It’s that time of the year as we say goodbye to 2014, when most earmark their social calendar for the festive season, some think about what the future holds and a few retrospect. Within the good, the bad and the ugly that happened in the year gone by, what sticks out like a sore thumb is what’s lost. By loss, I simply don’t mean winning or losing as a function of parameters attributed to people or things. It’s the sense of loss that can become a sore wound if not healed in time.
It may be loss of an opportunity, physical or mental ability or a loved one which can leave a deep scar. Loss of will, adapt to change and experience new things is not always apparent. Sudden or unexpected loss may lead to despair and unwillingness to accept. Loss of identity and purpose can be paralytic. The process of loosing something or someone is one of the most complex human experiences. A sense of loss due to unmet expectations festers within as seeds to an eventuality which may not be a conscious choice. Losing sense of control over self, the environment in which we exist and resulting actions is somewhat similar to being on a boat in a midst of a maelstrom, with no compass or oars, to sail to safer shores.
The anatomy of loss can be described as follows, although its manifestation may vary depending on the individual, as is argued ahead. A lot has been written in Buddhist texts which helps understand the root of suffering to finally being at peace. The below are merely observations and not an attempt to understand or provide answers to address loss or sense of loss.
1. DABDA: The Kubler-Ross model helps us understand, pre-empt and counsel people in depression, suffering from an ailment or simply unable to accept their reality. The five stages of grief as they are known – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance are universally what everyone goes through while losing something or someone. It can act as a mirror in very confusing times to understand one’s actions to get to the root of the suffering to be able to identify and accept.
2. It’s personal, always: Most often than not, loss is a very personal experience. An individual’s ability to understand, deal with and move on from loss has a lot to do with their lived and known experiences along with outlook towards life. As a group, loss is experienced as a weighted average of all individuals and their relative correlation with the person or thing. Hence, most people advice sharing in grief or loss, as it has a higher probability of tending towards acceptance. In a group dynamic the tendency is always weighed towards normalcy. However, sense of loss and it’s manifestation as thoughts or actions are always personal.
3. Guilt and blame: At some point between the five stages, one experiences a high sense of guilt and self loathing, usually between denial and bargaining. As one evaluates his or her role, a strong sense of guilt, self pity and hopelessness sets in. This is enhanced especially in what is perceived as a personal loss or failure. The thought veers towards not meeting self imposed expectations and possibility of what could have been done to avoid the loss. The choices that we make lead us to how we eventually experience loss as an individual. Within those choices, the ones that we make that lead to eventual loss are the most hurtful in retrospect. Having said this, there is no right or wrong and loss is eminent.
4. On delusion: A crucial stage usually understood as denial. The delusion I refer to is the ignorance or unwillingness to accept while in the process of grieving, that you are grieving. A limbo of sorts which can continue for months, years or even decades if not dealt with. While denial is more specific towards something or someone, delusion is a state. The inability to understand that one is experiencing grief, simply defers the process of healing.
5. Time and time again: Time is not only a great healer but also can be a hindrance in addressing or pre-empting loss at the initial stages. It is with time, that one’s sense of discontent can become potent enough to lead to eventual loss. While in such a state one’s ability to think rationally or experience grief is greatly compromised. With timely intervention, it can be addressed by sharing with others or taking necessary actions to subdue the sense of loss.
6. No single rule: While the larger discourse on the process of healing is about acceptance, the means to be at peace with oneself may vary. No single path, rule or framework (including DADBA) necessarily applies while experiencing loss and grief. It may have multiple dimensions and is characterized by myriad nuances which are not just complex but unique to be understood in a generalized way of thinking.
7. Catharsis: While striving for acceptance and peace with oneself, the process itself can be cathartic and liberating. It is usually experienced while healing from anger and self loathing. This is quite critical to understand minutely, as the actions that lead to this stage cannot be looked at from the prism of propriety or indignation. However, it is important to acknowledge this while deeply sensing loss and grief as a moment of actual truth as it is usually characterized with one’s acceptance of reality, real and perceived.
8. Let there be light: A note on loss without the hope of healing seems incomplete. While healing itself has its own stages, the premise that one can heal is essential to dealing with loss. The acceptance of loss is closely linked with the ability to believe that there is more beyond. Although, this is understood mostly as a nebulous and intangible idea it is usually experienced in real thoughts, emotions and actions. The ability to heal is also about the ability to let one heal.
The process of writing this itself was cathartic to let the healing begin. While 2015 holds a lot of promise and hope, the ability to let go of 2014 will largely determine how much of that really matters.