I remember attending a memorial service for older friend of the family a few years ago and sitting next to a woman “of a certain age” who said that she wasn’t sure how to handle this as it was her first funeral. I was amazed that she had reached her 40’s without encountering the death of someone she knew. For me, death has always been a part of life because I had older grandparents who died when I was quite young. But for that woman, her first death loss was a profound experience.
First loss, differs from later losses because it submerges us in the icy reality that we’re in constant danger of losing people we love….a concept we have understood intellectually but isn’t fully realized until we experience it. Robert Neimeyer, psychologist at University of Memphis…. “We’re wired for attachment in a world of impermanence..How we negotiate that tension shapes who we will become.”
Early loss can poison our ability to trust or feel safe or give ourselves fully in loving relationships; early loss often leads to depression...and greater challenges in forming attachments. And yet, many people find that after surviving a painful loss, they actually emerge more resilient.
As we find ourselves dealing with differing experiences of loss we begin to understand how situational factors outside ourselves greatly affect us, but when a major loss occurs for the first time we don’t have that context, which often causes people to see a loss as a reflection or failing of their own character. I’m here to say; you CAN shake it off!
How to get past the past
Make a choice…decide to stop dwelling on loss or failure. Tell yourself “I know it’s hard but I CHOOOSE to move forward.”
Contain your rumination: If you find yourself stuck in loss mode; schedule a melt down for no more than 15 minutes…throw yourself a pity party where grief and loss and failure are all welcome guests. But when their time is over, find something positive to DO to help you move off of ‘stuck.”
Perform a reality check. Are you thinking, “I will never be the same? I’ll never be happy again?” STOP! Although things won’t be the same….there’s no reason you can’t find happiness and success or love in the present or future. In fact, after the healing takes place, your new life may be even better than before. New people, new experiences = new possibilities.
Don’t confuse the path with the destination
Maybe you just can’t let go of your grief. Maybe you feel like a failure; This is time to get out the pen to re-clarify your values and re-discover your creativity. If your first loss is a job, recognize you don’t’ need your job or one person to be creative. If you have lost your first love, know this; he or she is not the only person in the world capable of loving you. By keeping on the path, loving relationships will find you.
Be present minded; Join a gym; take up a hobby, find a cause, schedule time with friends… “The best way to break free of living in the past is to get focused on the future”..says psychologist Jefferson Singer…Take a risk….DO something concrete and positive so you can create new experiences for yourself in the here and now. As you begin DOING good, the good feelings will follow. I Promise.