Leaning into Loss
4 strategies for beginning anew.
Sheryl Sandberg sparked a movement with her book, Leaning In. Now, the unexpected death of Sandberg's husband Dave Goldberg has brought issues of loss to the fore.
Loss can come in many manifestations – the natural progression of losing a parent; the tragic passing of a child; even the dissolution of a friendship. How do we learn to live with this absence? How do we remain joyous when a piece of our heart is no longer present in the physical sense, though we may feel them close by?
My first lesson about "sudden loss" came hard. After 13 years of friendship, my "sister," my Best Friend For Life, decided to part ways. We'd been friends since age 14. Nearly half our lives had been spent building memories, sharing laughter and confidence, leaning on each other. We were surrogate family.
Though I didn't want to let go of the friendship, there was no choice on my part. It stung deep.
We give our heart, time and energy – and when that's gone, we're left holding a bag of emotions.
Shortly thereafter, my father bravely lost a 10-year battle to cancer. Though his deteriorating physical condition was a warning of what to come, my denial was as strong as ever. I believed he would defy the odds and prove the doctors wrong.
We all experience loss at some points in life. Whether through death, divorce, or the loss of a friendship, the psychological toll can be intense. We give our heart, time and energy to another person – and when that's gone, we're left holding a bag of emotions.
The good news is that just as a magnificent star shines most brightly in the night sky, so too our soul can burn brighter in the darkness challenge.
Let's explore the process for healing.
1. Know your self-worth
Loss is often accompanied by a devastating sense of rejection. We may question who we are, our own worth and value. Was the person right for moving on? Am I not salvageable?
If my mother passes, can I continue to call upon the unconditional love she offered? If my husband or wife leaves me, am I still desirable? If the cool kids in my class don't include me, am I a loser? Am I the failure my teacher or boss says I am?
The situation forces us to hold up the mirror and assess: Who am I?
These moments happen to us all and you are not alone. The greatest and most humbling experience of being rejected is the sheer tenacity it requires to build oneself again. The situation forces us to look inward – to hold up the mirror and assess: Who am I?
At one time in my life, the opinion of others mattered more than my own. Thankfully, I was given the blessing of having to search for my own opinions in the void of others. I looked inward to find every grain of goodness: my charitable spirit, sincerity, and gregarious demeanor. For the first time, I met myself.
Look in the mirror. Know yourself and the light within you. No one can take that away. (No one can give it to you, either.)
We can spend a long time looking in the rear-view mirror. But that's no way to advance toward your destination. Forgiveness is the key to building a new life.
Follow your bliss. Build new relationships. Start new hobbies. Take on new goals. By nourishing yourself, it becomes that much easier to let go. Happy people don't look back. Happy people live in the now, creating fruitful moments toward a better life.
3. Honor your feelings
Despite however much time has passed, there can still be moments of grief. At a celebratory occasion – with every reason to be happy – you may find yourself missing the one person who's not there.
It's only natural to want to share joy and accomplishment with a loved one who's gone. Honor your feelings. Don't force those feelings aside. Though a momentary distraction may help, that grief will invariably surface again with a vengeance.
Be kind to yourself. Share memories and pictures about the person now lost with someone you trust. Take that time to reflect and process.
4. The whole world is inside you
Loss has a way of opening up the broken places inside. A seed buried deep in the ground goes through the seemingly painful process of breaking open the outer shell for the first sprout to arise. From the outside, we see the beautiful flower... not knowing the ripping apart that occured beforehand.
Have you ever lost someone and thought: How can I possibly go on? We may feel like half a person. By listening closely, however, we can hear the wholeness of our soul tearing through the veil of sadness and grief.
At that point, we can either break open or shut down. The choice is yours.
We can rise again, returning to ourselves as a whole new person. There is no one we cannot live without. We each have a piece of God within us, and everything we need is already inside.
These challenges are the resistance we need – just like the cocoon struggles to become a butterfly.
Loss is heart-rending. Yet in this realm of empty space, a new creation can begin.