How do You React to a Loss?
Do you see it as misfortune or an opportunity?
We all experience loss. This is an unavoidable part of human nature. No matter who you are or what you do, there will be losses.
These can be material, immaterial, or both. Losses can include loved ones, jobs, promotions, experiences, and almost anything else that you can in some way have. They might be big or small, and each will have a different emotional attachment to it.
This is a big part of how we react to loss. What emotion do we attach to that which we have lost? Each emotion will impact how intensely the loss will be felt.
Every single loss we experience comes with a choice. That choice? How do we see the loss? How do we react to it? Each of us gets to choose this, and there is nobody else who can choose it for you.
It’s also important to realize that there is no right or wrong way to react to a loss. This is a very personal matter, so the how and the emotion attached are going to be completely and totally individual. As we each feel the things we feel differently, we each experience them in a completely unique way.
Generally, and this is wide generalization, there are two ways to react to a loss. See it as a misfortune or an opportunity.
Sometimes misfortune is opportunity, and vice versa
There are a couple things I want to acknowledge here. First, losses are inevitable. People will cease to be in or lives for a number of different reasons, relationships will start and end, as will every experience we have. Many of these are unforeseen losses, and completely and utterly beyond our control. But there are some that we DO control. We can end marriages, quit jobs, move to new places, and so on.
When those that we cannot control occur, often we would prefer they not happen. Nobody wants loved ones to die, to get fired from a job, or broken up with from a partnership. So when these happen, it’s totally human nature to feel hurt, get upset, angry, frustrated, and even depressed.
That, however, is the initial reaction, and totally normal. How long we choose to hold onto that, though, is up to us.
No, I am not saying we should not grieve for our losses, but neither can we allow that to fundamentally alter the course of our existence…unless, of course, it’s a push that we needed anyhow, because we desired to make some sort of change.
So we get to decide if we see that loss as a misfortune, or an opportunity, when all is said and done.
Initially, unexpected loss will almost always be misfortune. When plan ‘a’ goes pear shaped, that often completely throws us off.
Yet once the initial shock wears off, we get to choose where we go from there. Do we allow ourselves to wallow in self-pity and doubt and sadness because of the loss, or do we seek the opportunity to turn it around?
Every situation is different
Let’s be honest. This is going to be different if the loss is a job or a loved one.
It is a lot easier to see the loss of a job as an opportunity. Maybe this is your chance to start up something new and better. Perhaps losing this job is actually going to be better for you, because now you are open to finding or creating something more right for who you are.
When a loved one leaves us or dies, that’s far harder. The absence of that person from our life feels like a hole with no bottom, that can never be filled, in especial when we are talking about death. We are going to grieve, and we are going to feel bad and need time to readjust to this new reality.
When it comes to losing a relationship, eventually we will likely find that we can create something better, and start anew. Chances are, in time, we’ll see why the relationship ended, and hopefully take responsibility for our part, rather than blame (responsibility is acknowledgement of your end of the loss, whereas blame is being reproachful for how you erred, rather than being responsible for it).
When it comes to losing a loved one, in time we need to find the best ways we can to celebrate that life. We need to remember them for all the good ways they impacted our life, and the incredible things they did while they were here.
No, this is not easy, because they are gone, but it allows us to build something new, rather than be hamstringed by the loss and unable to do anything.
The other ways to react to a loss
As I said in the beginning, seeing a loss as misfortune or opportunity is a generalization. There are, of course, other ways in which the loss may be viewed.
Some people have no reaction at all. Maybe they had no emotional attachment to that which they lost. Perhaps they are just numb. It’s also possible that it was not a total surprise, or that they had previously anticipated it and dealt with it then.
For some, there is relief. Maybe you hated that job, but couldn’t bring yourself to quit. Perhaps the end of the suffering your loved one experienced feels cathartic. It’s possible there was tension tied to that which is now gone, and it has evaporated as such.
Unsurprisingly, there might be rage. This is the one way to react to loss that is closest to not being a good way. Anger may certainly be a part of misfortune, but this is rage. Blind, furious, almost unquenchable rage. This can lead to harming or getting harmed, breaking bones or inanimate objects, and when it subsides tends to hollow you out. This is the most visceral, purely emotional reaction.
There are other potential reactions to loss. Since we are all individuals, we all have different perspectives on what loss IS when all is said and done. If you see all life as impermanent, and ever-changing, you might have an easier time dealing with loss. If, on the other hand, you get super-attached to things, loss can be a source of tremendous suffering and pain.
You are not the only one to suffer loss
Every single person on this planet is going to have losses, whether material or immaterial. Because this is a part of human nature, recognizing that you are not alone can go a long ways towards allowing you to seek and find help.
Whether that means confiding in a close friend, a coworker, a therapist, or a stranger at Starbucks (don’t knock this, it’s actually happened to me), you do not need to bear this loss alone. You can find support and help in handling loss, and moving forward with your life.
There are lots of people out there who will offer you whatever help you require. You need not go this alone. We can commiserate, and whether you need advice or just a sympathetic ear, remember that you can find the release and assistance you might need.
How do You React to a Loss?