Overcoming Pain & Loss
Many of our most painful losses are not from death and dying, but more mundane losses. There are no condolence cards, no rituals for them. Rather, they may come with secrecy, intense loneliness, or shame.
Losing a job or having a child fail in college, may be a crushing loss, yet borne in secret. Parents whose children act very contrary to their or society’s values can experience great shame. Those very proud of their health, athleticism, or good looks, can experience shame when they age or become ill.
Children leaving home, close relationships ending, infidelity, divorce, fertility issues, or menopause are common life experiences but often immensely painful and isolating. First time mothers may experience the loss of their care-free life, and first time fathers may hurt from loss of the exclusive affection of their wives. Increased leisure time without activities or companionship to fill it can can cause deep but ironic grief. Career failure or realizing we will never be the great scholar, musician, lawyer, or surgeon that we expected, may also bring isolating pain and shame.
Significant grief in life cannot be avoided. How we negotiate the grieving process can make us better or worse: mature or embittered, enlightened or collapsed. How much and what kind of support to seek at the time is critical. And past successes navigating previous traumas can light the way.
Most importantly, do not suffer alone or in silence! Pain unshared and unspoken can distort and expand; polluting other areas of life. Take a positive first step and share your pain with others.
How to aid in the healing process:
Know the signs: Sadness, anxiety, isolation, and sleeplessness demonstrate that something is wrong and action is needed. You deserve relief. You deserve compassion and comfort from others. It’s hard to visualize better times when enduring the blackness of great pain, but taking positive action can begin the path to a brighter future.
Find others who are going through something similar: There are a wide variety of support groups available, accessible through many channels. Group support is amazingly helpful with feelings of isolation and shame.
Reading: You may not be ready to join a group, but there is probably a relevant book - perhaps hundreds, easy to find via Google or Amazon. Besides useful information, books ironically can provide community, safety, and anonymously reduce feelings of isolation and shame.
Psychotherapy: Unfortunately people often wait far too long, suffer far too much, before choosing this option. Therapy is neither terrifying nor shameful, and doesn’t need to last for years. Try a few sessions to see if it's right for you.