I saw this link posted in one of groups I belong to on LinkedIn. I suggest a read for it highlights primary aspects of relationship that get thrown out of whack when we face loss of any type. Defining loss, I can only consider that in some respects loss boils down to a change in what we believe to be the status quo of our lives. When we lose someone or something, we are thrown out the rubric which existed before the loss. Below I have excerpted the beginning and end of the author’s essay.
When we experience significant loss, every aspect of our humanness responds in agony. As the initial physical effects dissipate, they leave in their wake an accumulation of emotional and spiritual responses to the loss. Some of these responses begin to appear only over time, often long after the needed support offered by loved ones and professionals has been removed. Even though the effects of spiritual distress take a tremendous toll, resources for healing spiritual pain are not readily available. In this article, I will examine the effects of loss on the human spirit, and explore means for promoting healing and spiritual growth.
In order for human beings to express joy and live to potential, we must experience love and hope, which is built upon a sense of trust. We must feel connected to others, to God (however defined) and to the world around us. We must feel freed from past wrong-doings and have a sense that our life has meaning and purpose.
If we feel blocked in these areas, our spirit becomes restless and urges us to make things right. Yet, those of us who have suffered the aftermath of a significant loss know only too how we must work to regain our sense of trust and hope, and how we ache for the peace that comes with releasing guilt and feeling forgiven. We are only too familiar with the struggle to make meaning of our experience and to find a new purpose for our lives…
Meaning and Purpose in Life.
Having meaning and purpose in life drives us forward, keeps us moving, keeps us interested and committed. When we experience a significant loss, our meaning of life and purpose for being become altered and threatened, and may seem even nonexistent. Things that were once important no longer are significant; things that once had no meaning are now paramount.
We need to tell our story over and over, trying to comprehend it ourselves. We may have a sense of inner emptiness, of being incomplete; we may feel that something is missing and that there is no way of getting it back. There is often a subconscious urge to search in order to find what is missing. We may feel frozen in time, like somehow we have been removed from the mainstream of life. Feeling incomplete, we search and we long as we live out the “dark nights of our souls.”
Healing Spiritual Pain
Our dark nights must be honored. During these times we are invited to go silently within in order to determine what energy is being amassed for our next major movement forward. Being asked to endure in patience, in stillness, is difficult to accept. The pain is intense and we are anxious to burst forth from the shroud/cloud that has engulfed us. But the process cannot be rushed. Unhealed soul pain that lies festering just beneath our level of awareness can keep us from living life to the fullest.1
Honoring the dark time does not, however, mean doing nothing. The journey within probably requires the most intense work that any of us will ever undertake. Many techniques can help us in the process. Going about our daily activities in an atmosphere of softly-playing meditative music can help synchronize our own rhythm with the peaceful vibrations of the music.
Finding ways to find joy, to sing and to laugh, even if they have to be artificially created in the beginning, are valuable. These moments of lightness increase endorphins, our body’s own healing mechanism. Journal writing, which is a daily activity of writing down thoughts and feelings, is an excellent way to being to tap deeper wisdom.
It is amazing how we can look back over our journals and identify the road we have actually walked, the progress we have made. Prayer (a dialogue with the Creator) and meditation (quieting the mind while awaiting guidance) are time-honored ways of instilling hope and rekindling spiritual trust. Walking in the quiet solitude of nature allows us to open to the beauty and awe of all that has been created; this starts us on a path of gratefulness, helping to rekindle our faith.
Monitoring our self-talk, our inner dialogue, and consciously changing negative thoughts to more positive ones is a necessary beginning step in increasing our sense of self-worth. Opening ourselves to others and reaching out to those less fortunate can help us reconnect to other people. These efforts help give new meaning to our lives and somehow help dissolve the pain of our own emptiness.
One of the challenges that people face, as the author indicates, is a lack of resources for how to find spiritual healing. For some of us, religion plays a role, though I do know many people today find the formalized religion not flexible to the specific losses being faced. My question is; do we sometimes dismiss the formal ritual too quickly because it is ingrained that people need to find their own meaning through creating ritual?
I am not suggesting that the author is incorrect in her suggestions, but why does she not recommend finding meaning in faith and faith based institutions. I think this is clearly a lack. I should just add she is not unique in the often neglected recommendation of retrying one’s tradition or even “shopping around” so long as one considers the possibility that formal worship might also provide meaning during loss.