sclerosis which had a significant impact on my identity. I felt that I had lost a sense of self. I was no longer able to engage in life in the way I had known.
In 2009 I was divorced after 23 years. I was now a divorced woman. An identity shift again. I was devastated and felt that this was the most painful experience of loss that I had ever had.
I then had to put down my two cats over a period of 6 weeks. They were family to me. I suffered tremendous loss. The pain seemed unbearable at the time.
And then the loss of family. A choice I had to make to maintain my emotional and physical sanity.
My mother’s loss has made this much more final. It is a loss but a necessary loss.
Each of these losses were different for me. The depth of pain, shock, denial, anger, sadness, were all different. How I moved through these losses have been different. As they are for you.
There are no rituals that work for everyone. Often our inability to move to a place of letting go and moving on is because we are stuck in anger, sadness, denial, or depression.
I have learned that there are coping strategies that I have used over my lifetime that have been protective for me but in no way of benefit in the long term. They were a form of survival.
I have learned that there are many lifestyle changes that I had to make to really let go, be at peace, and engage in those things that bring meaning and zest to my life.
Here are a few approaches that worked for me:
- Guided Visualization
- Healthy Eating
- Physical Activity
- Restorative Yoga
EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques)
One of the more effective self soothing techniques for me has been Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). EFT is known to many as Tapping. There are three levels of EFT. There is the bronze level, silver, and gold level. The bronze level is what I have on my own and am now working with an EFT Practitioner that uses the Gold Level. No matter how much experience you have it is very difficult to move through stuck places without a coach who is trained in EFT.
The theory underlying EFT is that we have memories that are stuck in the energy or nervous system. These memories have not been processed adequately so we get stuck in aspects of our lives that resemble those events. We are usually not aware of those connections so we feel stuck.
In just beginning this process I am surprised what I have already learned. It is important to remember that this process is very individual even though there may be emotions that we all experience with a loss. Grief can be extremely intense or it can be a quiet grief but none the less it needs to be processed.
Hopefully my story has given you some insight into your own grief or at least acceptance of where you are with your grief. No grief is to be minimized. They are all significant. As you are.