How To Deal With Grief And Loss
By Anubhav Srivastava ( Register for his Workshop – Build Super Confidence For Super Success!)
How do you deal with grief and loss? In life, nothing is permanent. Sooner or later everything old will come to an end and make way for the new. This is true for everything, whether it is clothes, items, relationships, people, buildings, planets, stars, galaxies and even the universe!
The only permanent thing in existence is change. The loss of material things, relationships and people extremely dear to you is inevitable in your lifetime and when that happens it hurts. It hurts bad.
Our goal cannot be to prevent change from happening at all costs. That is impossible. Sometimes you maybe able to delay it, but change and loss are inevitable. Grief and depression as a result of that change, however, they differ greatly from person to person. The objective is to allow change to happen while ensuring that we don’t get emotionally shattered while experiencing it.
Now some life events such as the death of someone you love or a family member are far worse than losing material possessions or having a relationship end (at least for most people). So I am not going to say that you should not grieve or cry, but sooner or later you have to learn to move on. Because if you can’t, you will be paralyzed and will waste your life away. And life is too precious for that. So how do we let go and move on? Here is how. I will give you three keys which are paramount to dealing with grief and loss.
The first is to understand that the root cause of all suffering is attachment.
It was the Buddha who first made this statement. This is one of the four noble truths in Buddhism. This fact says that whatever mental suffering and agony we have in life when we experience a materialistic loss or the loss of a person, it has nothing to do with the object or the person, it has everything to do with our attachment to it!
Think about it, if a friend’s relative passes away, it probably would make you sad and you would be extremely sympathetic towards your friend, but would it shatter you on the same level as it would when your own loved one passes away? It would not. No way. Because your friend was far more attached to them than you could ever be. The person is the same but their passing shatters your friend, causes you some sadness and does not affect the average person on the street at all! Why? Because of differing levels of attachment.
The sooner you start letting go of attachment the easier it is for you tolerate change when it inevitably happens. Now this is obviously much easier said than done and way harder in real life, especially if you love the person. But this is really the first step, if you are excessively attached to anything it will be a billion times harder to let go. Quite honestly, it is impossible for most of us leading a normal family life to let go of all attachment, we are attached to our possessions, our parents, our spouses, our children.
But here is where meditation will help. If you take out time to meditate daily, especially mindfulness meditation, which is one of the key practices in Buddhism, you can learn to live in the present moment, gain insight into the true nature of things and consequently form a more detached outlook towards things. It doesn’t mean you become apathetic or no longer care. It means you care but you no longer desire to control all outcomes, because you know that is not possible. So you adopt the view, that whatever happens, happens and accept it.
This is the second key: Acceptance
A big chunk of things in life are not under your control. Sorry to burst the bubble, but you are not 100 percent in control of your destiny as other motivational speakers may want you to believe. Yes you can work hard to improve your circumstances and most of the times that hard work, if directed properly will pay off. But there are so many things not under your control.
For example you can work super hard on your exams and that will greatly increase your chances of success, but does it guarantee that you get into the university of your choice? It doesn’t. There are a variety of factors involved – From the percentile you are in to the fees the university charges to, for Indian readers, the caste you belong to!
You can do your absolute best in a relationship but if the other person themselves keeps finding excuses after excuses to create constant conflicts, accuses you of cheating even when you are loyal, while they themselves look around elsewhere and eventually decides to leave, what can you do? Nothing except accepting the fact that they are no longer going to be a part of your life.
No amount of wallowing or pleading changes a person’s mind who had already made a decision. It only makes you look desperate. Have some self respect and accept their decision. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a bad person or that your life is over, it just means their part in the story of your life is over. Allow those who want to come into your life to come in (if you want them to) and let those who want to go to go. You cannot control anybody except your self.
Similarly, understand that amount of grief will bring back a person who has passed away. The time to try and prevent something from happening was when they were still alive and even then there are many diseases or situations that are simply not under your control. It was just meant to be.
You have to learn to accept and make space for everything that is not under your control. Be thankful for the time they spent with you on this earth but accept the fact that this day was going to come sooner or later. Also, accept the fact that the same is going to happen with you and everybody else around you because change is the law of the universe. Don’t resist this harsh truth. Whatever you resist, persists and more you resist it the worse you will feel.
The third key is to focus on something else that will help you let go faster.
If you are someone who was excessively attached to the person/possession or relationship you last, the first few days are going to be really tough. Depending on the magnitude of your loss and your attachment this may even extend into months. Sometimes you may never really be able to stop missing them completely. That is okay and it is a part of being human. We are not here to kill our feelings, we want to be able to live a meaningful and fulfilling life even if those feelings linger at the back of our mind.
Even after the initial days or months, being nostalgic or grieving from time to time is fine but if that is all you focus on 24/7, you are going to spiral downwards quickly and destroy your life. For people who suffer from clinical depression this will have even more terrible consequences, because this obsessive focus on the past only feeds the depression and makes it worse. People completely losing their sanity or even committing suicide years after the traumatic event is not unheard of .
The reason for this downward spiral is simple – obsessive focus on the past because of excessive attachment and the unwillingness to accept what has happened. The brain is very adaptable and locks into these negative patterns rather quickly. The good news is, these negative patterns can be broken as well. They are broken by consciously choosing to focus on something that distracts you from the past but helps you grow instead of doing further damage.
What do I mean by that? There are two ways to distract yourself. A negative way and a positive way. Unfortunately most people pick the negative way and suffer greatly. They get into drugs, alcohol, smoking, excessive partying or other things that may feel better momentarily but screw up your life in the long run.
The other option is to focus on positive things such as your work, your relationship with your other family members, spending time with genuine friends or take up a new hobby you really enjoy. The negative things only end up making you feel worse when their effects wear off and thus perpetuate a cycle of addiction.
The positive ones help you grow and lead a meaningful, happy and productive life despite your loss. The positive activities make you realize that no matter what you lose, there is light at the end of the tunnel and that life goes on. You can lose everything in the world and still live a happy life as long as you remain in the driver’s seat of your mind instead of letting your emotions rule you. Remember, loss is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
About the Author
Anubhav Srivastava is an author, speaker and the director of Carve Your Destiny, a first of its kind inspirational documentary featuring some of the most famous personalities from diverse fields. It has been seen by over 1 Million People on Youtube. Anubhav has also been featured in numerous International and India Media outlets such as BBC , The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Rediff.com, Leicester Mercury and many others.
For one on one consulting or a motivational workshop at your organization please email firstname.lastname@example.org . If you would like to write a guest blog post on Anubhavsrivastava.com you contact me on the same email address.
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