This is what loss has taught me about love and life
Loss is difficult and the grief that comes with it can be debilitating and even destructive. We often relate to loss and grief, or even fear of loss, by closing down the heart. But we can also allow such an event in our lives to open up the heart even more and loss can lead to deeper discoveries and a closer connection to a spiritual Self.
I just lost my dog to cancer so the feelings I share here are very raw right now. I started writing this post when I knew that he would be gone soon, but I did not get to publish it before he went. I have gone through much loss in my life and not just the “life-losses” of jobs, boyfriends, and husbands, I also lost both of my parents to cancer 1 ½ years apart, right before I turned 40 (14 years ago). During that time I got to experience both versions of loss. Instant and unexpected (my mom) versus the “there is nothing more we can do for you” wait to die (my dad). Knowing it will happen, but not knowing when, was a completely different process than the shock of loosing my mom. Both are situations many face everyday. My dog was a mixture of the two. We knew he was going to die from his cancer, but we thought we still had time with him. One morning it changed out of the blue.
These experiences are both traumatic and life-changing, but the healing is in how we deal with it.
I would never have found the life I live now without these losses so in a strange way I have gratitude. These events taught me a lot about love as the antidote to fear and they opened my heart and my eyes to myself and my choices in life. I embarked on a search for what would make me happy in everyday life, since the two most important things dying as taught me is:
- Everyday can be the last so don’t waste it with unimportant stuff. Make it matter. We only live in the now.
- Love is all that matters in the end. How much we have loved is what makes it all worth the effort.
So back then when I lost my parents, I decided to quit my career in the fashion business and start my health and self-nourishment coaching practice. I wanted to help people find what I had found. My Self.
Here are some of the important things I learned
This helps me, not just through loss, but in everyday life making me more present to what matters most.
1. Loss and grief are about love. The more love, the more loss, and somehow knowing that makes it much more gentle to grieve.
2. Being vulnerable is a gift. Being stout about grieving creates a wall between Self and others and it is much harder to reach out for support, which is needed.
3. Being sad is ok. Sadness helps open the heart and feel the love.
4. Being stuck in grief is not ok. As much as it is hard to accept the person or being is gone, regrets of what was or was not said is impossible to resolve with anyone other than oneself. Acceptance of what is and appreciation for what was helps to move through the grief.
5. Anger hurts more than sadness. Part of the grieving process is anger, but being stuck in anger is so much more painful than acknowledging the sadness. Allowing the sadness to be felt helps open the heart.
6. Self-compassion is essential. Loss can bring up fear of what is to come and how to handle it alone. Courage comes from facing the fear and acknowledging the concerns rather than reject them. Not getting stuck in it takes self-love and self-compassion because of course it is scary.
7. The one thing that matters the most in the end is love. How much we loved, gave it freely, shared it and the times we spent exchanging it.
8. When time is running out, time seems like the most important thing in the world. We cannot change or control time, we can only learn to be mindful in the moment so we can make the best of it.
9. The only regret to have is the one we can learn from in the now and still do something about going forward.
Mine was to make some big changes to create a life worthy of living and stop complaining that it was not how I wanted it to be. That included: giving up a good salary and instead pursue something I was proud of doing, something that helped make a difference for others, and something that made me feel I was learning, engaged in helping others grow. To spend more time taking care of myself, to eat healthy and get my sleep. It meant spending more quality time with friends and be present to what they were going through and share myself with them. It meant daring to be vulnerable and it meant being willing to love over and over again, even when it eventually can mean loss.