by Dr. Randy Wysong
The loss of loved ones is inevitable. The tragedy is not so much for the one who has passed as it is for those who remain and suffer guilt, regrets and loneliness.
There is no adequate way to prepare for and no way to escape tragedy other than to die before anyone close to you does or be a recluse and not permit close relationships.
However, close, loving relationships are a wonderful part of life. Perhaps the pain we feel from the loss of a loved one is to teach us the very meaning of life, love, and to treat it well when we have it.
But everything should be in measure. To throw oneself totally into another person and lose self and independence is a formula for disaster. When the loved one is gone, meaning can be lost which in turn can jeopardize health and life. Love well, but always keep a part of yourself that can survive in the absence of the loved one.
Rejection by someone you love can bring almost the identical pain and suffering as losing someone to death. It can be even worse since the lost person’s presence continues as a constant reminder. The wound is irritated, scraped, reopened again and again.
The best way to survive tragedy is to plan for it. For one thing, if you are self-developing, as this book is encouraging you to do, you will have an independent life that you can fall back on. But also know beforehand that there will be no quick or easy healing. Pain and sorrow are part of the healing process. Do not assume life is ending or that the acute pain will remain forever.
Think of a tragic loss like receiving a deep knife wound to the brain. First there is the sharp and excruciating pain (for this metaphor forget that brain tissue has no pain receptors). Then there will be less, but more chronic pain. Brain/heart healing has inevitable ups and downs. Grieving is like any other wound. It can be reopened (like stubbing a toe on the mend) by a memory, a song, a visit or acquaintance and then re-closed. The further the distance in time from the event, the more quickly the wound re-heals when re-injured.
With more time (usually at least two years) the wound closes more completely. Once the ‘scar’ is in place, the pain is duller and continues to fade. Life becomes livable again even though the scar is never totally gone.
This natural healing process, in which time is the most essential element, is a reality all of us must understand to survive well through such an ordeal. The pain you feel is not unique and is not the most anyone has endured. Give yourself time to heal and do smart things that will speed the process and ease the suffering.
That is easy to say, almost impossible to understand or implement when tragedy strikes. During the healing stages you must force yourself to do certain things. Do them not because it is what you feel like doing (you won’t) but because it is necessary for your survival. Exercise, social contact, rest and good nutrition are essential. These are the factors your mind needs as building blocks for the healing process. Do not let your healthy routine stop. You need to buy time and the best currency is to continue with smart living.
Becoming active in a cause that helps others, or one relevant to the loss. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the America’s Most Wanted television program are two such examples, can speed the healing process by distracting, forcing you to think outside of yourself to the feelings and needs of others, and gives that all important sense of control and purpose.
Determine now, before tragedy strikes, that you will do these healthy and interpersonal things to heal whether or not you feel like it.
People who stop eating and shut themselves in their room to mourn only delay healing and may even create life-threatening disease. The mind-body connection is very real. If you give up and wish death, your body listens. That is why so many people fall victim to serious illness and even die close in time to the loss of a loved one. Although you may feel like giving up, others love and need you. You have a responsibility to them and to yourself to treat your gift of life with the respect it deserves.
Tragedy is a universal and shared human experience. For those of you who are enduring personal tragedy, the heart of the rest of humanity aches for you and wishes for your speedy recovery. For those not experiencing a loss, love well while there is opportunity so there can be no regrets.