What is loss?
When we hear the word ‘loss’ we immediately link it to a death. However, loss can come to us in many forms some obvious and some in disguise. Recognising the cause and the type of loss is crucial if we are to overcome it in a healthy way. To help us identify loss, here are some examples and causes:
This loss is the most common and one that we will all experience at some point in our lives. Even though, as humans we are aware of this, we are nevertheless unprepared when it comes. The degree of loss will depend on the level of attachment and affection we had for that person. The most obvious one in this this category is the death of a loved one.
Meaning based loss
This type of loss is a unique experience for the person involved. The degree to which it is felt is dependent on the beliefs and mindset held by that person. As we are all different, it is the meaning we place on the loss that creates our experience of it. For example, the loss of a job can be seen as an opportunity for someone with a positive and open approach to life whilst another may see it as a rejection, leading to fear and further reinforcing already negative held beliefs.
Sometimes we are faced with situations that are out of our control which lead to a loss in our lives. Examples include, having to change schools because our parents have moved, our company relocates and we are made redundant or a divorce due to a breakdown in a relationship.
There are two parts to this type of loss which is determined by our hereditary and learned traits. The first sort can be created by ourselves when we choose behaviours that are not in our best interests. i.e. overeating and putting on weight or constantly being late for work and losing our job. The second type is one that is created by the natural life process itself. i.e. loss of youth, the menopause, loss of physical ability, loss of people due to old age etc.
There are times in life when we have to take steps to change our situation intentionally. This requires us to actually invite loss for the better good. Despite this, we will still feel loss of what was or could have been. Examples include leaving a bad partner but still experiencing the loss of a relationship or leaving a job and colleagues that we love for a better career.
Loss leaves us feeling bereft and empty depriving us of the ‘pay off’ we experienced before. Our comfort zone is challenged and the future feels uncertain and threatening. This can easily spiral to resentment, fear and anxiety. In this state, we lose clarity of mind and look for instant gratification to relieve our feelings. It is a natural progression then that we automatically seek comfort in whatever brings us this temporary peace. For example, a smoker will smoke, an addict will take drugs, an alcoholic will drink and a dieter will eat.
Self-awareness is the key to freeing ourselves from the negative effects of loss. Here are steps that you can take to empower yourself and triumph over the loss:
- As soon as you experience a loss, identify which category or categories it falls under.
- Make conscious decisions that are more likely to reveal the positives in the situation rather than the negatives. This will help us make choices likely to bring beneficial changes rather than further stealing our life energy. A great example is where a relationship has ended leaving us feeling lonely and missing our partner. To ease our pain, we can list all the things we have gained from this loss such as:
- Independence and freedom to socialise with others
- No longer being judged by a harsh partner
- Our finances may improve
- No longer worrying about where our partner is when the trust has gone
From here, it is easier to make decisions such as:
- Reconnecting with friends we haven’t been able to see as much
- Journaling our feelings about the relationship. This will bring to the surface all the things that stole our self-esteem within it e.g. being told we were overweight, being made to feel unattractive, feelings of jealousy etc.
- Creating a budget so that we can manage our money better, save for the future and plan for holidays.
- Starting to engage with new people. This will build our confidence and lead to new relationships.
- Pause to reflect and evaluate the decisions you have identified. This will stop you from emotionally acting on impulse which can often lead to negatives results and regrets.
- Regularly, revisit the decisions you have made and adjust if necessary. Consider carefully the implications of each decision you have arrived at. Doing so will fully prepare you to face them head on without fear or uncertainty.
- Act on your decisions!
You can become the driver of your life and not the passenger if you choose to handle loss in this way. Empowerment reduces the negative responses in us that commonly lead us to forming, repeating and acting on habitual behaviours such overeating. By having this awareness, you will naturally reduce the strong urge to look for quick fixes or reverting back to old situations that will keep you stuck.
“When you repeat a mistake, it is not a mistake anymore: it’s a decision”