John lost his mother when he was seven in a tragic and unusual way. He was put on a ship as a stow-away to a foreign country. Arriving gravely ill, in a land he didn’t know, he was unable to speak, walk, or eat. Alone, frightened and in deep grief, his journey with loss began what would become years of feeling lost. He would never again find the way home to feeling loved.
Lisa was sixteen when the aunt who cared for her died unexpectedly. She felt lost and alone, and never received help to grieve her loss. The subsequent deaths of three other people in her life drove her so far into the dark that she succeeded in alienating anyone who tried to love her. Moreover, her feelings of being misplaced, adrift and unwanted led her to repeated experiences of lawlessness. She is now so lost in her loss that she views herself as a “bad” person, not a grieving one.
James was just ten when his mother died and very soon thereafter the grandmother whom he adored followed in death. Living at a time when children’s grief was neither recognized nor understood, he grew to adulthood unaware that many of his thoughts, actions and choices were shaped by his losses.
Unfortunately, these cases of complicated, unresolved grief are not unusual. These are true accounts of people living in a culture that does not readily acknowledge the necessity to grieve. Each of these narratives show how easily people lose their way, getting lost in the loss. By the time they figure out that it is loss that continues to break their heart, they are well into adulthood and some of the devastating outcomes are irreversible. At one point or another, John and Lisa lost most everyone in their lives that meant anything to them. James delayed marrying the love of his life, unable to recognize his fear of marriage was really a fear of losing yet another person he loved. Years after their initial encounter with death, John, Lisa, and James were still lost in the loss.
Death-loss does feel like being lost, but these feelings should not last forever. Sadly, the deaths that befell these three young people resulted in long-term aimlessness, vulnerability, and a feeling of being displaced. In a previous blog I explored unresolved grief by examining Charles Dicken’s famous character Scrooge. (https://blog.milesfuneralhome.com/bah-humbug/) I refer you to that post for a greater look at unresolved grief, however today’s post is focused on the association between loss and feeling lost.
The emotions that accompany death-loss have been described as feelings of defeat, failure, aloneness, and a generalized sense of emptiness sometimes referred to as a hole in the heart. Similarly, synonyms for being lost include being misplaced, missing, absent, disoriented, adrift, confused, and vulnerable. The sensations of loss and being lost are so similar it is hard to distinguish one from the other. When this happens then we are vulnerable to become lost in the loss. This defenselessness opens the door to the type of things that happened to John, Lisa, and James.
Here are some tips that have helped people from becoming lost in the loss.
- Allow grief to have its way with you. Allow yourself the gift to grieve a loss openly, freely and without self-incrimination, guilt or judgement.
- Do not try to be so brave that you ignore and thus lose your vulnerability. It is normal to feel defenseless when death comes. When we put up a wall of resistance to combat sadness, we simply place it in the background where it awaits the perfect moment to resurface. The adage “what we resist, persists” is true when it comes to grief.
- Find a grief partner. The loneliness of grief is normal, failing to address the isolation can rapidly result in being lost in the loss. Having a friend to experience these moments with you is both necessary and precious.
- Accept the reality that feelings of being lost are a part of the process. Embracing a frightful emotion is half the battle of dealing with it; ignoring it often gives it more power. Whenever you are feeling loss or lost try responding, “Hello loss/lost. What are you here to show me now?”
Loss and change are two of the most challenging experiences we can have. A death-loss always brings about change, no doubt feeling lost is a natural reaction. May it be that each person who is lost in their loss will one day sing as the great hymn, “I once was lost, but now I’m found.”
If you are experiencing the pain of the death-loss of your soulmate, we invite you to register for this Saturday’s special seminar:
When Someone You Expected to Spend the Rest of Your Life with Dies