Is overcoming loss the gateway to wisdom?
When the subject of overcoming loss comes up, most people immediately assume it is in reference to a family member or loved one.
Bermuda being a small community I often wonder whether we feel this kind of loss more acutely because we frequently are related to, work with or are friends with either the person who has passed, or their suffering relatives — at times it can feel as though we are surrounded by suffering.
The pain of this type of grief can be so overwhelming that many people get into the habit of thinking that this is the only sort of loss that exists, and that there is no escaping from it.
Having said this, let’s pause for a moment to think about some of the other types of loss that people commonly experience as they transition through life and consider whether loss arises to teach us something about ourselves.
In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron said: “All loss is a doorway. All pain is an entrance. All suffering is a gate.”
Ask a man who is in the midst of mourning the loss of his youth, a job, a favourite dog or his sports team, what he is gaining and be prepared to suffer the backlash of his sorrow, regret and anger. His emotions are running high and overriding his wiser self.
However, give that same man the time and space to reflect on the matter and he is more likely to respond that his difficult experience has given him a renewed sense of hope, or taught him the value of friendship or the unexpected freedom to turn his attention in a new direction.
The irony of this world is that there is no growth without loss. To become an adult requires the loss of childhood, to become married requires the loss of a single life, to move to a new job or a new country requires the loss of those people and places you have left behind.
Sometimes the loss is planned and expected, as when you reach retirement age and decide to cease to work. Sometimes the loss is a complete shock, as is the case when you are made redundant or offered an early retirement package.
In all situations however, the key to moving forward is to recognise and accept that the transition from the situation, or one phase life to the next, is a process and the first step of this transition is the onset of a form of mourning the loss of the “what is”.
This is usually followed by a process of wrestling with conflicting and often confusing emotions to come to a sort of understanding of what has transpired in order to make peace with the fact that the “old life” or situation is gone.
The difficulty here is that some people endlessly mourn the loss of their old life to the point that they stop looking for or even believing that there is a way forward.
The wiser optimistic mind, however, recognises that this transition phase is a time to distance yourself from your emotions enough to see a path forward. Yes, you may still feel twinges of pain at unexpected moments but you have the wisdom to realise and accept that this transition is just that — a process. It teaches you that calmly putting one foot in front of the next is the only way to find your way out of the mud and seize the next opportunity, whatever it may be.
• Robin Trimingham is an author and thought leader in the field of retirement who specialises in helping corporate groups and individuals understand and prepare for a new life beyond work. Contact her at www.olderhoodgroup.com, 538-8937 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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