Loss is a consistent, cyclic, and inevitable part of life. While there are many sources of joy in life, even these sources of joy become losses as things change, diminish or pass away. Our youth, important relationships, well-loved traditions and people we love dearly may enter and exit our lives—sometimes gradually, sometimes abruptly. Loss is unavoidable. Every human being must develop ways of coping with these difficult and sad events. Denial, turning to drugs or alcohol or retreating from life are common but unhealthy forms of dealing with loss.
So, what are healthier ways of dealing with the losses in our lives? All of us have heard of grieving as a response to losing treasured people and relationships. We can also feel grief in response to loss of a job, a decline in health or the loss of sentimental objects due to natural disasters and human destructiveness. Grieving is one important element of healing and moving forward, but it is also possible to get stuck in a particular stage of grief, such as anger, and then fail to complete the process that will lead to relief from your emotional pain.
The process of grieving can be described in multiple ways. One well-known model of grieving developed by Elizabeth Kubler Ross includes these common elements: 1) denial (shock or disbelief); 2) anger; 3) bargaining; 4) depression; and 5) acceptance. If we get stuck in anger or endless bargaining with life or those who seem to be withholding something from us, we stall our progress through the dark tunnel of grief.
Beyond grief, there is the process of finding new sources of hope and fulfillment, rebuilding our lives in ways that acknowledge the loss without letting the loss determine every aspect of our lives, and doing our best to glean the wisdom or lesson that may currently be hidden by the loss. There is something of value, whether psychological, emotional or spiritual to be learned from almost any loss. Let’s talk about how, as older women, we can successfully move through loss and come out on the other side with some sense of peace and the ability to move forward with our lives.
- Without sharing the whole story of your loss (because we really don’t have the time to honor your whole story), please share one of the losses you have experienced?
- What were the most difficult aspects of coming to terms with that loss? Have there been unhealthy coping strategies that you have fallen into the past?
- How have you been able to move through the stages of grieving? Was there any specific stage you have gotten stuck in? And what helped you get unstuck?
- If you have successfully moved through losses in the past, what other strategies, support systems and resources have helped you effectively move through the grieving process?
- Were there any important life lessons or wisdom that later came because of this loss?