When we speak of grief, we often associate grief for the loss of a loved one. When someone dear to us pass away, we recognise the importance of taking the time to grieve for them, and those around us may support our grieving process by giving us the time and space to grieve.
This grieving process is important for us to heal the hurt we feel when a loved one passes away, but it can also be applied to other forms of loss we may experience in our lives.
Some obvious examples of this is the loss of a job and the loss of security that comes with it; the loss of a marriage through divorce; or the loss of any material possession.
There are also some other subtle forms of loss which may be the basis of our unhappiness, but of which we may not recognise as a loss or a loss that requires us to grieve for.
A personal example of this is when someone close to me fell ill. The illness overwhelmed her whole being, and she seemed to me like a completely different person to who she was. I struggled with this change in her for a long time, all the while holding onto my memory of the person who she was and trying to come to terms with the person she had now become. It was only when I recognised that the person she was was ‘gone’, did that open my heart to grieve for my loss – that I had lost the person who she was. Once I acknowledged this loss and took the time to grieve for that loss, was I then able to allow the wound from the hurt to be healed, and move onto getting to know and accept the new person she had become.
Another example is from a friend of mine who spoke about her making ‘progress’ in her life now that she is recovering from depression, but nonetheless she’s now struggling with the feeling that she had ‘wasted’ a lot of time in her depression. A wise friend of ours advised her, among other things, that she should give herself the time to grieve for the time that has passed.
Likewise, sometimes we may feel we had missed an opportunity that passed us by. Instead of guilt, we can simply acknowledge this loss and motivate ourselves to make the most of any future opportunities that come our way.
A final example are our experiences. Experiences are so fleeting, but memories can be so enduring. Sometimes the happy times that have passed become an impossible ideal for us to recreate. Acknowledge that the past is gone, and the future is anew with possibilities. Things will never be the same, but once we stop comparing, we open ourselves up to the never-ending changes in life.
Loss pervades our existence because everything around us and within us are in a constant state of flux. Things come and things go in our lives, like the wind that blows endlessly without beginning nor end.
Some loss are welcomed in our lives because they remove the unwanted and replace it with what is useful to us. However, some loss linger longer in our lives, and can cut deep wounds into our hearts. This then becomes the seeds of our sorrow, and sometimes we may not even realise the seeds are there until the conditions ripen for them to manifest themselves.
So the practice is to look within ourselves, and acknowledge any wounds that may exist in our heart and mind. If those wounds are linked with a sense of loss for what is gone or changed, then take the time to be kind to yourself and grieve for the loss as if you are grieving for a loved one. Say goodbye to what is lost, as this is your way to let it go. If a good cry helps, then shed those tears and use them to heal the wounds from your loss. In time, we recognise that change and loss are simply part and parcel with our existence, and we lessen the number of wounds that we inflict on ourselves from the loss we experience.