Healing is not the smooth process many people assume. It is more a lightning bolt, full of ups and downs, leaps, and backslides.
Everyone knows what loss feels like – or do they?
Along with the obvious feelings of pain, depression, and sadness, there are other reactions to a loss that are not so obvious, such as:
- Feeling helpless, fearful, empty, despairing, pessimistic, irritable, angry, guilty, restless.
- Experiencing a loss of concentration, hope, motivation, energy.
- Changes in appetite, sleep patterns, or sexual drive.
- A tendency to be more fatigued, error-prone, and slower in speech and movement.
Any or all of these are to be expected during and after the experience of a loss. It’s part of the body’s natural healing process. Bear with these changes: don’t fight them. It’s OK.
You might want to follow a few of the suggestions given, remaining aware that your mind and body are already involved in the healing process.
Following a loss, there are three recognizable stages of recovery.
- The first is shock/denial.
- The next, anger/depression.
- And Finally, understanding/acceptance.
Expect to be in shock
It’s good to be aware of these phases of recovery and to know that each is both necessary and natural.
At the end of this progression are the rewards: the pleasures of freedom, the joys of growth, and the sense of mastery derived from having dealt with a loss in a “right and proper way.”
Accept the loss
You can expect to be in shock for a while. This emotional numbness may be frightening.
You may struggle both to believe and to disbelieve that this could have happened to you.
But it has happened. It is real.
You are strong enough.
You will survive.
To feel pain after a loss is: normal, proof that you are alive, a sign that you are able to respond to life’s experiences.
Loss is a part of life – of being alive – of being human. Everyone experiences loss.
Your self-esteem may have suffered a jolt, and your thoughts may be full of guilt, worry, condemnation, and self-deprecation. These thoughts are just symptoms of the stress you are going through.
There is no need to have negative thoughts about yourself.
You will get better. There’s no doubt about that.
It is the nature of the healing process to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Keep in mind, at the beginning, that there is an end. It’s not that far off. You will heal.
Nature is on your side, and nature is a powerful ally.
The healing process takes time. The greater the loss, the more time it will take to heal.
You require time to heal. Give yourself the luxury.
The process of healing and growth is not the smooth progression many people assume.
It’s more a lightning bolt, full of ups and downs, progressions and regressions, dramatic leaps, and depressing backslides.
Realize this and know that the healing process is underway.
Expect your judgment to be clouded these days, therefore keep decision-making to a minimum. Postpone major decisions if at all possible. Friends and family can make many minor decisions for you. Invite them to do so.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s a human (and courageous) thing to do. Surround yourself with things that are alive; don’t isolate yourself from life.
Reaffirm your beliefs
They may include religious beliefs or philosophical concepts in which you put stock.
Use any body of knowledge which you find comforting; re-explore it, lean on it, grow from it, enjoy it.
You may be having suicidal thoughts. They may not be as eloquent as Shakespeare’s “To Be Or Not To Be,” but they may arise. Keep it a question. It’s not really an answer.
Do your mourning now
Don’t postpone or deny or cover, or run away from your pain. Bear with that pain.
If you do not allow the hurt to heal completely you may find emotional over-sensitivity the result. You might flinch at every new encounter.
Expect a positive outcome. Anticipate it. Plan for it. It will come.
Bear with the sadness and the pain when it comes, but don’t dwell on it. Accept it, but don’t invite it. Pain is an acceptable guest, but not a welcome long-term visitor. It’s OK to feel depressed.
Pretending to have more energy or enthusiasm or happiness than you actually have is not productive.
Tomorrow will come
It’s OK to be low-key for a while.
Crying has its own special purpose. It is cleansing, a marvelous release.
It’s OK to feel anger
Everyone gets angry at the loss of love. Everyone. It will go away as your hurt heals.
Now is not the time to alter your eating habits drastically or go on a crash diet. Good nutrition tends to speed the healing process.
Increase the amount of protein you eat. Meat, fish, poultry, milk, eggs, nuts, seeds, soya beans, and whole grains are high protein foods.
Remember in these days of stress and recovery that you are vulnerable.
Guard your physical health.
Get moderate exercise.
Under-indulge in addictive activities
Beware of anything you may be or may become addicted to. Under indulgence in the escape mechanisms of society is in order. Bear with the pain, don’t run away from it.
Alcohol may numb the pain momentarily, but it is a depressant and the eventual effect will be greater depression.
Drugs (marijuana, ups. downs, all the recreational chemicals) interfere with the natural healing process and should be avoided. A series of momentary “highs” is a poor trade-off for a deepening depression.
If your doctor prescribes medication, a sedative or tranquilizer for example, by all means, take it. In that case, the medication is part of your recovery program.
Heal at your own pace
Although some people may demand it, don’t feel guilty if you fail immediately to “understand” why the loss happened, or instantly “accept” the loss gracefully.
As you continue to heal you will find:
- Your thinking is sharper.
- Your judgment is more reliable.
- Your concentration is improved.
- Your view of the world is less self-preoccupied.
- Your feelings are more alive.
You’ll feel stronger and more independent. You’ve learned that:
- You can survive.
- The pain eventually lessens.
- Healing does occur.
You’ve dealt with an experience of loss and have grown from it.
But don’t settle for just surviving and healing. Let growth continue.
Be open to new people, places, ideas, experiences. Visit new places.
Now’s the time to develop new interests. But don’t forget about the old interests and activities you’ve let lapse.
In choosing new and old interests, be sure to intersperse those activities which require people and those which you do best alone.
You can now be comfortably alone with yourself again. In addition to moving outward into the world, explore and enjoy your personal world of solitude.
Enjoying yourself alone is a necessary prerequisite for genuinely enjoying others.
Having weathered a crisis, expect to discover:
- A stronger you.
- A different you.
- A more evolved you.
Enjoy your freedom.
You’re in control now.
Make the most of the ability to choose where, what, how, when, who.
You are bringing order into your world again. You can choose the world you want to have around you.