Building Bridges


 

Dealing with Loss
PART I

Loss, grief, and grief work

Loss consists of separation from any person or thing important to you. For children and for adults, a divorce can be as painful and confusing a loss as a death in the family.

Such an event normally triggers grief: the emotions, physical sensations, thoughts, and behaviors that commonly occur in reaction to a loss. Normal grief, for both adults and children, can include the following:
EMOTIONS SENSATIONS THOUGHTS BEHAVIORS
Numbness
Sadness
Anger
Guilt
Anxiety
Loneliness
Fatigue
Helplessness
Shock
Yearning
Freedom
Relief
Hollowness (belly)
Tightness (chest, throat)
Sensitivity (to noise)
Unreality
Breathlessness
Muscle aches
Weakness
Lack of energy
Dry mouth
Disbelief
Confusion
Preoccupation
Hallucinations
Sense of presence
Sleep disturbance
Appetite increase
Appetite decrease
Absentmindedness
Social withdrawal
Dreams
Searching
Calling out
Restlessness
Overactivity
Fighting
Sighing
Crying
Keeping mementos
Avoiding reminders

Grief work
, or mourning, is the process of dealing with a loss so that you can go on living fully. The basic tasks of grief work may be summarized as follows:
  1. Acknowledge and understand what you are losing.
    Let yourself develop the habit of being aware of your thoughts. Ask yourself, "What am I thinking?" What happened? These are unfamiliar events. How can I understand what is happening? What is not here for me any more? How permanent is this loss? What will be different as a result of this change?
  2. Experience and honor the emotions triggered by the loss.
    Ask yourself, "What am I feeling?" I'm bewildered by a roller coaster of strong emotions that I am experiencing: numbness, sadness, guilt, anger, hurt, confusion, anxiety, fear. How can I go about recognizing and honoring these feelings? How can I express them? How can I find out whether or not they are normal? How shall I deal with them?
  3. Live in the present as you take effective action to memorialize the loss, and whatever life transition it marks.
    Honor yourself by going on with life now. At the same time, ask yourself what you can do to give the person or relationship you have lost a new role in your life. Find a way to appreciate what you have lost even after it is gone.
  4. Re-examine your beliefs and values as you write the next chapter of your life.
    Ask yourself, "What meaning can I attach to this divorce?" What do these events and these internal experiences mean about me as a person? About my relationship to what has been lost? About what will happen to me in the future? About my place in the universe?

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