Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Letting Go

Throughout our lives we experience different types of loss.  It's difficult, no matter how we handle it, but learning to cope with it more effectively can make it more bearable.  In all cases, make time for yourself, spend time alone to gather your thoughts, and grieve in your own way.  Everyone is different.

Friends:  This could come as a result of a move, differing opinions, or death.  If it's a move that is separating you, arrange to keep in touch via Skype, phone, and social media, as well as in-person visits, as much as possible.  Although it depends on how close you are and how long you've known each other, long distance friendships can suffer if you don't put enough effort into keeping them alive.  If separation is due to differing opinions, make a point to seek out new friends who share your views.  It's not necessary for all your friends to agree with you all the time, but they should share your basic values.  Death of a friend can be jarring to your system.  Take time to remember the good times and what your friend means to you.  Celebrate your friendship by doing something that the two of you used to do together.  Invite other friends to join you or do it by yourself, whatever feels more comfortable.  Whatever you loved to do as a team--flying kites on the beach, reading in the park, eating ice cream at your favorite hang out--do it.  Imagine your friend is with you; she really is.  She's there in your heart and in your memory.

Marriage:  Whether a split is friendly or nasty, it's hard to deal with.  You may have put everything you had into the marriage and now it's gone.  It can be pretty traumatic.  You may feel paralyzed, at a loss as to what to do next.  If you have children together, you may be preoccupied with making sure they feel loved and safe.  Take time to recover.  Spend time with the people you trust and find comfort in the most. Talk, sit in silence, play music, explore a favorite place in nature, even invite them to help you go through your things as you pack up your life for a move.  Or, you may find the most comfort in yourself; that's okay.  If you need to be alone to think, remember the past, visit old haunts, cry, prepare for your new life, make that clear to your loved ones.  You need to do what is right for you; whatever will help you heal.  .

Work:  A loss of a job can be devastating financially and emotionally.  Hopefully you'll receive notice, but regardless, be prepared.  Save as much as you can so you have something to get you through potential tough times.  In today's "stuff"ed" culture, it's easy to be tempted to buy everything you want now, but it's best to resist that temptation and save for that rainy day instead.  You'll be glad you did.  You may not be able to save a ton of money, but even putting away a little each week will help in lean times.  It all adds up.  Also, keep your eyes open for any opportunity to work, no matter what the task.  It may not be in your traditional line of work, but when you're trying to keep a roof over your head and food on the table, pretty much any job will do in a pinch while you're looking for something else more suitable.  Ask everyone you know to keep their eyes and ears open for new opportunities.  You can also volunteer at local organizations; it might even lead to a paying position.  It happens.  Be prepared to live more frugally.  Sell things you don't absolutely need.  Ditch cable, Netflix, and the like. Buy or rent a smaller home, trade in your vehicles for less expensive ones, and if your children attend private school, consider enrolling them in public school or giving homeschooling a try.

Retirement:  This may be a time of joy, but it also can be really tough.  You may have worked all your life at the same company and consider your work mates family.  Or, you might simply love what you do for a living and hate the thought of giving it up.  Something you could consider doing is volunteering at work a couple days a week.  That way it's not such a jar to the system as when you just up and leave for good.  Or, you could volunteer at a totally different place.  You could also take on part-time paid work.  Depending on where you live, your health, your disposable income and the like, there are countless things you could do in retirement to help ease the loss of work and potential feelings of being unneeded or bored.  Take up a sport such as golf or tennis, find a walking buddy, travel, join a support group of other retirees, go back to school to take courses for the fun of it, get to know your neighbors, host an exchange student, write your memoirs for your children and grandchildren, adopt a pet from your local animal shelter, or join a club or committee.  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Family:  Whether it's a parent, grandparent, or child, losing a member of your family to death can hit hard.  The mourning process can take a long time, and should take as long as you need to heal.  Go through boxes of mementos, celebrate the good times, join a support group, cry, meditate, even laugh at some silly habit your loved one had.  It is through all these actions that we heal and learn to move on.  I personally don't mourn very long.  Maybe it's because I consider death a part of life.  Or maybe it's because of my medical history.  I have almost died myself a few times.  It could also be that I tend to believe I will meet up with passed loved ones again someday.  I'm not religious, and I don't know much about reincarnation, I admit, but there have been so many accounts of life after death, it is hard for me to discount it as myth.  Besides, it feels good to think that I will meet Dad and others again who have passed.  If it's true, great.  If not, well, I'll find out when the time comes.  It's not something I spend time ruminating over for countless hours.  I remember when my dad passed away, I cried for a short time as Jim hugged me.  The tears were both of sadness and of relief--he'd been in poor health for awhile.  But then I was okay.  He was at peace.  Although I think of him often--his caring, his quirky sense of humor, his funny catchphrases--I've gone on with my life.

Childhood:  Where in the world did it go?  How did I get this old so fast?  Okay no, I'm not old and I don't obsess about getting older.  To me, the fact that I'm getting older is a good thing, otherwise I'd be dead, right?  But still, I do find myself taken aback a bit when I realize just how long ago I graduated from high school.  I still feel as if I'm 18 (well, most of the time), for heaven's sake!  So, why is it that songs from the 1980s are considered "oldies," now?  Oldies?  You've got to be kidding!  The first time I heard an '80s song on an Oldies station I about fell over.  It just can't be!  But, yep, it is.  Childhood was a long time ago for many of us.  To think of it that way, it smarts a little, and it can be scary.  It seems as if you were just on the track team breaking all sorts of records and now your bones snap, crackle and pop every time you try to get out of your favorite easy chair.  Oh, the realities of life suck sometimes.  It's important to key on the present and what you can do, not what you can't.  Participate in activities that you enjoy.  Maybe you can't run track anymore, but try your hand at something else like walking, wheelchair dancing, yoga, table tennis, or golf.  Join clubs associated with your youth (related to a specific music of an era, for example), or dig out old childhood games and give them a go again for the fun of it.  You may have to face the fact that you're a grown up now and even act like it sometimes, but that doesn't mean you can't still be a kid at heart.  Embrace the life you live now, make it fun, and look for fulfilling activities to participate in.

If you find that your feelings of loss are taking over; they're interfering with you getting on with your normal life, seek out the help of a qualified health professional.  Don't deal with this alone long-term.  Honor the loved ones/your childhood that you have lost by getting the help you need so you can live a happy, healthy and fulfilling life.  

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