Forming an attachment to an idea, situation or to a person is the root of all suffering. Yet, as human beings, this is exactly the way most of us live. So loss and suffering is a way of life, and something we all struggle with at one time or another. Which means we go through our lives in various stages of grief because of the different losses we suffer. To live IS to lose and the sooner we accept this, the easier it will be for us to navigate our way through life’s ups and downs; for there will be many, and they are often unexpected and painfully unjust.
As the Swiss Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross explained in her book On Death and Dying, there are 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Whether we experience this loss from being passed by from that promotion, the love of our life choosing to be with someone else, an accident permanently stealing our mobility, giving up alcohol when we recognize we have a problem, or our daughter’s murderer not getting convicted, in some way, these are all examples of things turning out differently than we expected, and having to then deal with the aftermath of emotions that follow. Grief comes in all shapes and sizes; it isn’t just about death.
So how do we move forward after painful loss and grief? Yes, it would be lovely to be in a constant state of “non attachment” as the Buddhist monks teach, but since a majority of us do not live this way, how do we move forward and learn to finally live in a state of acceptance? Unfortunately some people never will, and instead they will stay rooted in anger or depression. Yet, it is our working toward acceptance from that we cannot change, that will eventually bring peace and contentment into our lives. As The Serenity Prayer states, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
There are a few things we can do however, to help this grieving process, thereby igniting positive acceptance into our lives.
1.) Be grateful for what was received from the experience:
It is true that we do not often know what we have until it is gone. Looking back we can appreciate what we had, and even looking forward, we can better focus on finding the beauty of living in the present, and seeing joy in even the smallest of things. If we allow it, loss can alter our perspective on appreciating each and every present moment we have in life, because we understand that nothing is permanently promised to us.
2.) Focus on the positive lessons learned:
Every experience, situation and person in our life is placed there to teach us lessons. Often, those who cause the most acute pain, are our greatest teachers; they show us things we would never have been able to see otherwise. These are gifts, however painful they may seem. The reason we are on planet earth is to learn, and unfortunately, the most profound lessons come through seeing the darker side of life. Focus on the lessons, not the pain.
3.) Understand that we deserve to move forward with our lives:
When we focus on the pain, we live in the past. We will never be able to change the past regardless of how many times we may go over things in our minds. The “woulda,” “shoulda” and “couldas” that we allow to ruminate in our heads, will never alter the previous outcomes, and our point of power will always be in the present. The present then is where we need to live, because we deserve future positive experiences in our lives.
4.) Use the knowledge we gain in our grief to help others:
When we look at the the lessons we have learned through our grief, we can grasp a better understanding of how we can take our pain and help others. This may be done either by showing them ways to avoid a likewise pain, or by demonstrating positive ways that we were able to work through ours.
5.) Accept that life is not always fair:
This is a hard one to swallow, but as we see time and time again, life is NOT fair. Good does not always triumph and evil does not always fail. Which takes us directly into the last topic…
6.) The belief in a higher power:
In our fragile human states, we are not designed to understand everything. We don’t know what sort of agreements were made by souls before they came to earth. By believing and trusting in a higher power, we surrender into the knowledge that there are other things at play that our logical brains may never make sense of. When we embrace this way of thinking, we no longer demand closure, for we trust and believe that things will be taken care of, even when that means that “THY will be done,” may not be part of “MY” will be done. Everyone is on their own karmic journey.