How to cope with loss

Some who experience deep loss may find themselves stuck in the loss space, even becoming grief/anger flame outs. It takes time, patience, and above all else faith, to learn to cope with feelings of loss.

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  • Loss of any sort is hard for all of us. We do not generally like letting go of even small things, such as a favorite old jacket with frayed sleeves or a worn book our parents read to us every night before bed. The loss of meaningful possessions are the tiny losses that may cause us momentary sadness, but leave no lasting scars.

  • Then there are those bittersweet losses that happen as we watch helplessly the first day of pre-school, while the teacher coaxes our reluctant child into the classroom, only to find that by the end of the day, she's asking, "Is it time to go home already?"

  • Or when we drop our eldest off at college and he begs us not to hug him in front of his roommates. These are the losses we expect as our children grow, and we learn to let go.

  • But sometimes life hands us heart crushing, gut wrenching, shattering losses that we feel somewhere deep in our bones. Losses such as divorce, the death of a child, a loved one's life-threatening illness, or termination of our employment.It is these unexpected and untimely losses that give us the most trouble; the ones where we face the very real danger of getting stuck in our sorrow, grief, or rage, unable or unwilling to move on with our lives.

  • How can we learn to cope with these feelings?

  • Seemingly unacceptable losses are the ones that we must come to accept a little bit at a time, over time; keeping our faith, so that our faith can keep us. As we deal with intense feelings of loss, there may be days when our hearts fill with bitterness, anger, regret, and sorrow.

  • One day we may find ourselves angry, asking questions, such as, "Why me?" The next day we may be so very sad that just getting out of bed seems an unlikely possibility. The following day we're back to anger. The next morning we wake up and think that maybe it was all just a bad dream, and it never really happened. These are normal feelings of loss that we may experience off and on for months, or even longer, before we finally reach acceptance of, or at least make peace with, a deep sense of loss.

  • The key is not to get stuck in the loss space permanently, because that happens to some

  • We can become grief or anger flame outs, if we're not careful. If we reach this point, we should not hesitate to seek outside help. Eventually, most of us will find ways to put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, staying connected with those we love; praying for unflagging spiritual support, finding forgiveness for those who may have left us or wronged us. As we do these things again and again, even on days when we don't feel like it, we finally come through to the other side of our grief. One day, we realize that while we haven't forgotten our loss, we've somehow made our way through it.

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  • We know we feel better, because we again see yellow daisies growing in our backyard that we forgot we had planted; we are surprised by the warmth of the sun on our faces; we hear a long, loud laugh, and realize that it's ours. We feel as if we have emerged from a cave, or maybe a long, dark tunnel. But here we are at last, ready to begin again, finding hope and strength in all the joy, love, and wonder that remains; having faith that tomorrow will once again be a brighter day.

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Read about the power of families to seek after the one in Susan's book: Coming Home: A Mormon's Return to Faith.


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