Experiencing Loss and Overcoming It

One thing we have in common is the experience of loss. No one goes through life without experiencing some degree of loss at some point. Sometimes the losses are minor (a small amount of money, changing jobs, moving from one city to another). Other times they are more significant (the death of a parent or spouse or child, loss of a relationship, a betrayal, loss of something we are unable to replace, economic reversal). No one wants to have these experiences, and rarely are we prepared for them.
When we experience loss, what we feel is pain, but often we cannot identify exactly what it is about the loss that is causing the pain. We miss whatever we have lost and it just hurts.
This emotional distress comes mostly from two sources. First, the realization of how little control we have over what we experience in life. This realization is both frightening and depressing. We feel helpless and are powerless to control the situation. We want to regain a sense of control.
Secondly, what was lost occupied a part of our lives. It had meaning for us and took up space in our day to day living that was either physical or emotional or both. This leaves a void, and a longing to fill it. We feel empty inside and it is deeply upsetting. Many of us try filling the void with activities, a new relationship and/or, material things. Many of us turn to substances or addictive behaviors in order to avoid these feelings, but nothing we do can replace what we have lost. We struggle with our feelings and want the pain to stop.
The only way to heal is to allow the grieving process to run its course. It is important to avoid pushing those feelings away no matter how much we want to. Feel them for as long as you need to. Cry until you stop crying. No one can tell you how long this process will take. We will eventually release the pain and other people and things will enter our lives to fill the void. We will also begin to feel we have more control over what happens to us.
Allow yourself to heal. Repressing or denying your feelings will only lengthen the process and could result in prolonged depression and anxiety. Allow yourself to feel your feelings without judging them or yourself. Find ways to express them. Keep a journal and write as often as you need. Rely on friends and family for support. That is what a support system is for. The use of drugs and alcohol really won’t help and might make things worse. There is no timetable for grief. But, remember that you will heal. Those feelings will not last forever.

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Vulnerability

A few weeks ago I facilitated a discussion about vulnerability. The discussion was about why it is important to a relationship that both people are willing and able to be emotionally vulnerable. The other important part of the discussion was how one allows oneself to be vulnerable a partner. Many of us have suffered significant emotional pain from past relationships as well as childhood issues that linger into adulthood. We can find it nearly impossible to open up to another person and allow ourselves to let anyone close enough to us to cause us additional emotional pain. Many of us have a strong desire to have a close connection to another person. But, our fears inhibit us from realizing this desire. Too many times people jump from one relationship to another in order to avoid the emotional pain of a break-up. Allow yourself the time to go through the grieving process and to heal before you attempt to engage in another intimate relationship. This is the first step toward making ourselves available for an emotionally healthy relationship.

Building trust is an absolute requirement for vulnerability to be present in a relationship. In order to build trust there must be honest and open communication. We need to reveal to our partner who we are and what is important to us. We need to be honest about our thoughts and feelings. We must also be forthcoming and responsible for our actions even if there is the risk of conflict. Part of a healthy relationship is dealing with conflict and finding ways to resolve it. Most of us fear being judged and rejected. For a person to truly love us they need to know and accept us for who we are not some façade that we project.

Before getting involved in a relationship, work on the issues that have caused problems in previous relationship. Get some counseling if needed. Face your past in order to overcome it. Give yourself to time to grieve and get to know yourself again. We tend to lose ourselves in the “we” of a relationship (especially the long term relationship). Practice the skills of open and honest communication and take emotional risks. This is the way to find the type of relationships we desire.

Coping With Injustice

(I am sorry that I have neglected my posting for the past several days.  I hope this makes up for it.)

“It’s just not fair.”
“How can they do that to me?”
“Don’t they care how this affects me?”
“This always happens to me. Why can’t I catch a break?”

Have you ever said anything like the quotes above? I don’t think anyone goes through life feeling they have been treated justly or fairly all the time. We have all fallen victim to injustice at some time in our lives. That is, unless, you have lived some kind of charmed life. It could have been a relatively minor injustice like not being selected for a team or passed over for a promotion or someone treating you poorly. Some can be major injustices involving major losses. They can be anything from being falsely accused of a crime and being convicted, infected by a disease or injured by someone who was negligent, or being the victim of a crime.
Recovering from an injustice can be quite difficult and take a considerable amount of time. Many times the consequences can affect lives in many ways and for a considerable amount of time (possibly even the rest of someone’s life). I am writing this post because I have fallen victim to an injustice that has had a considerable affect on me and my life. I am writing this from the perspective of a mental health professional and a person trying to work through this issue. I try to use my own experiences in life to illustrate or help the people I have worked with as a professional.
How do you deal an injustice and the effects it has on a substantive as well as an emotional level? These are the type of events that you never anticipated and were not prepared to deal with. We see the man who gets released after spending years in prison when they find he did not commit the crime. We wonder how he was able to deal with the situation. People find themselves in situations that are unjust every day. Many of us have an intellectual understanding the life is not fair. Life just happens and sometimes bad things happen to us for no reason. When faced with these situations we must find a way to cope. We must find a way to continue living a productive and rewarding life. The other alternative is to remain stuck in the anger and depression from something we cannot change.
A good place to start is to process the feelings associated with the situation or event. It is not going to help you in the long run to avoid the feelings or self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, or some behavior (sex, spending, eating, etc.). It is okay to feel sad or depressed, angry, or nervous. These are all natural feelings associated with negative events we experience. It is not a good idea to judge what we think we should or should not be feeling. Let these feelings out. Talk with family and friends, write in a journal, or find some physical way of releasing these emotions. I don’t think it is productive to try to get some meaning about the event or events. If there is a meaning, you will become aware of it after some time has passed.
There is a grieving process that can take place. You can’t decide how long you will grieve. Allow the process to happen no matter the level of pain or discomfort. The longer you resist the feelings and the process the longer it will continue. When you are ready to move on with your life you will begin to accept what is. You will learn to accept those things that you cannot change and get on with your life. Dwelling on the past or the negative things in our lives accomplishes nothing more than keeping us from getting pleasure from life. This is good time to be looking at what you may have learned from the experience.
Eventually, you will get to the point of being able to accept what happened and allow yourself to move on with your life. Thoughts of the event or events enter your mind less often. It also affects your emotional state to a lessening degree. You will begin to heal and more so over time. Healing is an ongoing process and the emotional effects could be with you for a considerable amount of time. In my case, whenever I have to deal with something associated with things that have happened in my life, my feelings surface to some degree.
I am not the type to tell people they can completely heal from all experiences. In some instances this is true. In some instances it is not true. The affect linger. But, you are able to recover and cope and get on with your life.