A friend recently suggested that I might do a number of blogs on a subject that I know a lot about. It is not an easy subject to discuss yet all of us deal with it at some point in our lives.
The subject is loss.
My friend felt that since I have had much experience both personal and professionally, it could help some people as they are experiencing it. Much of this will, of course, be quite sad, but the discussion will be about how one deals with it. So even though we will be looking at the sad side, we will also be looking at ways to get through the experience.
There is no doubt that one of the most difficult experiences one has to face in life is loss. Speaking now as a psychotherapist, there are many different kinds of loss. First of course is physical loss, such as one’s health, a diagnosis of a chronic illness such as cancer, heart disease or multiple sclerosis and bodily losses due to disease or an accident, use of legs, eyes or ears. But I will be dealing with emotional and psychological losses; losing a loved one, breaking up a relationship, losing one’s job.
But it will be important for you to know, in addition to my professional background, some of my personal background. I need to begin with the birth of my first child. When she was diagnosed with congenital heart disease at age one, the first loss was the fact that she would never lead a normal life. Fortunately, she had surgery at age four which allowed her to lead as normal a life as possible up to age sixteen. At his time, she had a second surgery, but did not make it.
My third child, a boy, was also diagnosed with congenital heart disease, had surgery at six months, but died at fifteen months. When my daughter died at age sixteen, my father died six months later and my mother eight months later. Then, my only sister was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was essentially hospitalized for the rest of her life.
This is powerful stuff.
Even as I write it today, years later, I feel the power of those experiences of loss. But, as I stated earlier, what I will be writing about is not about the pain, but how one can deal with it.
Let me pretend that I am sitting in my chair in my office and I am speaking to you sitting across from me. Let me tell you what I learned from both experiences, personal and professional.
The very first thing one must understand is the many differences in loss, differences in personalities, differences in situations, differences in relationships. Every one of these categories creates a different response to loss.
Often we turn to friends, relatives or books for ways to help us cope with our problem. But the paths to coping that are suggested rarely fit one’s own situation. But it can be helpful. Occasionally by doing this one can discover one’s own way. Rarely does someone else’s method suit one’s own. The goal, therefore, and the challenge are to discover one’s own way. There is no formula that suits everyone.
Up next: Discovering one’s own way.