Loss assumes that we own something. We cannot lose what we do not have or own. This may seem obvious when we are talking about losing a watch or having a wallet stolen, if our house is burgled or the contents of car taken. Yet, there are many levels of loss that are not material. They may be to do with love or emotion, though with these things we may also feel some ownership.
Status and our sense of self
The loss of face, position or status can leave us feeling diminished or that we have lost something. This is because we tend to define ourselves by what we ‘do’ rather than by who we ‘are’. At the dinner party we turn to the person next to us and ask “what do you do?” This sense of ‘doing’ is often regarded above ‘being’. We tend to value ourself and others by what we do. In your value system is a surgeon of higher status than a dustman?
The way that we see ourselves as a list of what we do tends to come out of when we answer the question “Who am I?” In most cases the answer will comprise this list of the things that we do or the roles that we play. When what we do is seen as more important than who we are things like retirement become big issues of loss because we no longer have a place and a role in society, we have lost our label.
The loss in change
This is why there is often a sense of loss when life changes. The rites of passage as we move through life from, school to, university, job, relationship, children, grandchildren, retirement and so on all describe the loss that is the past and may, to the awake mind, embrace the potential gains of the future that can only come with change.
Change by choice
When we chose to change we may move joyfully towards a new situation. Perhaps the past has not served us well and we are happy or even eager to leave it behind. However, even during the most positive of changes, it likely that there will still be a sense of loss from the broken connections to the past
To have change enforced on us through redundancy, dismissal, divorce, accident, illness and so on will often leave us feeling anger and resentment to those people or circumstances that have brought about the change. Imposed change may effect what we do or what we can do. If we have an accident or a stroke we may lose the physical or mental ability to function as we have done in the past. Such losses change how we see or describe ourselve.
If you were to write a description of yourself from ten years ago how different would it be from your description of how you see your self today? You would doubtless see some change that may even be positive. What are the losses that you can see? You might also try projecting forward ten years and consider what changes you would like to see.
Preparing for change
Being aware that change is the only constant, it will always happen, allows us to prepare in advance. Preparing for the loss of loved ones and close family members eases the passing when it happens. A pre-retirement course can minimise the loss in identity that come with the loss of role. Parenting courses can prepare us for the huge impact that children will have on our lives and our relationships.
Preparation for material loss
For most people this means insurance policies that are there to compensate us when we suffer material loss. That may include critical illness cover, redundancy cover, car insurance, house insurance, travel insurance all of which compensate us for loss. In these cases insurance seems like a waste of money unless or until you need to call on the policy after a loss.
Preparation for emotional or spiritual loss
In this I mean loss of relationship though estrangement, divorce, death and so on. The only way to prepare for these is to live in the present. Not to be attached to the past and what was or to crave what might be in the future. To live in the now is to be mindful.
Because loss is related to change the experience spans the line from past, through the present to the future. The bereavement of loss is the attachment that we have to the past. Many losses will always have a connection to the past, either through nostalgia or sometimes anger and hurt. In Mindfulness we encourage the ability to live in the present to be here now. Dealing with loss is about dealing with our attachment to the past. To live in the present we need to let go of the emotional attachments that we have to what was, enjoy what is and embrace what is yet to be.
When considering how you deal with loss I highly recommend Step one in our book Live In the Present.
Be happy, be lucky and enjoy your life