Acceptance Bridges Loss To Letting Go
Following the experience of loss, progressing to moving on with life is a bumpy road with many in between steps hovering over acceptance before settling into letting go. Self-esteem is usually deeply scarred by loss, whether the loss is one’s own abilities (an injury or medical condition), a loved one, a job, a relationship, money, status, property…
Loss is a universal happening that few are spared, and that encompasses the person’s life until the loss is accepted and the person goes on, in spite of the new circumstances, until the grieving work is completed. It is only then that self-esteem begins to repair.
Few go through major losses without damage to self-worth in some form. The questions “why me? what did I do?” often seem locked into the grief process, as though the loss is a personal vendetta. Loss has numerous “stages” that seem universally experienced, such as those laid out by psychiatrist Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Suggestions For Coping
The ability to center oneself and rely on the inner wisdom you have gained just by living long enough will set the tone of all other skills you develop. Easy to learn techniques can be enhanced with tapes, cds or software programs.
At each point in the process of grieving, the danger of losing self-esteem is woven into the picture. Sharing with others helps put the loss in perspective and to keep the focus on the process, not inaccuracies in thinking such as I am not worthy or I need to be punished.
Journaling is a good resource. Writing daily helps the process move along. Write your journal longhand, not on a mechanical device. There is a body connection to handwriting that is not made by typing.
Knowledge about the universality of the process is a further way to put self-esteem issues into perspective. Read about loss and how others cope, read personal stories and professional suggestions. There is no time table or specific route that one must take. Everyone’s process is different, individual progress is the norm.
Acceptance Is The Key
Ultimately, the grieving will lead to acceptance and moving on. Acceptance does not mean that the loss is viewed favorably or that now life goes on as usual. It merely means that the hurt is in a place where day to day functioning can proceed, that one can live life again. The pain is moved from encompassing every waking and sleeping hour to being on the periphery, still able to be touched, but not overwhelming.
Acceptance of loss is the key to moving on. In order to accept loss, a series of processing emotions must occur. Reviewing thoughts and feelings, preferably with another person and/or in your writing will lead to relief.
The emotional pain can be devastating; the person may have gotten stuck in the loss, often because of fear–fear that the emotional pain will be too much to handle. It often feels like the emotional pain will destroy the person, if allowed into awareness. Emotional pain is scary, in itself, emotional expression will build tolerance, and eventually, will move the person into acceptance.
“I’ll Just Stuff It”
The resistance to feeling the emotions is often carried out by avoidance–avoidance of thinking about the events of the loss. Distraction by immersing one’s self in extraneous activities, even “running” from one activity to the next, prevents thoughts, let alone emotions, from being brought into awareness.
The coping mechanism of “running” may even have an appropriate place at times in the assimilation of the loss. No pain can be felt for extended periods without affecting functioning. However, when “running” never stops long enough to process loss even in a minimal way, dysfunction, likely severe depression, ultimately is a risk.
Therapy Is One Answer
Clients tell therapists, “I want to let go, I just don’t know how. I know I have to let go” Invariably, the answer is to process, work through, verbalize, feel the feelings, learn coping skills. In the big, world picture, few go to therapy, and therapy isn’t the only answer. Coping with loss is part of the human condition. For those amenable, therapeutic processing is a welcome answer. At this point the therapeutic process is one of uncovering, layer by layer, the events and pain of the original loss, moving through the loss into acceptance and eventually letting go. When coping with loss has progressed into complicated grief, therapy will restore balance.
Stay The Course
The resolution is process, process, process the loss. Don’t grieve alone. Stay in touch with your positives, those ideas that you believe about yourself that can compensate for your loss. Little by little develop a new way of being. Let the loss be a column of strength that guides you to build a new you. You never have to forget the loss, but evidently you have more work to do.
The least you need to know:
1. There is a way out; it is a process; you need others to help.
2. You are beginning a new life phase.
3. Self worth will return.
The Mission, should you choose to accept, requires:
1. You open yourself to not running, to trust that you can handle the emotions, to let others help.
2. You put the proper perspective on self-esteem: you are worthy, you can survive, you accept loss for what it is and go on to do the best you can.