On Loss, and Growth (Part 1)

2017 was a year of loss for me. At the very first dawning of the new year, we learned my father in law (Papa, to my son) was admitted to the hospital. He passed a week later, having never regained consciousness. That same week, a teacher and close friend (Sensei, to me) entered Hospice. He also left this world within days.

I’ve hesitated to write about this. I know people who live with a loss that feels orders of magnitude greater and deeper than mine - the loss of a spouse, or a child. I still have all the things that really matter to me, is my loss even worth mentioning?

 Dada, Z, and Papa

Dada, Z, and Papa

I also embarked on a self-imposed loss: the loss of income from leaving my full-time job. Having made the choice to go to part-time work and to learn how to run a business, I took months to even recognize what I was feeling. Wasn’t I happy to be home with my son in the mornings? Why did I have such a hard time managing my new schedule? Why couldn’t I focus?

As my savings dwindled and I started to hide from my own blog, denial finally gave way to anger. Thanks a lot, Papa, for leaving your wife so dependent that her son has to go and take care of her. Thanks a lot, Sensei, for building a business without a succession plan. Thanks a lot, World, for underpaying professionals who work with kids. Thanks a lot, Self - why did you think you could make this work?

Anger was my first clue that I was experiencing loss. I am not quick to anger. My empathy makes anger feel painful, and it’s hard to hold onto. As I saw myself fuming at two things entirely outside of my control, and one thing entirely self-inflicted, I finally allowed myself to admit it: these losses cut through my life more deeply than the acute pain I felt at the time. My life has been affected every day since. By failing to recognize this, I made it harder to grant myself the acceptance I needed to move forward.

 My Sensei

My Sensei

We are never spared from loss in this life.

Maybe you have already experienced great loss. Maybe, like me, you have experienced a loss that is more ambiguous. It feels almost shameful to mourn loss that is more distant, self-imposed (like a lifestyle change), or incomplete (like a life-long diagnosis in a child who is still, nonetheless, healthy and growing).

Maybe you turn, with more gratitude, toward all that you still have: health, faith, surviving loved ones, a home. This is healthy; please do. Yet maybe, like me, you’ve denied yourself space and time to adjust, and reflect on the new direction your life has taken. If so, you may feel you are in survival mode. You might even kick yourself for taking time to read articles like this (speaking from personal experience here.) Yet you’ve come this far, so in gratitude I’ll share three things that can help you shift from loss toward growth:

  1. Forgive Yourself.
    You are being too hard on yourself, expecting too much. Forgive yourself for that, and for whatever it is you wish you’d done differently. You can’t grow from some imaginary start point; your growth starts from where you are now. Be there.

  2. Ask the 5 Whys.
    If you feel stuck, the 5 whys can help you find what’s really behind a feeling or behavior. For example, “Why am I ignoring my blog? Because I feel like I have no time. Why do I feel like I have no time? Because my new work schedule isn’t what I expected. Why isn’t my work schedule what I expected? Because it was a major life change. Why…?”
    Please note - the 5 whys are advised for feelings and behaviors, not for existential questions. Use “Why do I resent helping Nana?” not “Why did Papa die?”

  3. Find Supports.
    When I realized how much loss was affecting me, I forgave myself and asked to adjust my work schedule. I finally caught up on paperwork, though finances are still a struggle. I asked my parents for some support with that, and they came through. Also, around this time I listened to Grief is a Natural Part of Life on the Productive Flourishing Podcast, which I highly recommend for the hosts’ insights on self-care and growth.

Till next time,

This article was originally posted on Steemit and is the original work of Laura Hackle for Whole Self In.