Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Life After Loss... Learn to Live Again

Photo of the Month:
Baby Mourning Dove, Maryland, April 2013
Photo credit:  Mary Pokluda, Bumblebee Personal Assistants

Quote(s) of the Month:
It's been written 
in the scars on our hearts
That we're not broken - just bent
And we can learn to "live" again.
- Pink and nowMy universe will never be the sameI'm glad you came.- The Wanted

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
-Alfred Lord Tennyson In Memoriam:27
A mama bird built her nest in the planter right outside my office window.  She and I kept an eye on each other throughout the day.... for several weeks.  I hated to water the plant, as she flew away when I did, but always returned.  One time, I took the planter down to check.... and sure enough, there was one tiny egg in the nest.  Days went by and I started to get worried about the egg... how long did it take for an egg to hatch?  What kind of bird was it anyway?  
One day, a good friend of mine was visiting.  She went to look at the nest and told me it was a "morning" dove.  That day I went to the Internet and searched "morning" dove.  What came up instead was "mourning" dove.  Oooooh... "mourning" not "morning" because of the sound it makes.  How ironic is that?  That a mourning dove perched just outside my window 16 months after my family suffered a great loss?  More time went by.  One day my friend thought the mama bird looked like she was sitting differently in the nest.  My (tall) friend was able to get a photo of Mama and baby without disturbing the planter.  Remarkably, Mama even moved over so we could get the nice photo of her baby (above)!  
We all experience and mourn many losses over our life times.  Hopefully most are not so dramatic as the loss my family suffered in January 2012, but when we think back over the course of our lives and think about times when we felt a sense of loss, there may be more than we realize.  Dr. H. Norman Wright recommends writing a "loss history" to help identify and work through past losses. He suggests including any instances where you might have felt a sense of loss, no matter how unimportant the circumstances seem now.  
He suggests that we broaden our concept of "loss" to include any situation that created emotional turmoil over the loss.  Think of situations beyond death, such as:
  • missed promotions, 
  • friends moving away, 
  • the end of relationship and friendships, 
  • end of marriages, 
  • the death of pets, 
  • job losses, 
  • children leaving home and 
  • lost opportunities. 

You may be able to add a few more to the list.  I think we all, in the USA, suffered the loss of a sense of security on 9/11, which we were recently reminded of after the events at the Boston Marathon.  Each of these situations creates a sense of loss and each must be grieved to a certain extent and released, unless we choose to carry the pain with us forever.
Dr. Wright suggests that one come to the point at which they can say, of each loss, "Yes, that happened to me, but now I'm going on with my life," compared to "Boy, that happened to me, and I'm still stuck in the pain." 
To help express what you are feeling, it may help to share your story with others.  Dr. Wright suggests to follow these steps:
  1. Identify your loss. What did you lose?
  2. Determine your specific feelings about that loss. 
  3. Tell someone: "I'm feeling ---- because of this loss."
Dr. H. Norman Wright suggests that public affirmation and recognition of what one goes through helps legitimize the loss.  A Simple way to do this is through a support group of some type.      
Volunteering or assisting others may also help ease the pain of loss.  I recently attended a memorial service for fallen law enforcement officers.  One of the speakers talked about how she was in her mid 20's when she married and had only been married for 6 weeks when her husband was killed on the job.  Suddenly she was a widow at a time when the day before her life appeared full of opportunity.  She said that he didn't have a choice, but she did..... and "to waste her life would be a sin!"  She went on to become the president of an organization that assists families of fallen law enforcement officers.  The organization is COPS - Concerns of Police Survivors  
The day I took my friend from the baby bird experience to the airport, on the return trip, 2 different songs played 3 times on the radio on my way home.  (Different stations, but still rather ironic given it was only a 40 minute drive!)  By the 3rd time I started to pay attention to the lyrics.... they are in the quotes above.  I adapted Pink's lyrics just a bit... hopefully she won't mind too much!  : )   When we are grieving a loss, it feels like we are "broken."  Pink's reminder is that we are not broken, we are still here... we are just "bent."  Much as the woman whose husband was killed after 6 weeks of marriage... not living - or believing we are broken - would be a waste of our lives.  
My interpretation of the next song and quote is that I am incredibly grateful to have known the people that have been lost.... (I'm glad you came, I will never be the same!) and it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all according to Tennyson.  In one of the sympathy cards I received, a friend, who had been widowed wrote that "One day the pain of grief will be replaced with joy of having known the person."  Honestly, I am not there all of the time.... not every day... but I see that as a possibility one day!  If your loss is fresh, give yourself time but remember and trust the words that were written in that card.... as I do.  
Most of all.... it is also OK to learn to live again. This little baby bird didn't even know I was keeping an eye on him.... but somehow this new life inspired me to find new life and new energy in my own situation. Two days later, when I went to show someone else the bird... Mama and baby were gone.  She had taught him how to fly!  
My Simple suggestion this month is to consider the losses in your own life as Dr. Wright suggests.  See if there are any losses you might be carrying around with you.... that might be holding you back.  If so, find a good friend and talk about it, write out what you are feeling in a journal or try some of the other suggestions listed here.  Try to get the emotional piece out, so you can become "un-bent."  Appreciate the person or situation for what you gained from going through it or knowing them.  Also know that when it is time.... find new energy in your own life, learn to fly like the baby bird did and learn to live again! 
Until next month,Keep it Simple!