Coping With Sudden Loss (DE Wave)

The tragic passing of local restaurateur and friend Matt Haley got me thinking about how we humans manage to cope with loss and the changes it can bring to our lives. The death of a family member, friend or an admired figure can be one of the worst traumas, but there are also many less devastating changes that we can encounter; some on a day-to-day basis.

Some changes are not so easy to endure. Like the recent loss of Matt, we are forced to suffer sadness and trauma we didn’t anticipate. But we must find effective ways to cope, and in time figure out what to do next. Tolerating and surviving an ordeal like this isn’t easy, but the inner fortitude we gain can help prepare us for the possibility of further loss in the future.

Even in day-to-day cases when you know that a change is going to be good, the happiness and anticipation can be bittersweet. But there are things we can do to make transition a little less traumatic. For example, write down the good things that change will bring. You might say to yourself, “I’m relocating to the beach full time. It’s what I always wanted to do, but I’m going to miss my old friends, and moving is stressful.” Then write: “YES, BUT … now I can enjoy everything about the beach on a full-time basis. My old friends will visit, and I’ll make new ones. Moving is stressful, but it’s temporary. The pleasures of living where I want to be will be permanent.”

Another example: “My child is going off to college and I’m going to miss her.” Put pen to paper: “YES, BUT … my child is successful. She made it to college. My goal was to raise her to adulthood. And it worked.”

Remind yourself of the positive aspects, and add to your list as you think of more. Don’t write down what’s negative — it’s the negative thoughts we’re trying to get rid of. The written word is an effective way to keep depressing emotions in check. Keep in mind that you almost always have choices. If you don’t like one change, in some cases you can choose another. It’s OK to make course corrections.

Imagine getting rejected for a job you wanted. At first, it’s devastating. You’re going to feel sad for a while. However, as time passes, you realize that you don’t have to focus on this job anymore. You’re liberated. You can now focus on something else; something that will likely be just as good or even better. Don’t just take my word for it. Think back on rejections or disappointments in your past. Didn’t things often end up turning out just as well?

Life is dynamic and prone to variation. Imagine a world in which nothing ever changed! There would be no inventions, no computers, medicines, cars or gadgets to make our lives more convenient. We would enjoy far fewer choices, and probably not even live as long as we do now.

Over the years, I’ve talked with many depressed people. One common theme is that, for whatever reason, they don’t make changes. Because of the lack of variation and fresh experiences, life becomes a boring quagmire of mediocrity. I work hard to convince them that the only depressing thing about all that is that it never had to be.

So look at the progression of your life as an airplane flight, a train ride, or an automobile trip. It’s not always comfortable or convenient, and it might even be a little risky, but it’s the only way to get where you really want to go.

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