Life and loss are intertwined. Because life is a series of change, and change is basically a loss of “what was and what used to be.” Even though “what was” and “what is” may all be good things—such as when we graduated from high school and are going to college—it is still a loss because we no longer have those high school days. When we get married, we no longer have our being single. When we get a new job, we no longer have our old job with its familiarity. When we become sober, we no longer have our addiction as a coping mechanism. After we learn to be more mindful, we no longer feel good about being mindless.
Any kind of change requires an adjustment in our way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. As we all know, making such an adjustment after a change is not always easy even when the change is a good one. Some of us dislike the fact that we have to learn different ways to operate our new phone! Imagine how much harder it is when the change is unexpected or unwanted, such as losing a job during the pandemic, losing a house to a fire, losing our investment due to economic downturn in our country, ending a marriage or a friendship, losing a loved one especially when it is not due to a natural cause of old age.
When we live long enough, we will experience multiple unwanted losses. For some of us, the first painful loss introduces itself way early on and for some it may show up much later. But no one escapes it. How we feel about it varies depending on who/what we have lost and the closeness/nature of the relationship we have had with them. Being laid off from a job we hate will impact us differently from suddenly losing a job we have loved for many years due to something outside our control. Losing a distant relative will have a different consequence from losing our best friend or our spouse. Losing a parent feels very different from losing a child or sibling.
When the loss wounds us deeply, it requires a lot of strength, perseverance, and courage to continue taking steps forward in our journey. At times, we wonder how we can summon more strength to help us face the hardship and challenges. We are simply at a loss of what to do. We are unsure of ourselves, of other’s intentions, of life itself. What I’ve found most helpful when my mind begin to doubt everything and is afraid of all things, is to remind myself of who I really am at the core of my being.
Who am I? Who are we? This is the most difficult question to answer, but the one worth considering and exploring. Once we have a sense of who we are, we can come up with better ways to cope with what is in front of us.
Through some therapy, coaching, reading, and embarking on an ongoing self-exploration, I came to the conclusion that I am not what I have, not what I’ve accomplished, not what I know. I am not my job (therapist), not my roles (employee, mother, friend, daughter, sibling, dog owner, etc.), not my failures, not my struggles, and most importantly, I am not my emotions or my thoughts/beliefs. At this time, I have formed some “working definition” of who I am, which I believe will evolve as I learn more. It is not set in stone, it is subject to change as I grow. But here’s what I’ve gotten so far: I am a spiritual being having human experiences while being here on earth. I am created by God with love and out of love.
Thus, love is who I essentially am.
Whenever I am connected with the love within me, love abundantly flows through me, which enables me to be kind to myself and others, to fall in love with life itself, and it enables me to feel loved by life no matter what. Being in love and feeling loved are truly empowering. Both give us the courage to do brave things, the drive to explore unknown territories, the determination to conquer problems, the endurance to persevere under pressure, and the intention to keep the faith.
How did I know I was loved by life, by God? Let me count the ways... When I needed help with different things after my husband died, the right people and circumstances appeared, sometimes in the nick of time, just before I was about to give up. And as long as I remembered to be grateful for all of them, they continued to flow into my life. Life still manages to surprise me to this day. How romantic is that? New ideas, new collaborators, and new blessings have popped up when I least expected them!
However, it is human nature to forget (albeit temporarily) about that connection we have with the love within when bad things happen. As a result, we will experience fear which causes us to have fearful thoughts and feelings, then we act out of fear. Sure, we can live like that, but it is exhausting and not without serious wear and tear on our mind and body. It costs us our happiness and inner peace.
So take the time to explore your own understanding of who you are. Once you know who you are, you will know what to do in any situation. You will trust yourself and you will also trust the life God gave you. Life is not perfect but can bear a lot of blessings. Life is unpredictable but can be a lot of fun. Life is challenging but not impossible to get along with. Once we fall in love with life, there’s nothing we can’t handle. Now that is authentic inner strength!