Sometimes the life of your dreams is like the elusive butterfly – close but disappears as soon as you are certain the net has gracefully captured it. Whether a situation or lack of personal power causes the loss of a dream, the loss of connection to others, the loss of financial security, emotional stability, or spiritual weakening – a death of sorts occurs.
Dealing with continual grief situations is the sedimentary rock of loss. The grief has layers that settle in as part of your life experiences. If you drilled through those layers you would see how grief challenges and seeps into your emotional base, physical base, and spiritual base. Being true to your emotional base is enigmatic. Taking care of your physical base while understanding what stress can do to your body is perplexing. Experiencing a teeter tottering spiritual base will modify the way you envision the meaning of life.
We have concepts of how our life should be now and well into the future. We visualize ourselves in a particular career with well-deserved achievements living in a distinctive fashion enjoying a specific lifestyle. We expect our children to have ten fingers and ten toes with normal or above intelligence and a personality that will propel the child to become an active satisfactory member of society. But what if our concepts don’t become facts? What if our concept isn’t our reality?
For instance, April is a time when spring breakers and vacationers rush to the beach with wild anticipation of good times while feeling confident they will return home safely from their ocean adventures. Life is like that. We trust that all is well since yesterday all was well – why should today be any different? We trust in facts. We trust in our abilities to make our dreams come true but sometimes our understanding of our abilities or our situation isn’t what it seems. Sometimes we don’t have the personal power to make situations be what we desire.
If the vacationer entered the ocean on a day when a brawny undertow had the strength to pull him in and out into vastness then his facts and concepts about his ocean adventure would be drowned by this invisible phenomenon. His ability to fight the potent undertow might fail no matter his conviction to reach safe ground. His family would lose their dream of a family united walking the days of life together. If the undertow freed him but left him maim, he would lose the dream of the way his life should have gone and his family would be victim to their own grief for the situation.
If you had the desire to live your life a certain way and it didn’t happen due to circumstances not allowing for you to apply the ability, then it is perceived as a giant loss. But if a monument is built to the loss rather than to living the life in front of you, doesn’t that continue the loss? Not only did you lose the dream but now you are feeding the loss of the original dream by cheating yourself out of what is right in front of you.
Circumstances such as loss of a loved one, having a special needs child, having a family member or yourself saddled with a mental or physical disease, or being sandwiched between caring for your own children and caring for your parent(s) can all interfere with your ability to live the life of your dreams. Mix in some natural disaster elements, accidents, and plain “stuff happens” and whoa, the horse is out of the barn – there are a lot of lost dreams out there!
Grief can glue your eyes shut to the incredible opportunities in front of you, it can glue your mouth shut to speaking the truth and asking for help, it can glue your heart shut to spiritual uplifting and to the warmth of human help. You must be honest with yourself about your expectations and core values.
If you aren’t sure if you are being honest with yourself then do an “exercise in truth” task. Get out a pad of paper and a pen – no pencils, I don’t want you to rethink and erase. Life isn’t that simple.
- Now, list your losses along with dates.
- Ask yourself if you believe you have worked through grieving each loss.
- Write down your fears as hard as that is – it is freeing.
- Identify ways in which each loss has affected you and your other relationships.
- What have you done right when going through the trauma?
- What have you gained from these experiences?
Grief is complex and it affects us in complex ways. There is nothing easy about grief and it does take work to get through the barrier and it does take honesty. Every loss, no matter the measure of size, creates grief on some level. Be careful that you don’t mask your sadness with frustration, your fear with anger, or substitute your need for support with isolation.
How do you move from how it was suppose to be to let me enjoy what is now? You need to find a balance between self-respect and love for yourself and the respect and love for others. You have to the right to discover your equilibrium. Gaining personal power from your experiences and getting perspective help you melt the grief adhesive of confusion and frustration.
When you are in crisis over loss:
- Don’t chide yourself. All of the what if, should have and could have will do nothing but cause more procrastination and self doubt which then gives you another grief pellet to add to the mix.
- Remember that drugs and drink only temporarily have a Novocain effect on the pain, which will become acute as well as compounded once again.
- Don’t judge yourself. Saying you should be better by now or you should have taken care of all this by now won’t change anything. Keep in mind that the way you experience your particular pain is different from how others experience their pain. No one knows or has a time element pinned down to grief. The same type of variables that make us so unique are the same reasons our pains are felt and interpreted differently. Behavior that may bring a nod of the head or be a jaw dropper may be healing to you and it doesn’t matter what someone else thinks you should be doing.
- Don’t make major decisions unless you must and then enlist help. It is very difficult to make a balanced decision when you are not emotionally balanced.
- Learn to say “no”. Set your boundaries of what you are comfortable doing and what you are not. Don’t let someone jerk you out of those set boundaries with guilt or judgment.
- Don’t isolate yourself. As much as you may not want others to know your pain or your situation, there is danger in isolating yourself. Others do want to help even though they may say the oddest thing at the worst time. Try to look beyond the words and into their intention. Communicate to them the best way you believe they can help you.
- Take time for yourself. It isn’t selfish to set time aside for you to take proper care of yourself. It is necessary.
- Join a support group or a network or a message board with people who are in similar situations. There is comfort in finding others that recognize what you are feeling. These avenues also offer a safe place for communicating your emotions.
- Focus in on the day at hand. Not what you didn’t do yesterday. Not want you should be doing tomorrow but focus on what can be done now. Now is all we really have. We can’t turn the clock back or forward, so why not figure out what is in front of us now?
- Don’t ignore your emotions. We aren’t the waterworks factory. We can’t be turned cold or hot in a period of seconds. We can’t turn our emotional spout on or off with the flick of a wrist.
- Allow yourself to acknowledge your own needs and the right to live your life. Only you can define yourself – not the grief – not the circumstances.
- Investigate and learn as much as you can about yourself and your situation. Forewarned is forearmed.
- Always remember that everyone reacts differently to loss.
Loss thrusts forth a throng of emotions, experiences, and changes. When the first domino of shock or numbness falls on the next there is no stopping the undergoing. During our lifetime we house in our memory bank all our losses. We recall certain emotions, certain ways of coping and through it all we find ways to survive.
By the understanding of our ability and circumstances leading us to the life we now live, we can be effective creative loving beings while the life we have springs forth worth. Our losses continue to teach us positive coping skills and allow us to gain insight and compassion. We can use what we learn to lend a helping hand to others as we find new ways to share our new gained wisdom and personal growth.
Copyright Sherry Russell 2004
Updated: December 31, 2014