Among other things, Merriam-Webster's definition says loss means: "destruction, ruin" and "the act of losing possession; the harm or privation resulting from loss or separation".
I speak with many people who have horrendous injuries and losses of function - so difficult that, in many cases, it is astonishing that they live. Very often they tell me that they know their lives will never be a 100% again, but is this true? In the long run after a loss do we have to wind up "less than" we were before the loss?
One friend of mine was a business manager before she was injured. Today she no longer manages businesses but since her injury she has developed her skills as an artist. Her work is lyrical and lovely. Another friend of mine was a builder pre-injury and now has become a well-loved elementary school teacher. The impact he has on the children he teaches is beautiful to watch. Neither of these people would say that their lives are less than they were before they experienced a major loss. Their lives are rich and their lives are different - richer now than before their injuries - with different abilities and skills and a deeper appreciation for life. In balance, while some parts of them may not function as they once did, the whole of who they are has expanded.
Our lives are not static. We don't stop growing because we are injured or we experience a loss. Our entire beings are organized to compensate and create new pathways and skills in the face of challenges. "Less than 100%" is not a useful measure.
Generally we are not accustomed to thinking this way. We think: loss is loss. Either we "get back" what we have lost or we are "less than". Thinking this way about loss and "less than" depends on what I measure. If I lose a substantial sum of money, and I only measure money, then I can say, at least for a time, that I have less money than before. But if instead I measure all of my life, what does the loss of the money teach me? What kindness and new friendships might I encounter as I deal with the loss? What new skills might I develop in response to the loss? What new sources of revenue might these new skills bring me?
I am not making light of loss. I have grieved many deep losses, physical, emotional and financial and know the territory all too well. Over time, though, I have come to realize that counting losses without considering the whole of my experience is a one-sided view.
What may push us the direction of focusing only on our losses instead of looking at the whole of our lives is the idea that we are and should be in control of what happens to us. If we believe we can control our lives, we battle life, getting angry when loss finds us, spending time looking backwards trying to find out how such a thing could have happened and what we should have done to prevent it. We struggle to return to exactly where we were rather than discover what's in front of us.
I am not suggesting for a minute that we be passive about our lives. What we choose to do and how we use ourselves to shape our lives have profound effects on us. We deeply influence the course of our lives but we do not control them. Losses happen. Opportunities arise. We respond to them. That's where our influence happens - in our response.
Take working as an example. We develop a skill set. We go to work using this skill set. Our bosses choose projects we will work on. The economy influences where and when we can work. Maybe we spend our lives training and executing a profession such as architecture or engineering, honing our reputation and our abilities, and then the building boom stops. We are laid off. We are not in control of the forces of the economy or the choices that our companies make about the work they pursue.
Now what? We grieve the loss. We look for work. We can also look for other ways our lives can flourish and new directions in which we can grow. No, it's not easy, but telling ourselves we will never be 100% again, clinging to the sense of loss, counting what is gone and what we might have done with it, does nothing at all to help us find ways in which our lives can be richer than ever now.
We can start finding these ways by gradually letting go of the idea that we should have kept the loss from happening. It happened. Then gently we can open our hearts and become aware that our lives can grow fuller. We can become more of who we are, regardless of the loss.
Article Source: psychologytoday.com