TITLE: Letting Go
The painting on the cover of this issue and an honour to share. It’s called “Letting go” and was painted recently and for me to move forward I must. The thing is, it is hard. But there is so much support and for me, art and creativity has lead me to a space in my soul that helps me understand the world around me and within me. No matter the loss. It’s helped me understand the loss of my dad, my friend, my mum, my brother, my marriage and my ex-husband and has helped me celebrate passionately love, life, my children, our animals, joy, fun, and a love of learning, and my career. Painting pARTy is how I can give back to the community by sharing the space through fun, connection and friendship.
Change is an inevitable part of life, and every change, even positive changes that we have chosen, require us to give up some previous aspect/s of our life. If we see it as a positive trade-off for gains we have chosen, we might accept the associated loss with little discomfort. But when we experience an unsought change that feels negative, the loss will outweigh any positive gain.
A natural response to loss is grieving, which helps us come to terms with change so that we are eventually ready to move on to the future. Depending on the nature of loss and its perceived significance, the grieving period will vary in length and intensity; what is important is that it does occur. Following the loss/death of a loved one, or any event that changes your life extensively, grieving can last years rather than months. Over this time however, the frequency and intensity of negative emotions gradually lessens.
What does grieving involve?
Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross documented aspects of the grieving process that commonly occurred with her patients, and these have been widely adopted as the ‘stages of grieving’. These are: Denial and Isolation; Bargaining; Anger; Depression; Acceptance and Hope.
The psychological process of grieving goes something like this:
- Initially we might try to ignore the loss, perhaps isolating ourselves from situations where we need to acknowledge it or talk about it;
- When we can no longer deny the reality, we might try to negotiate an acceptable compromise, in real terms, or maybe even through prayer;
- When this doesn’t work, we are likely to become angry, blaming others, or blaming our self (guilt);
- Eventually we recognise the futility of our earlier efforts and acknowledge the inevitable, and deep sadness results;
- In time we come to a level of acceptance and begin looking forwards again, starting to see the future as offering some positive possibilities.
Everyone grieves in their own way: you might find yourself moving in and out of these ‘stages’, sometimes thinking that you’re beginning to accept the loss, and a day or so later feeling once again overwhelmed with sadness, anger or guilt. This is normal, and recognising and accepting your own progression is very important.
What can help me through the process?
Western societies have numerous cultural taboos about expressing certain emotions, so many of us have learned to repress our natural emotional responses. Trying to ‘be strong’ following a loss is common (particularly if you are a man), making it harder to move through the process to reach acceptance and hope. People are often uncomfortable with someone who is grieving, and there is also little recognition of the need for grieving after a loss that is not death related. So there might be subtly expressed expectations that you should be ‘back to normal’ within a few weeks or months.
It is essential to be aware of the importance of grieving, and of your varying needs regarding handling your loss. More than anything, you need some people in your life who recognise what you are experiencing and can give you the freedom and a safe space to be however you need to be. Allow yourself to ask for and accept help when you need it; this might not be from the people you most expect to be there for you in your time of need. Try not to judge those who are unable to respond as you would like, and be grateful for others who will unexpectedly come into your life to support you.
Self care is vital for your healing. Take care of your physical health, and nurture yourself. Self-nurturing means doing things that make you feel cared for. It could be taking a day off work if possible when you need time alone; listening to beautiful music; having a bubble bath or a professional massage, or any of a dozen other things that help you feel good. Whatever you do should carry the message, I’m worthy of being cherished.
What if I can’t move on?
Hard as it might be to believe, this time will end, and life will one day feel good again. There is no ‘right way’ to grieve and no timeframe within which you must move on; it is perfectly OK to take your time and handle your loss in your own way. However, if you are feeling that you can’t cope with the depth of grief you are experiencing, do seek professional help from your doctor, a psychologist or counsellor, or a church minister if you practise a particular religion.
Here are some strategies that can help to move beyond grieving:
- Find out if there is a relevant support group, and see whether it feels right for you.
- In a quiet meditation, ask your inner knowing/subconscious/intuition for guidance to help you move on. Examples of questions you might ask (at separate times) are:
- Is there something I need to release, to allow me to move on?
- Is there a choice I could make that would help me turn the corner?
- How am I stopping myself from taking the next step? Wait quietly in stillness and record any ideas that come to you.
- Design and hold a ceremony, alone or with supportive friends, to represent releasing something, or entering a new phase of your process.
And finally, on waking and throughout the day, ‘pre-program’ each day with positive affirmations, e.g.
- I handle with ease and serenity whatever situations I face today.
- I embrace this day positively and expect only the best.
Annabel is a Reiki practitioner and teacher, and co-author of the book, Turning Points; Regaining joy after loss.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Ph: 0407 732 182