©2019 Kari Carlisle
Feeling depressed? Stressed? Frustrated? Angry? Invariably, the cause of any negative feelings boils down to one word: loss.
We lose things all the time. Mostly, loss is a petty annoyance. The temporary loss of keys, reading glasses, scissors, especially when one needs them most, causes the blood to simmer a bit. But loss doesn’t stop there. We can lose time, money, jobs, homes, and health. More than petty annoyances, these types of losses can be life-changing, even devastating. There are permanent losses, too… the loss of pets, friends, and family members.
We fear change, which is what loss is. Change in the status quo. Whatever we lose, whether annoying or overwhelming, temporary or permanent, causes change, and the better adapted we are to change, the better we respond to loss.
I’ve experienced a lot of loss in the last few months. Possibly the most difficult to deal with was the loss of my left hand for several months. I’m right-handed, and everyone, including myself, was at least grateful for my ability to use my right hand. But that slight grace was small comfort. That loss went beyond mere inconvenience. A shattered bone in one finger made me lose my independence. Constant pain and swelling meant I had to keep my hand elevated for weeks, and I lost my ability to walk my dogs and go for hikes because any exercise, any increase in heartbeat, meant throbbing pain that could not be alleviated. Because I couldn’t exercise, I lost my level of fitness and gained weight. I lost my typing speed. I lost the ability to open a bottle of wine. I lost so much.
When we lose things, we lose what brings us happiness. One of the things I enjoy most in life is hiking with my dogs, something I have not been able to do in months. But I am one who is always looking out for light at the end of the tunnel, and I know I will be able to do that again soon, though now, it’s too hot in the Arizona desert. But not everyone looks for or sees the light at the end of the tunnel. That light is what we may find after loss.
One’s perspective on loss of any kind has everything to do with how and what they may find. The natural response to loss is grief, and there’s no reason to deny the experience. Loss is painful, and grief helps us work through the pain. If we sit in denial, we lose the benefits that grief provides including gratitude and closure. The grief process allows us to process the loss and move on to find the next positive thing in our lives.
I suspect that improper grief processing can lead to a deeper fear of loss/change. We all have methods for mitigating loss, everything from buying a dozen pair of scissors to buying life insurance. These methods can’t prevent loss, but they help soften the blow of loss. But fear that results in a phobic pattern of loss prevention can lead one down the path of mental illness. Loss of sanity.
My shattered finger could have shattered so much more and in some respects has. Just walking my dogs or using stairs leads to anxiety about falling. Acknowledging the anxiety and working – hard – to move past it does help. Dwelling on loss can lead to victim mentality, and one must be self-aware to avoid falling into that trap.
On the other hand, suppressing the negative emotions is not healthy, and dealing with them is a necessary part of the grief process. One must handle loss with thoughtfulness, mindfulness, and prayerfulness and sometimes head on by holding responsible those who may have caused the loss. Without the proper processing of grief, those negative emotions have a tendency to come out one way or another. This is why “anger management” is more than just controlling anger and other negative emotions. It’s about the appropriate expression of one’s feelings, not holding them in and not blowing up.
My finger will likely never fully recover, and I still need to decide, without my emotions taking over, how I’m going to handle this loss. Loss is part of life, some losses worse than others, and how we handle them dictates what we learn and what comfort we find.