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Transitioning Life’s Losses

Psychoanalyst David Peretz stated, “Loss is an integral part of human existence, a fact which has profound consequences from birth to death.” However, what exactly are these consequences?

Losses are usually accompanied by a sense of grief, a feeling many people are uncomfortable with. We may feel out of sorts, confused, restless, depressed, angry and sad, or fearful of the future and all its unknowns.

We protect ourselves from grief by not looking at and acknowledging all the associated losses that come with each loss. Sure, we lose a loved one or job, yet we also may have lost a sense of security, our social connections, and our role as spouse, loyal employee or family bread winner (to name a few). Who will laugh at our jokes now? Where will we get our daily smiles of appreciation, love and support?

Rabbi David Wolpe noted, “The frightening thing about loss is what we do to ourselves to avoid it. We know we cannot live without losing, but this knowledge does not prevent us from seeking to protect ourselves.”

We further protect ourselves by trying to keep things ‘the same’ or ‘normal.’  We avoid facing both the emotions and reality of the loss with distractions and medications, with shopping, drinking or with other emotionally numbing or avoiding activities.

However, the reality of any significant loss means realizing we must change. Loss calls, even demands, us to examine our lives with the opportunity for growth and transformation. And this approach to loss takes courage.

As depth psychotherapist Robert Romanyshyn stated, we go “into the winter country of the soul in grief, a place for which there are no maps. It takes courage to endure the grieving process when everything in our culture is aimed at getting you past it as quickly as possible.”

And so, another way of handling grief is by being still, turning inward, and consciously discerning what activities, relationships and way of living we now want to live by. If things must change, then what will they be? We start by asking, ‘What really matters to me now?’

Peretz’ “profound consequences” refer to this very opportunity of change.  We grieve the loss of what was and reinvest in what can be. This process eventually brings about growth, renewal and transformation.

The political poet Tuli Kupferberg stated, “When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.” However, it will be messy, chaotic and challenging. There will be resistance, wrestling with what was and what psyche may be deep down calling for. Recall the ever present sacrifice-death-rebirth cycle. There cannot be change, something new, without a letting go and a loss of some aspect of our selves.

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Diane Hancox, MA, CCC provides counselling services to Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.