September 16, 2008
When most people hear the word loss, they think of death, but it can also mean that your heart has been broken because someone or something you deeply cherish in your life has been lost. It is inevitable that at one point during your life you will experience a loss, but with some planning, you can get through the difficult time with grace and balance. There is no loss that you can’t recover from. “You can love, lose and survive. You can fall to your knees and cry in pain. You can feel a horrible, crippling emptiness, yet recover and fill yourself up again. We all seem to survive it,” Dr. Phil says.
In his book, Real Life: Preparing for the 7 Most Challenging Days of Your Life, Dr. Phil suggests following these steps to get through your difficult time.
Give yourself time to accept what has happened. There is no schedule for when you should feel certain emotions, or be over others. “Choose to stand up for you and the rest of your life, and choose to move on,” says Dr. Phil. You don’t have to figure out how you’re going to get through the rest of your life. Just focus on staying in the game and moving forward now. It is normal to cry and be depressed, but you need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. “You have to continue carrying on with your life, because going MIA from your routine and support from friends and family will only magnify the grief you feel,” Dr. Phil warns. “Regardless of the specific loss you are going through, expect that the day will come that you will begin to see hope again. You can survive. You do have the strength to get through this.”
Accept that your emotions are a natural part of the grieving process. “Experiencing death, divorce or other loss that makes you feel rejected and alone isn’t a life sentence of grief,” Dr. Phil says. “You will emerge. But don’t put generic expectations on yourself and don’t let others do so either.” You will feel an array of emotions. Remember that grief from any loss is not a linear process. You will begin to move on in your own time; just be sure to move forward before you totally lose your way.
One of the most frequent struggles you may face when you lose someone is a sense of being out of control ” not being able to control when someone leaves you. “Even though we can’t even almost have that control, we are not victims ” or at least we don’t have to be,” Dr. Phil says. “There is a point in this process where you can and must choose to take a stand for how you are going to react to this hard hit.” You must actively, consciously choose to focus on what you can change, and accept what you can’t change. “This means mentally, emotionally and spiritually accepting the reality of your loss and letting go of a past that you cannot bring back.”
Find Strength in Others
Although it may feel like you’re all alone in your experience, try talking to someone who has experienced a similar loss or someone whose presence is a source of comfort. “Sometimes a compassionate person may be a great help, even though they have not been through a similar loss,” Dr. Phil says. “The very fact that they haven’t been down that road may bring some much-needed objectivity to your dark hour.”
“It’s easy to get stuck in this negative experience and all the emotions of it,” Dr. Phil warns. Don’t get stuck in anger or bitterness. “Do what you need to do to help you get unstuck.” This can be different for everyone. You may find help in taking up a new hobby, getting counseling or talking to your doctor about treatment options like antidepressants. “Grief may cause you to be biochemically unbalanced, and medication may be the short-term jump-start that you need to move forward.” Another way to move forward is to focus on all the reasons you need to return to being the person you were before the loss. Beware: if you’ve had an addiction in the past, make sure you don’t turn to that narcotic as a source of soothing.
“There’s wisdom in that old saying about living every day as though it were your last,” Dr. Phil says. That doesn’t mean you should go out and be reckless, but rather recognize that the unexpected can happen to you. Nurture the relationships with the ones you love. “You have to see time as a currency that you need to spend now, not wait for a day that may never come.” You are not here forever, and neither is anybody you love.
Take the time to ask yourself what you’ve learned from going through this experience. “There is value in all experiences; it just may take a closer look or a little time to see what it is,” says Dr. Phil.
It is hard to have a family discussion about death, but it is a necessity. Be sure to have the talk with other family members when it is a calm time. Prepare financially for your exit from this world, and prepare your children for life when you’re gone. For example, you can make videos for your kids, sharing your advice about life, and what your hopes and dreams are for them.
“It’s a tragic injustice if all you do is focus on the day you lost your loved one, or their illness, accident or death,” Dr. Phil says. Not only is it painful, it doesn’t help you heal or move on. “You can and need to mourn their passing, but don’t do that to the exclusion of celebrating their life.” Remember, life doesn’t stop just because that person is not alive. Ask yourself if your loved one would really want you to stop your life because they’re no longer alive.
“The past is over, and the future hasn’t happened yet. Adopt an attitude that says, ‘The only time is now: I need to live in the moment,'” Dr. Phil suggests.
Adapted from Dr. Phil’s book Real Life: Preparing for the 7 Most Challenging Days of Your Life. Click here to buy your copy.