Friday, January 28, 2011

Guidelines for Dealing with Loss

The goal of the person dealing with loss is to move through the various stages of the loss process, to learn from and appreciate the impact of the loss, and to achieve closure so that life in the future can be experienced more fully with integrity, insight and wisdom. Here are a few suggestions that may prove helpful:

Don’t try to do it alone.
Isolation is difficult for most people, but it is especially challenging for a person adjusting to loss. Seek out people who can be trusted and can listen well. During times of loss we need to talk and share the intense thoughts and feelings we experience when we are alone. Many people seek the help of a professional therapist who may be better prepared than most to empathize and guide the process productively.

Submit to the loss in order to get through it.
Some people try to ignore their losses and refuse to think about them. They may feel that time itself will heal things, but this is not necessarily true. Accept the loss as an important and necessary part of your life experience. Integrating the loss into your life is a way of living completely and with integrity.

Realize that intense feelings are normal and expected.
We may feel during times of loss that we are losing our minds and that we will never be the same again. Our dreams, fantasies, anger, tears, guilt and loneliness may be more pronounced than we have ever experienced before. But we need to expect losses to dredge up these intense feelings. Sometimes we have not achieved closure on past losses so that another loss may mean having to come to terms with both the present and previous losses. If you process the loss productively, these feelings will pass in time.

Seek spiritual comfort during this time.
Spiritual support often makes our losses more meaningful. It is during times of loss that many people ask questions about the ultimate meaning and purpose of their lives. Meditation, prayer and reflection help us soothe the turmoil which accompanies loss.

If possible, avoid making long-term decisions.
Times of crisis decrease our ability to make rational decisions. We tend impulsively to come up with plans that we think will put an end to our pain – despite the ultimate consequences. Put important decisions off until you have achieved some closure on your loss and things have settled down to a more stable pattern. If decisions are necessary, seek the advice of people who can be trusted.

Take care of your health.
During our adjustment to loss we may be more prone to letting ourselves go – and this opens the door to health problems and even accidents. Try to get enough sleep, but don’t oversleep. Maintain a nutritious diet, but allow yourself some extra treats during this time since self-nurturing is also important. Be sure to exercise, even if it is only a daily walk. Avoid alcohol and drugs during times of adjusting to loss. They may provide temporary relief, but you need to stay aware as you process loss, and abusing substances will forestall this goal.

Next week we'll post about the typical reactions to loss.

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