Life is amazing, painful, beautiful, and cruel. It is a tremendous, awe-inspiring blessing. Life is quite the dichotomy. Once it passes by, you can never go back. Therefore, it both creates more life and takes it away. It can allow us to create abundance in our lives and also allow us to travel to the depths of depravity in times of grief.
There is not a living being on Earth who does not experience loss and regret in their lifetime.
Loss is not limited to the loss of a loved one but also includes losing one’s career, job, money, friendships, family relations, love, faith, innocence, childhood, health, and more. If you can attain it, it can be lost. That is a harsh reality of life.
Regret is another form of loss – a perceived loss of what we dreamed would’ve been the outcome had we made a different decision. The reality is that you don’t know how things would’ve turned out. Often, it is not knowing that hurts.
Feelings of loss and regret can put the brakes on you choosing to live your life. It can devastate your view of life, yourself, and humanity. Yet, accepting that things will never go back is the ultimate step forward. Additionally, it can serve as the first block in the foundation for your metamorphosis.
Grief by the Stages
Whenever we lose something that we viewed as essential to the meaning of our life, we experience grief. Many people used to think that grief only applied to the loss of life, but psychologists have proven that we experience the same stages of grief regarding anything we lose which was closely related to our view of our lives.
“As humans, we are capable of attaching to many things – people, places, positions, activities, objects. When we lose something we value, we grieve. Grief, after all, is the price of love.” – Freud, S. Mourning and Melancholia (1957).
David Kessler and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified the 5 stages of grief. David Kessler is an author and recognized expert on grief. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was a psychiatrist who pioneered the 5 stages of grief. Together, she and David have published books addressing death and stages of grief.
1 – Denial
This is recognized as the first stage of grief. Denial acts as a filter between our overwhelming emotions and our attempts to go on with life. It allows emotions to trickle through bit by bit as we start to accept the reality of what has happened.
For a period of time, you feel emotionally numb. As you become stronger, denial grows much less; you then have to face the emotions that had been dammed within.
2 – Anger
This stage results from those emotions coming out after denial. You may feel anger toward anyone. For instance, you may feel angry with friends, family, or society in general. Additionally, your faith in your God or in the meaning of life might turn into a recipient of your anger and frustration.
Anger acts as an impetus to create motion and express the magnitude of your emotions. It becomes a saving grace from the numbness you were feeling, and, ironically, is a reflection of how much you loved.
3 – Bargaining
As your anger starts to wane, you just want anything or anyone to give you back what or who you lost. We will try to bargain for a “second chance” to do things differently, to make the pain go away, or to find a way to return what we lost. We may dwell in the past because of this thinking.
4 – Depression
As with intense sadness, depressing comes about as you grow closer to acknowledging that your anger is running out and bargaining hasn’t changed anything; yet, you still have to face what is lost. You may withdraw from others, feel you are in a fog and question the point of life – including your own life.
While this stage is essential, it is important not to stay here for too long. While this form of depression is not the same as the mental illness of depression, it can lead to it.
Express this sadness by talking about it. Harder still, honestly look at the question of whether the loss is truly worth being depressed over.
Yes, a loss of a loved one, a career, your health, etc. is painful. Yet, aside from allowing yourself to feel the sadness, staying depressed will not change anything for you. It will not change the past and cannot allow you to build the future.
5 – Acceptance
Acceptance is the fifth stage. Acceptance doesn’t mean that anything is ok or right. It simply means that “it is.” The loss is your new reality; despite denial, anger, bargaining, and sadness, nothing has changed that. You fully understand and accept that you can never go back.
It doesn’t take away how you felt about the person or situation prior. You will not be the same as you were before. Your life will not be the same. You may try to pretend that all is the same, but as time continues, you will learn to adjust to the differences.
With acceptance, you will start to make decisions that further your life forward. You will recognize fully that things cannot go back.
It is important to know that these stages intermingle with each other throughout the process of healing from the grief. You may go through some denial again while in the acceptance stage. You may still be angry while trying to bargain. You may even skip one stage and then go back to the missed stage at another time.
The length of time at each stage will differ depending upon yourself and the devastation of the event. Some stages may just be a few hours while another stage lasts for weeks. It is all okay. Even after you experience the acceptance stage, you may still have short repeats of the stages as you adjust.
What makes acceptance so hard?
Accepting and moving on from loss is extremely difficult for most of us. It is so universal that one has to question if there is a physiological reason for it. If we examine how our brain functions, it does become a bit clearer. That clarity may help us to reach acceptance sooner and with less pain in the process.
Our brains hate to lose.
Mankind has survived many things and our competitive nature has advanced our lifestyle. Not liking to lose has pushed us as individuals past our fears toward knowledge and has taught us to persevere despite seemingly impossible odds. It is one of the greatest traits of mankind.
On the flip side though, we tend to think of things in terms of possessions. “My wife/husband,” “my child,” “my money,” “my house,” etc. By making the perception of them being a possession, our brain associates it with something that we cannot lose. It is almost as if these possessions are an extension of ourselves, and therefore, must be maintained to the same extent as our lives.