The job you loved goes away. The relationship you treasured ends. The money, the status, the stuff evaporates.
If you are old enough to read this, you have experienced a loss, an ending, some kind of terrible tragedy…
When that happens some people wallow in the pain. They stay attracted to it. As a child, I remember having a toothache. There was something weirdly satisfying about poking the tooth. It hurt and it felt good at the same time. That combination of pain and satisfaction can be addictive, especially if it’s combined with self-righteousness. It’s tempting to allow the loss to become the milestone that defines who we are to ourselves and to the world. But that temptation can lead us down a black hole.
On a trip to California, Umberto and I reconnected with some old friends, Jack and Linda. When their daughter was a young adult, she had developed a terminal disease and passed away at an early age. As a mother, I couldn’t imagine ever recovering from that kind of loss. How could you not rage against the injustice, the randomness, the seeming senselessness? I didn’t think I would ever be able to move past such a loss.
So I was surprised when Jack and Linda told us they had written a book about the gift of their daughter’s illness and death. Gifts? How could there possibly be any gifts? They went on to explain the deeper friendships they developed, the closeness of their family and the many discoveries that had come from their terrible tragedy. Their words struck me.
They didn’t wallow in the pain, and they didn’t blame anyone for what happened. They took their own positive action. It’s almost impossible to solve problems and move forward when we see ourselves as victims. Do painful feelings ever go away? It depends on the gravity of the loss. But really strong and brave people feel the feelings and find a way to move on.
My house burned down sixteen years ago, and it took a while to stop defining myself as “poor Elizabeth.” Once I had time to move past the shock and sense of loss, I invited myself to ask, “What were the ‘gifts’ of this fire?” It turns out, there were many.
Whatever is happening right now in your life (and we all experience tragedy and crisis on a more than regular basis!), give yourself the time to ask these three questions:
- Is there a piece of responsibility I can claim? (this will bring you a sense of power.)
- Can I give up blaming myself or others? (this will bring you freedom.)
- Can I find the “gifts” this loss has brought me? (this will bring back a sense of gratitude.)
In the comment section below, tell us about your crisis and let us know what gifts it brought you. Can’t wait to hear! Until next Tuesday.