Learning to live with your losses.

Publish date: 2022-03-16
Share this post on:

I wake up to the sound of the alarm. Hit the snooze button a couple of times. She's gone. I squeeze my eyes shut in hopes of forcing out some sort of revelation. I tell myself to stay in bed for another 45 minutes but the unchanging blankness offers no explanation.

Silence follows me out of bed, into the kitchen and into the first couple of hours. I reason it must be grief that I’m feeling.

Between the coffee breaks and phone calls, my mind wanders back to the last time we met at her house. She was conscious and aware sitting behind the kitchen table making a statement about love and my response was not what she anticipated to hear.

I remember leaving her place upset, thinking maybe next time I can give her the assurance that I knew deep down she was seeking from my answer.

Too little too late.

Last night at the hospital her head was facing the window. She no longer was playfully fighting off my goodbye kisses on her frail shoulder.

She’s gone now.

The staggering pain intensifies as these three words bounce around in my head and sink in my chest. A new loss, while different, no matter how different, almost always brings up emotions attached to memories about past losses.

It’s funny how the losses we experience bring us face to face with ourselves. Giving rise to a series of questions that most of us are afraid of or lack the patience to think about and find answers to.

Questions that call for answers. Answers that cannot be found anywhere but within. A place where most of us are afraid to take a look at.

Answers that can only be heard in the calm found in the space between knowing and not knowing. Answers that can only feel right when we find stillness between love and sadness.

Writing about something as personal as this can be challenging. A cold breeze blows over the memories and I find myself caught in between flickering images streaming in random snippets of experiences, people, and relationships that are no longer current. There's a part of me pressing to keep this all to myself, to disappear and check out, and there's another part within me that knows sharing and being vulnerable is more consistent with who I am and where I’m going in life. And that part, that little voice is calling me to stay strong and say what needs to be said.

I know I need to allow the pain to settle. I bring myself back to the present to find stillness within so I can stick to the facts and offer an unbiased perspective.

By reflecting on the losses that I have experienced in life, I have learned that being able to feel okay, good and great again is a reward that only comes through feeling the loss. I have learned that there's no way to circumvent the pain associated with a loss. There’s no way to rationalize a loss and the more you resist to feel the more you hold on to the pain. In fact it is the pain that opens the door to our growth and healing. you must acknowledge the pain and instead of fighting it you must gradually embrace it.

Our instinctive reaction to pain is to avoid it at all costs. We are hardwired with coping strategies and defense mechanisms such as dissociation, intellectualization, and repression to block out unpleasant thoughts, difficult emotions and bodily sensations.

In the face of loss, our mind is constantly looking for alternatives and distractions to fill in the void and reduce the pain. However this unconscious or conscious attempt can hold us back from growing. This pain can take a toll on our body, mind, energy and spirit.

Unacknowledged loss will gradually build a barrier between you and yourself. The you prior to stepping into the experience and the you that comes out after the experience. As a result, concrete walls are built between you and others and most importantly the life you truly want to experience.

Grieving a loss allows you to learn the answers that your body and mind knows. It’s only by understanding what it was, how it felt, and what it meant that you can give yourself the permission to explore what is now.

It is only through the processing of emotions that we can free the energy that is tied to that person, relationship, object, or experience. It is only then that we can gradually free our energy and find our way to what can be.

Loss is felt in different forms

Although loss initially brings to mind matters of death, we endure many non-death losses throughout our lives. Some of our losses may feel minor and we may hardly acknowledge them as one. Such as loss of an object, such as a book, favorite article of clothing or the sense of loss that takes over after graduating from school.

Other losses can be massive and alter the course of our lives for better or worse such as a miscarraige, infertility, the feeling of loss after terminating a pregnancy, loss of a value, health, faith, tradition, lifestyle, and etc.

Some of the losses we go through can impact our lives in both tangible and intangible ways. For instance the changes we undergo when we move away from home, move to a new community, quit a job, miss an opportunity, lose a close friend or a relationship.

While some losses emerge in our internal world and the effects ripple into our external world others may first occur in our external environment and physical lives and then create enough waves in our internal world to change our worldview.

The magnitude of a loss becomes more evident when for instance we lose other things as a result of the initial loss or when we endure a new loss before getting a chance to recover from an earlier one.

For instance, a loss due to a trauma or traumatic event can crush our assumptions about ourselves and the world around us. Trauma is any distressing or disturbing experience that inflicts tremendous pain on the physiological and psychological body enough to affect one’s well-being and normal functioning.

A traumatic loss leaves us unresponsive and isolated. This is mainly due to one's inability to find safety, security, and trust in themselves and the world around them. Moreover, this kind of loss has the potential to block our value filters and give way to beliefs that induce fear in the specific area where we experienced trauma.

This happens when there’s a mismatch between our expectation from reality and the actual reality. When our core values, belief system and needs are tested and left unmet.

In general, feelings of loss come up when we lose someone or something that is significant to us. One way you may recognize a loss in life is that you recall it by splitting time to before and the after that point.

Coming to terms with loss

Whether or not a loss is perceived as traumatic, it stirs up feelings that are sometimes uncomfortable and we would rather not feel.

The pain involved in processing a loss can be overwhelming. This is something that we have experienced, are currently experiencing or will experience at some point in our lives.

While loss is a common human experience, the way we experience it, and how we deal with it differs from person to person.

This is because these concepts are very subjective and personal. So what feels very painful or traumatic to one person may not mean much to another. Any loss that a person feels is valid no matter how insignificant it may appear to others. The aftermath of loss is a unique experience as it will in one way or another impact our approach in life.

Factors such as one’s emotional state, mental, and physical health come into play in the quality of the pain and the degree to which we feel pain around a loss.

Losses that we experience through the death of our loved ones often cause us the most intense feelings. Further our responses to the death of a loved one changes depending on the reason for their death, the role they played in our life, or whether it was expected, or a sudden loss.


Grief is an experience unlike any other. It is a variety of emotions, and ensuing thoughts and feelings ranging from fear, shock, disbelief, confusion, frustration, disappointment, anger, sadness, resentment, despair, loathing, numbness, regret, guilt, emptiness, apathy, envy, hope, and relief felt with the realization that what once was no longer is.

Grief is our psychological and psychological response to loss.

As you try to make sense of your loss, you will experience different feelings and thoughts and bodily sensations. This can also impact other dimensions of your being such as the social and spiritual self, depending on what you  are grieving for.

One may experience difficulty in their ability to take part in daily activities. Physical symptoms such as change in sleep patterns and appetite, low or high sex drive, tension in the muscles, difficulty breathing, headaches, exhaustion, fatigue, rash, and bone, joint, and muscle pains are also common.

Because there are many things that can affect the way we experience a loss, there are many ways to describe grieving over a loss.

Grief comes in waves. It is a roller coaster ride with highs and lows. It unfolds in stages. One may experience more than one stage at a time or go back and forth between stages. One minute you’re in acceptance and the next in denial. You may find yourself hysterically crying over the loss and a few moments later laughing over a memory.

One thing is for sure that no two people experience grief the same way even if they are grieving over a shared experience.

Grief is not just associated with the loss of a person or living thing. We experience grief in relation to a variety of things that are important to us like a relationship that ends or a business venture that fails or even a dream that was snuffed out.

Other life changes, like deteriorating health, aging, and moving to a new country, can also trigger grief.

There are differences in the way grief is expressed. Some may show their emotions outwardly by talking about it and others may become quiet and withdrawn or turn to creative outlets such as drawing, dancing, singing, writing, and etc to express their emotions.

If you are looking for a way to support a person that is grieving. Understand that feelings associated with grief are meant to be felt. Feeling these emotions is what will help your grieving partner, or friend heal.

Let them know you are there to support them by saying something as simple as “I'm sorry that this is happening. Do you want to talk about it ?”

Allow them to take the lead, whatever their choice may be.

Grieving a loss leads to healing. Healing is a process that transpires in time and space, but the truth is that time will not heal all wounds and pain doesn’t magically disappear with space.

Time and space won’t do anything unless you actually use them to redefine the meanings you gave to your experience, to acknowledge the things that have happened in your life and to accept the current reality so you can work on finding ways to adapt to a new reality.

This becomes important when you realize that unresolved issues will translate into:

Intimacy barriers blocking your energy from flowing.

Repetitive painful cycles manifesting in your life over and again.

By acknowledging a loss you give yourself the opportunity not to leave any parts of you behind and come out of the experience as a whole.

From wounds to wisdom

Whether you have recently experienced a loss in your life or have set the intention to increase your awareness around an old unhealed pain, equipping yourself with proper tools to process the emotions attached to that experience is necessary. This allows you to show up with more openness, love and compassion, and vulnerability in your future experiences.

Depending on how fresh the pain is, feeling your emotions could be challenging. As you go through the process of grieving a loss of any kind remember to :

  • Learn and apply grounding techniques.
  • Sooth your pain with music.
  • Develop self-soothing skills.
  • Talk good to yourself and speak respectfully about others.
  • Keep a pen and paper by your side.
  • Learn to regulate your emotions.

Learn and apply grounding techniques

Rumination, anticipation, and daydreaming are the habits of the mind and grounding techniques will support you to focus on the present rather than the past or the future.

Although grounding techniques are not a permanent solution to the pain, they tend to provide a temporary relief especially if you’ve recently gone through a loss or you consider your loss as traumatic.

Having these strategies in your toolbox can help you to pull yourself out of memories, flashbacks, and obsessing over what lies ahead by intentionally focusing on your physical body and the external world.

For example, in order to engage your senses and center yourself in the present you can carry an object with you and move it around in your hand, run water over your hands, rub your hands together or touch something and think about its texture and how it feels. You can name the sounds you hear around you, the colors you notice around you, the flavors that you taste when eating your favorite dish, the aromas you smell when preparing your food.

Visualize yourself in a calm place in nature, something like sitting in a boat in the middle of the ocean, walking barefoot on the grass or warm sand on the beach. Gradually engage more of your senses to deepen your connection with the mental image.

To keep yourself in the present moment, shift your focus onto result-oriented activities like dancing, jogging, biking, hiking, sewing, drawing, or cooking. These are activities that can be done individually or in a group. Whatever the activity, commit to showing up for it and just do it. This can help you to diffuse the tension in your nervous system.

Sooth your pain with music

Make a playlist for yourself and listen to music that facilitates your healing process like soothing or upbeat instrumental music or even listen to melancholy music.

Sometimes when you have a hard time pinning down your feelings and you hear a song with lyrics that resonate with you, it helps you feel better and less alone to know there are other people out there experiencing something similar.

You can also create monthly playlists and later on revisit them to track your progress in the healing process. This could also help you if you have a hard time letting go of the pain.

I say this because sometimes we don't want to let go of the pain and we constantly relive certain moments because we fear letting go of the pain would make us forget our loved ones or the pain we endured.

Develop self-soothing skills

Regardless of your current mood and the activities you engage in, unsettling emotions can strike at any moment. When this happens, instead of rushing yourself out of it, let it flow through you with no resistance. Take a moment to acknowledge and thank your body for the feedback it is giving you.

If you feel like crying, don’t hold back the tears. Remind yourself that it’s absolutely okay and even necessary to experience these emotions.

Slowly breathe in and out and count each inhale and exhale, hug yourself, or rock your body until little by little the tension dissipates.

Give yourself assurance using statements such as, “ I am aware this is part of the process,” ”I am accepting the situation and I can be patient with myself,” and ”I know I will feel much better, wiser and stronger when this ends. “

Allow yourself to gradually get comfortable to sit in discomfort without the need to label the feeling. Instead, be curious to understand where it's located and what quality it possesses.

Observe your emotions as if there's a distance between you and your emotions. As if your emotions are performing on stage and you are sitting in the audience watching them dance. If you are in tune with your body you can sense the signals that your body is giving you.

Talk good to yourself and speak respectfully about others

Having experienced a loss it is common to feel regretful and become resentful towards yourself and others and criticize and blame yourself or them. This is because of the pain you feel.

Instead of putting yourself or others down, understand that you do what you do (or did what you did) because of who you are and because of the information you exposed yourself to at the time. With this understanding you can hold a space for yourself and others around perceived shortcomings and mistakes.

Once you reach that place where the discomfort is no longer overbearing then get curious to understand the underlying reason behind the way you feel. Continue to practice refocusing from the why to the what and be open to exploring how else you can see the situation.

Keep a pen and paper by your side

Moving beyond the pain requires doing the inner work. This means you need to sort out your thoughts and feelings. Journaling your thoughts and feelings around a loss is a good way to sort them out. Building this habit will also help you put language around your emotions.

As you develop a better understanding of yourself and your own way of thinking and empathize with yourself, you will also develop the ability to communicate with others.

To get started:

Allow your thoughts to flow without passing judgment on yourself. Once you are ready, ask yourself: what is it that I'm feeling? (Eg. numb, empty, confused, lonely, resentful, regretful, afraid, and etc.)

Write down all the things that pop into your head, all the negatives or positives. Naming what you feel allows you to support yourself in healing and integration. Once you identify and write down each one of the feelings you have, you can focus on them, one at a time.

If you hear the critical voice in your head getting loud or scolding you for the things that went wrong, pause. Focus on your breathing and bring yourself back to the present moment. Remind yourself that your intention is to better understand what happened. Your goal is to uncover all the lessons and integrate them into your future experiences.

Learn to regulate your emotions

Emotions are part of our everyday lives and activated by internal and external stimuli that we are constantly exposed to. Knowing that our emotional state impacts everything else in our lives, developing emotional flexibility becomes a necessity.

One way to develop this flexibility is through emotional regulation, in other words the ability to effectively respond to emotionally-charged events. That is the ability to feel, understand, express and manage your emotions in a healthy way.

Adopting tools such as emotional regulation, also known as self-regulation, can not only help calm your emotions in the face of unwanted experiences such as loss, it can also assist you in becoming emotionally mature.

Observe what's happened for you from a place of hospitality and curiosity.

Emotional regulation requires mindfulness and self-compassion — the ability to recognize and feel your feelings without being judgmental of yourself or blaming others becomes possible once you begin to see things as happening for you and not to you or because of you.

  • Create space to sit with the emotion.
  • Set your intention on seeing things from a higher perspective, through the lens of an observer.
  • Watch your negative or positive thoughts floating.
  • Observe your thoughts without clinging to them.
  • Feel your feelings.
  • Acknowledge and accept your feelings by naming them.
  • Observe your experience with the intention to uncover the meanings you give to different pieces of that event.
  • Identify the meanings you associate with different parts of what has transpired in the event.
  • Shift the emotion by asking yourself:
    1. Could I let this go?
    2. Would I like to let it go?
    3. When would I like to let this go?
  • Forgive yourself for the things you did or did not do and also forgive others for what they did or did not do.
  • Intentionally create more of the thoughts that are supportive of the feelings that you want to feel.

It is important to understand and accept that healing from grieving a loss takes time and requires practice, patience, and intentional work. 

Bearing your loss by yourself might be the one thing you want to do. You may even feel that no amount of talking can help you or that no one can understand the depth of your pain. I’ve been there I’ve done that.

I have learned that aside from solitude , it’s good and sometimes necessary to talk to a friend or a professional. 

I’m coach Ivy. I can coach you through this experience, and support you on your journey to healing and a better life. 

Reach out and let’s work together