4 Ways to Emerge Stronger After a LossNone By Homaira Kabir
I lost my grandmother a few years ago. Dadima had been a central part of my life, and losing her felt colossal. But soon enough, life was back to normal, even though a certain emptiness remained.
Some losses take longer to heal—especially ones that are sudden, unexpected, or unusual, because they feel like trauma to the body. We can ruminate endlessly about them, desperately trying to make sense of the events.
For some of us, this can lead to excessive self-pity and a downward spiral of anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), where the trauma stays alive in the memory and becomes associated with everyday events.
However, many people are resilient enough to eventually bounce back and return to life as usual. And research shows that a small percentage even experience what is known as post-traumatic growth (PTG), a positive change in who they are as a result of a highly challenging situation.
This is because growth and distress can coexist in our response to a major loss. As we go through the pain, the anger, and the confusion, our prior assumptions are shattered, and we need to construct new ones to make sense of what has happened.
When we give this process the time it needs, without going down the rabbit hole of despair, we experience a changed set of priorities, new paths for our life, spiritual development, deeper relationships, or a greater appreciation of our own internal resources.
If you've suffered a loss in your life, here are a few things that will help you through the distress, so that instead of the resignation that can often come with settling for what is, you can emerge with renewed awareness of who you are and your purpose in life.
Hope is about stepping into the future, an ability that is unique to us humans. At this time of loss, when the present feels so heavy, take yourself to a place that feels comforting by asking yourself: “What am I hopeful for?” Where do you want to be in a year, or a few years from now, given the circumstances? Give yourself a scenario that feels achievable so you can find the energy to work toward it in small ways.
But don't practice gratitude in a prescriptive way. Don’t force yourself to be grateful for having what the poor and starving don’t. This form of rational gratitude does have its place, but not right now. Your emotional brain needs emotional gratitude, which is best achieved by thinking of how much worse the situation could've been. What are the little things that are going your way, and