It's been said that constant change is here to stay. Even the smallest of changes can create distress, but sometimes conflicts or crises create situations that makes a person feel like a tsunami hit his or her emotions. Each person is different in how they react to stress. Some changes (stressors) effect an individual's sense of normalcy more drastically than others. When the negative effects of stress go undetected or unidentified over time, the buildup of cumulative stress may create a "break down" that forces a person to pay attention to what's going on inside the heart. This post is meant to help the reader stay free of such a breakdown.
Sometimes life doesn't seem fair. Bad things happen to good people. While many events in life seem uncontrollable, the choices a person makes also greatly effect the amount and intensity of change. For example, when a person marries, it is to be expected that relationship with family, friends, and roommates will change significantly. Or when a person moves to a neighborhood predominantly occupied by a different ethnicity, change is inevitable.
Whether by choice or not, all change incurs loss. Any transition from one thing to another means that something is gained and something is given up or "lost." Even "good change" involves some sort of loss. In the example of marriage, the companionship gained by investing in a life-long covenant, involves at least a certain amount of distance to develop in former hangout buddies. And although a healthy marriage maintains some individuality of each spouse, two spouses now relate to their buddies as a pair instead of as individuals. The amount of time spent together, places they go, and interests they pursue together are typical things that change. Failing to recognize this shift (loss) in the relationship can lead to some very difficult conflicts. Another huge area of change after marriage involves finances in terms of how money is earned and spent together.
Losses are identified by two major categories--tangible and intangible (sometimes called primary and secondary). Tangible losses are physical losses of people, places, and things. Examples are a house lost in a fire, a loved one's untimely death, or a family treasure stolen by a thief. Intangible losses often follow these losses, hence they are attached to the term "secondary." But their impact is often anything but secondary. For example, the tangible loss of a spouse dying in a traffic accident, creates innumerable psychological and emotional losses for the family left behind. Young children lose a caretaker, protector, provider, nurturer, teacher, and all the other roles of a parent. The spouse loses a co-parent, companion, lover, friend and all the other things "spouse" means to the person left behind. Deep losses can even create core inner questions such as, "who am I?" and "what purpose do I have remaining?" after an unexpected death. If a house is lost another place to live can be found, or if a car is totalled another car can be obtained. Intangible losses, however, give a person no way to measure the value of loss and are sometimes impossible to replace.
Other examples of life events triggering loss include job changes, career shifts, co-worker dismissals, living arrangement transitions, gaining or losing a leadership position, team changes, keeping up with demands in school, legal challenges, tax issues, financial woes, health concerns, birth of a child, accidental fire or injury, traumatic experiences, death of a loved one, abusive relationship, conflict in relationships, and combinations of all the above. The list goes on! Deep disappointment and overwhelming feelings may be created by the unresolved stress of these losses.
Having lived five and a half decades, I've had my share of losses in life. I will spare you having to read my list, but I've discovered it to be a helpful exercise to list them on paper and consider the effects. Feeling 'loss' from life's transitions, conflicts, and crises is to be expected and very common. Giving yourself and others space to grieve is an important aspect of dealing with the losses. Understanding grief in the context of loss has helped me tremendously in living a more stress-free life. In Part 2 (next post) I will share some of my thoughts on finding freedom through the grieving process.
Let me encourage you to take some time to identify losses and discover where they may have made a hole in your heart and still be affecting you. Make some lists while answering questions like the following. What "tangible" loss(es) have you experienced in the last few years? What "intangible" losses has each tangible loss created? What social, psychological, emotional, or other transitions have you been required to make as a result? How well do you think you have adjusted? How well does your closest friend think you are doing with these changes?
You do not have to remain stuck in feeling alone, forgotten, or overwhelmed. If you can, share what you are discovering with a trusted friend or counselor. Check back for the next post on how to allow yourself to grieve in order to help release the pain.
by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry