Coping with the Pain of Loss

Have you ever lost someone you love? Someone who touched you at the core of your being and in your wildest dreams never thought you would ever have to live without? Have you experienced a loss so painful that you couldn’t imagine how you would put one foot in front of the other without that person by your side? Suddenly they are gone from your life and you are faced with a reality that never seemed possible, a reality you refused to ever let enter even your darkest thoughts. Now what? How do you continue on and how do you survive? Is moving forward even possible?

Many of us have experienced a loss like this. Whether it is through death, divorce, or simply someone walking out of your life, the aftermath of losing someone can be painful and traumatizing. It can rattle us to our core and knock us down with the threat of us never being able to get back up. The process of grief is messy, challenging, and extremely frightening and most of us will do whatever it takes to somehow make the pain go away.

I have been in this place, experienced a loss that caused me to feel pain that was unimaginable. Inescapable and unrelenting pain that showed up everywhere I turned. There was pain in an accidental touch by a stranger, a hug from a friend, the type of music on the radio, or a random word uttered that reminded me of all that was gone. It was everywhere, and I couldn’t seem to find my way out.

Until… I suddenly discovered the power of avoidance. It was like a magical healing solvent to my sorrows. First, I removed a tattoo from my body that I couldn’t bear to look at anymore. It felt so good that I looked for other ways to heal. I stopped listening to house music, moved as far away as I could, and no longer went out to the types of places I used to enjoy. I felt better, and thought I was healing, and moving on. I thought I had finally found my way.

I thought I had finally found my way, but I hadn’t. See, what I finally realized is that it is impossible to avoid forever. Eventually, things start to seep in that remind you of your pain and stir your emotions. For a while, I went down the road of continuing to make my world smaller and smaller. If something was too painful, I simply stopped doing it. And then one day I found myself living in a very small, dark hole. My magical healing solvent of avoidance did nothing more than deepen, prolong, and solidify my pain.

Many of us do this without even realizing it. We make our lives smaller to avoid dealing with things from our past. Little parts of us are put to sleep and never reawakened. We begin to miss out on the fullness of life, believing that we have successfully moved past our pain, but instead we have limited our selves and our potential. We have allowed fear to take over and control our lives.

What I learned through my own journey into this boxed off and limiting existence is that the real way toward healing is to dive right into the pain and let it flow through you. There will be tears, uncontrollable sobbing, anger, kicking and screaming, and who knows what else. The thing is though, there is an end. Once we allow the pain to flow through us, eventually it is no longer there. We are free to move on, free to find our way. We are healed.

So, listen to the songs. Go eat at those places. Surround yourself with the memories and let the tears flow. Give yourself permission to mourn the loss that you have experienced, giving it the time it needs and deserves. Be kind and gentle to yourself, and allow it all to flow through you. In time, you will see that the pain does subside and there is a beautiful life full of light waiting to welcome you home.

Photo credit: Matteo Barrios, Flickr – Creative Commons License.