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The Value of Loss

Image of black dog lying down with head on the floor. Raleigh Psychotherapy, Counseling, Loss, Katherine Broadway

Ten years ago, a very dear friend and her husband moved across the country. Due to health issues, they decided it would be better for them to be close to family. We had been friends for twenty years and I counted on her love, comfort and presence in my life. We met weekly for lunch, took walks together, shared laughs and sorrows. She was my good witness.

When she told me she was moving, I was floored. In my wildest bad dreams, I could not imagine a time when she would not be here to meet me when I wanted.

Soon after she told me the news, I went on vacation, I was a lovely vacation. I enjoyed the new sights, experiences and adventures, but in the midst of it all, I had a vague sense of something missing.

I was quite perplexed. I was distracted and absent-minded. What could be wrong?

She moved and life moved on. We remain friends, we still talk on occasion but due to the distance, she is no longer my weekly witness; my constant grounding friend.

I still notice the empty place that she use to occupy but have settled into our new style of relating.

Her move is one of the significant losses in my life. For several years, I could find no value in it. As the years have passed, however, I can see some important things that have come from this loss.

Loss is a normal part of life.

We age and our parents are lost to us...that is the progression of life.

Our beloved pet grows old and leaves us...that is the normal progression of life…

Our children grow up and develop their own lives...that is the normal progression of life.

We lose jobs, friends move, groups disband, political ideals are disappointed, romantic relationships end, there are untimely deaths... all are a part of life's experience. All impact us in painful and, for a time, negative ways. Even so, there is value to be found in the loss of someone or something about which you care deeply.

5 Values of Loss

1. Loss gives you the opportunity to develop a new part of yourself:

With every loss, you lose an aspect of yourself. This person, object, activity, or cherished belief was a part of how you identified and knew yourself.

When I would talk to my friend about my life events, she would help me see how I was responding to the situation. It was like looking in a mirror image of myself that could respond. Her loss left a hole in that area of self-knowing. It opened the opportunity to find new witnesses and a new vision of myself.

2. Build internal strength and confidence:

With every loss, there comes a fear of not being able to cope. With a small loss, it is a vague sense of anxiety. With a large loss, it may come with this feeling of “How will I make it?” This is particularly true with the loss of a job. There is a loss of income, a loss of identity, a loss of the organizing structure in your life. As you move through this experience and find yourself able to cope, it builds your strength and confidence.

I made my way through this experience and found that although I could not replace the friend that moved, I could find other people who were interesting, fun and intelligent.

3. Build self-esteem:

It is an odd thought that the loss of something essential to our sense of self would

increase our self-esteem. As children, we are dependent on our parents, friends and

activities to know who we are and what we are worth. Adulthood is the time to learn that our worth is not dependent on outside influences. Self-worth and our knowledge needs to come from a strong internal self, rather than a fluctuating external experience.

Loss shows us how easily and quickly life can change and with it the loss of what we depend upon can change. We do not control life and its events. Through my friend's move, I learned that I had the ability to make new friends and develop intimate relationships.

4. Create new ways of being supported:

It is so easy to fall in a rut. We go to the same places, do the same activities, sit in the same chair at meetings and hang out with the same friends. Life is busy and it makes it easier, but is it good for us? Friends are essential to feeling safe and content. When we are overly dependent on certain friends, it is hard to surround yourself with a variety of friends. There are friends who make us feel strong, capable and confident, and there are those friends who would impede our growth.

We all need friends that see us as individuals not an extension of themselves.

When my friend moved, I was forced to find new friends to become part of my support group.

5. Build autonomy :

Autonomy is freedom from external control; independence. It is to have self-rule. For our purposes, it is to see yourself as a strong individual who is able to listen to others while making your own decisions. You are a person who can take care of themselves and the necessities of life. You need support and help but you still have to manage yourself and your life.

After my friend moved, I realized that life is full of task and decisions, and I realized how much I depended on her help and support. For a time, I was put in the position of having to make those decisions and perform those tasks on my own. I was able to do it and do it well. I learned about that strong and independent part of myself, and it felt good.

Losses are difficult and can cause a set back in your life. A loss will stop you in your tracks and, in most cases, you do need to stop for a while to grieve and regain your equilibrium.

As time passes, you will have the opportunity to grow in some important ways. Some may find it hard to find their way through the maze of loss and grief. If you find yourself lost, I can help you find your way to the other side of that maze. You can reach me at: (919)881-2001.


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