This stren addresses how we may prepare our self to better deal with losses we will surely experience during our lifetime.
Do you agree that while life has many gains, we all experience a variety of losses? Consider what people experience … a favorite toy or doll breaks, things wearing out, the death of a pet, getting laid off, the loss of another’s approval and/or affection. We lose our youth, beauty fades; we lose our vision and hearing, our hair, our strength, and sooner or later our health. We lose our innocence, our baby appeal that invites others to take care of our needs and wants. For some, a loss by their favorite team is a traumatic event. We not only lose the things we desire; they are replaced with what we don’t want -- wrinkles, aches and pains, obligations and debts. Loss is inherently painful, yet it is manageable.
Ultimately, we lose our most precious commodity, life. It is certain! I recall a study that concluded when the woman in a committed relationship died first, the male partner had an average life expectancy of 9 years. If the man died first, the woman had an average life expectancy of 13 years. Few people prepare themselves to emotionally deal with this critical time period upon the loss of a significant other.
We have ample time to prepare. Yet, most of us refuse to face what is unpleasant, despite the wisdom of doing so. We tend to deny it, push it out of our minds when it appears, and/or inflict excessive anticipatory worry and pain on ourselves, far beyond that which is productive. How well have you been prepared for loss? What teaching have you been exposed to thus far? How have you provided for your self to deal with loss?
Observation clearly indicates that some manage well, others poorly. The way people think and the wisdom within their thinking are the major determinants of how loss is managed. We learn from what others have found effective. This guide provides a newer way of thinking and a collection of the wisdom that has worked for others.
Here are some practical suggestions that can help you prepare yourself to wisely and productively manage your losses in life when (not if) they occur. Pick and choose, and add what works for you!
- The basic conclusion from my study of people who best manage loss is that they own and actively direct their thinking. They skillfully challenge fate and circumstance. Thinking is our most powerful means to manage what we feel and how we act. The native language we first acquire reflects our helplessness and dependency on others. This passively acquired blaming and hopelessness thinking persists until we change it. Ineffective thinking that prolongs suffering is common: “You should care and be there.” “He, she, it makes me ….” “The world should be fair!” “What did I do wrong to deserve this?” “I can’t stand it.” “Why bother, what’s the use?” Those most successful in managing their loss (and their life) have developed a newer way of thinking that I label “ANWOT.” This newer manner of thinking emphasizes personal responsibility and wise problem solving. ANWOT is the means to freedom from “outside” control, the means to self-mastery and becoming one’s own person. “This may be damned difficult but I will keep doing what I reasonably can” replaces “I can’t stand it! My happiness depends on ….”. “I could” is substituted for “They should”. By using personal responsibility language, we strengthen our willpower and empower our thinking to “make a difference.” Words and concepts that foster wise problem solving are used in place of the early prescriptive thinking that promotes blame and prejudged conclusions (prejudice!). By owning our own thinking, we can wisely manage our feelings and actions, and prepare our self for our inevitable losses. This new way of thinking is readily taught and learned; it is the focus of this guide.
- Become a better lover, beginning with our self, by developing our love-making factory. Practice the strens on self-endorsement. Become our own best friend and lifelong traveling companion. In filling our own cup, we will have more to give away by applying the newer way of thinking to create our own minimum daily requirements of love. Once we cure our self of the common love junkie habit, so necessary in our early years, we can substitute mature love for dependent love. We will still experience pain when we lose a loved person and/or object of affection; however, we will know how to assist our own natural healthy healing process.
- Recognize the tendency to “guilt,” to blame ourself. Too often we are our own worst enemy rather than our own best friend. Recognize the difference between absolute best and reasonable best. Perfectionists measure their worth against the absolute best and usually suffer the most, unnecessarily.
- The most powerful wisdom, what I call “the stren (strength) stren” came from a doctor of psychology who, as a teenager, suffered a football injury that caused permanent loss of use of his legs and arms. Asked how he managed such a loss, he replied, “For a while I wanted to die. Then I realized that when I dwelled on what I lost, didn’t have, or might not attain, I made myself miserable. Everything changed when I began thinking about what I had accomplished, what I had right now, and what I could yet attain.”
- Learn from the wisdom of others. After reading the above stren, a woman virtually incapacitated by mourning the death of her father wrote me, “Instead of just thinking of my loss, I began to think more of the good times and happy moments we shared. The stren has made a big difference. I feel so much better.” The way we think powerfully influences what we feel and what we do. This guide contains a collection of the “strens” or strengths that others have used and shown to be effective. Try also to become aware of the negative effects thinking may have. A happy 8-year-old girl was caught in time as she was calmly attempting to hang herself. Asked why she would want to die, she explained, “You said grandma was in heaven and I could see her when I die.” Distorted thinking, even well-meaning, commonly leads to harmful outcomes.
- Expect emotional and even physical pain. Know that it is normal and we can stand it; the intensity of the pain does diminish with time. Life’s enthusiasm, with its many opportunities, will resume.
- Kubler-Ross and others have described common responses to loss. Shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and thereafter, acceptance, are responses best managed when we realize they are part of the normal process of mourning. Knowing they may occur and that we can deal with them will be helpful.
- Invest yourself in many interests. Now! Pursue them with chronic enthusiasm.
- Make this “magical” problem-solving sentence a routine step in thinking: “Given this situation, what is most likely to get me what I want, in the short term and the long term?”
- If role models are available, seek their advice. Support groups can
- reassure us that we are not alone. They are often a source of companionship, support, and helpful advice. Be prepared by cultivating one or more confidants. Practice putting feelings into words and sharing them with one or more others. Be a friend. Develop a circle of friends and support people. Caring and sharing works!
- When opportunity presents, try to help someone else experiencing loss. When we attempt to help another in need, we benefit as much as the person in need.
- Read about dealing with loss. Don’t wait until loss has already visited. There are many good sources now available.
- Prepare a will. In addition to knowing our affairs will be carried out as we wish, we can learn a great deal as we consider what is meaningful. Be sure to consider what you desire if you become so incapacitated that you could not make your own decisions, for example, the use of life support?
- •Have you prepared yourself to manage economically? Too often, one becomes so dependent on a partner to manage finances that without them, one flounders and can become easy prey for vultures. Acquire some basic finance management skills and consider what trusted backup resources are available.
Make your life more wonderful by applying the new way of thinking wisdoms available forever free on our web site www.anwot.org. They will prepare you for loss. The ultimate benefits will be yours as you create and add your own wise thinking to your unique life’s circumstance.
i On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
ii For example, Helping Grieving People, J. Shep Jeffries, Ed.D; also see Kubler-Ross]; Why bad things happen to good people, Kushner; ask for suggestions at the local library.