Monday, January 16, 2012

When losses pile up

Have you ever over-reacted or completely lost it when some minor loss occurred in your life? Perhaps you misplaced your spare keys or you lost some papers that you need and are so certain you put into that safe place. Now you’ve been driving yourself crazy trying to find them. You’re at the end of your rope, and you’re either dissolving in tears or raging at no one in particular.

I’ve been there. It has happened to me many times throughout my life—and it happened more frequently than I care to admit during the year after I lost my job of 22 years.

This can happen when you don’t take time to notice (and grieve) even the small losses in life. The grief can pile up and build up energy not unlike that of a volcano—just waiting for something to happen so it can all spill out—or perhaps more like it, so it can all erupt.

More than one loss
I knew losing my job was a loss. I raged. I cried. I talked with others. I journaled. But what I didn’t take time to do right away was to acknowledge the multiple losses embedded within that one huge loss: all the smaller losses such as a daily routine, the meaning my job gave my life, workplace colleagues (it didn’t matter whether I necessarily liked being around them or not; I still lost the connection!), a certain status (I was “employed;” now I was “unemployed” and that can invite dismissive attitudes from others), plans and dreams for my work, and so much more. I had a long list of losses.

I needed to break that large loss (my job) into all its smaller pieces. And grieve each one. I needed to spend time thinking about each loss. I journaled. I did some rituals around several of the losses (I’m big on creating rituals to notice what I’m feeling and to think about what I need in order to move ahead). I talked with my life coach about the various losses and about my anger and sadness. I let go of things. I let go some more. It felt like pulling thread from a spool; it just seemed to keep coming. But I finally felt much cleaner and clearer inside. (Since grieving and letting go is a process, pieces can keep coming even after we think we’re finished!)

Check out what you might have experienced lately as loss. Grieve it. Let it go. Replace what can be replaced with new experiences, new dreams, new communities. It’s good to clear out the clutter—even when it’s emotional clutter. Make room for the new. Prepare space for that inner butterfly to soar!

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