The 3 Most Devastating Kinds of Loss—and How to Recover
1. Complicated Loss
To put it simply, complicated loss is any loss that is complicated by other factors. Most of us know that we will experience loss when a relationship naturally ends. When two people mutually agree on separation and divorce, that is an uncomplicated loss. When the death of an elderly relative happens in an expected way, after a good, long life, that is also an uncomplicated loss. How many of these are there? How often does everyone agree on endings, and how often do things end well?
Everyone's lives are complicated, and so are their losses, of course. Losses become complicated when you don't expect them to happen. In other words, the loss was a surprise. While you may name it, and it may well be a complicated loss, no matter how complex, the possibility for healing is always there. Let's look at some examples of how we can change our thinking.
In a relationship, when one person wants a separation and the other doesn't, you may want to add this to your thinking: "While I don't understand this separation now, I will accept it as a reality so the healing can begin."
This same thinking can be used with divorce: “I don't believe we need to divorce, but my husband wants to (or, my wife has filed the papers). While I don't agree with it, I do believe that we choose our own destiny, and my partner has chosen his (or hers). Everyone has a right to choose to be in a marriage or not."
Remember that while the loss may be complicated, the healing doesn't have to be.
2. Loss in Limbo
Here are some examples of loss in limbo. After the third break in a relationship, a couple might say, "The separation is killing us. We wish we could make this work, or finally end it for good."
A helpful affirmation for this may be: "This separation will reveal helpful information. This relationship will grow or end in its own time."
Wondering if there is going to be a loss can feel as bad as suffering a loss itself. Life sometimes forces you to live in limbo, not knowing if you will experience loss or not. You may have to wait several hours to hear if your loved one's surgery went well, or days until a loved one is out of a coma. You may wait in limbo for hours, days, weeks, or even longer when a child is missing.
The families of soldiers missing-in-action are often wrenched by decades of living in limbo. And years later, those left behind still haven't resolved their losses and may not be able to do so until they learn the truth. But that information may never come. Being in the limbo of loss is, in itself, a loss.
In the storm, you can find a port. During the limbo of loss, you'll probably scare yourself with the worst possible outcomes. You don't know how you'll survive if this loss actually happens. In these situations, you can become paralyzed and are no help at all to others, or yourself.
A healing affirmation for this situation is: "Even though I do not know the whereabouts of my loved one, I trust that he or she is safely cared for in the loving hands of God.” In a breakup, for example, you might think, "I must get him back; I'm not ready for this to end." Well, think again! What if instead you said to yourself: "I may not know the outcome, but life loves me, and I will be fine with him or without him.”
If you're having a hard time breaking up with someone, try saying this to yourself: "If I am not the one for her, someone else is! Let me get out of the way so that they can come together.”
3. Disenfranchised Grief
Disenfranchised grief is the result of a loss for which people do not feel they have a socially recognized right to grieve. Disenfranchised grief is often not openly mourned or approved of. Examples may include when the relationship is not socially approved of or publicly recognized, such as with gay or lesbian relationships or marriage. In those cases, try thinking: "Regardless of what others think about my love, I honor my love and my loss”). If the relationship exists primarily in the past (for example, the deceased is an ex-wife or ex-husband),try thinking: "Even though my loved one is my ex, my feelings of love are not just in the past, but also in the present. I will fully grieve my love for him or her"). Other times, the loss is hidden or not easy to see. Hidden losses include abortion or miscarriages. In those situations, try thinking: "I see and honor the loss of my child”).
In still other cases, there may be a stigma connected to how a person died. This could be a death that appears to have an element of poor decision-making or what some consider sin, such as those involving suicide, AIDS, alcoholism or drug overdose . Try thinking this after a loss due to suicide: "My loved one was in pain and could not see a way out. I now see him as whole and at peace." For alcoholism and/or drug addiction: “My loved one did the best he could. I remember him before he was addicted, and I see him now without his addiction."
Sometimes, the loss of a pet isn't shared because of the fear of ridicule. In that case, try thinking: "The love I have for my pet is very real. I will only share my grief with those who will understand my loss.”
Remember, when it comes to disenfranchised grief, you can't change other people's thinking, but you can always change your own. Remind yourself: I honor my losses.
This adapted excerpt was taken from You Can Heal Your Heart by Louise Hay and David Kessler.