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Strategies for Coping with Loss

In life, we will encounter many losses. In fact, it may be argued that the journey of life is a series of loss and recovery. Sometimes the loss is material; we may lose money, property or business investments. At other times, the loss are the persons we hold dear --- we may lose friendships over irreconcilable arguments, the move of a relative to another state, or death may take those we love from us in ways we least expect. In other occasions, the loss we encounter is abstract and symbolic. We may mourn for the lost opportunity to impress an important client, or the baby we’ll never have because of fertility issues.

Because loss is somewhat inevitable, it’s important that we know of ways to handle loss. Understandably, loss is painful --- and in the case of big, irrecoverable losses such as the death of a spouse, the loss can even be traumatic (that is, beyond our ability to cope). But it can also be opportunities for grace, social support and a new way of appreciating things. The key is being able to journey from grief into acceptance, from bereavement into moving on.

The following are some strategies you can use when coping with loss:

Get in touch with your emotions. Loss is accompanied by particular emotions, many of which can be difficult to bear. There’s shock, confusion, anger, guilt, sadness, and even depression. You may end up questioning the Higher Power you believe in: “why me?”, “why this?”, “why now?”  You may end up sorting your value system, asking existential questions such as “Is this the meaning of life?” Remember that all these feelings are normal. Acknowledge what you feel, and find positive ways of expressing your emotions. The key to managing feelings of loss is to have them expressed rather than repressed.

Go after what is recoverable. When encountering losses, it’s important that we don’t become so helpless and debilitated, we lose sight of what can still be recovered. For example, the loss of a spouse through divorce may feel like the end of the world, but perhaps there’s a way towards reconciliation. The loss of a plum promotion may be devastating, but then, who’s to say that promotion is the only career advancement you can go after? Losses can be occasions that remind us something is important to us after all. So change --- the very worst that can happen is you fail at recovering your loss, but still take home lessons in taking things for granted.

Use rituals. Rituals are effective ways of symbolically acknowledging that something is gone and/or something new is about to take its place. A funeral is technically a ritual; it allows loved ones to come together in order to share grief and provide support for the bereaved. If you’re having difficulty navigating through a loss, create a ritual to say goodbye. Is the loss of your old home particularly painful for you? Why not have small family ceremonies where you can recall all your happy memories in that home? If the loss of the pet still affecting your little boy, then conduct a eulogy where he’ll get to bid his pet goodbye. Rituals are a way of telling everyone that you have a right to feel upset by your situation.

Find meaning. Lastly, loss would be easier to bear when you can find meaning behind what you’re going through. Without taking away your right to be sad or angry, perhaps you can explore if there is a higher purpose to your loss. If you’re religious, ask yourself what God’s plan for your life could be, in giving you this particular trial in life. And even from a secular point of view, there are many ways you can find meaning from your loss. Did the loss help you become a better individual? Did it give you better coping resources? Did it teach you how to be vulnerable and how to express empathy? Did the loss bring you closer to your family? Finding meaning behind loss can ease the pain you’re feeling by a considerable degree.

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