Loss – A Welcome Embrace | February 2010

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February can bring with it many things – such as :

Groundhog Day (USA/Canada),

President’s Day (USA),

Carnival, mid-winter school holiday/vacation,

SNOW (lot of the white stuff here in NYC) and of course,

Valentine’s Day!

Hope the latter celebration was great in every way for you and that you showered love on the most important person in your life – YOU!

This month I wanted to share a few thoughts on something that has been close to my heart these days loss – and offer some points to ponder as to how to welcome it into your life. Let it embrace you even. Really Gigi? – you must be saying to yourself right now. Welcome loss? Why would anyone want to roll out the red carpet of their hearts for this feeling? “Come on in loss, I’ve been waiting for you, put your feet up and stay for a while.”

I know it sounds like sheer madness but please bear with me for a moment. This month I experienced a significant loss which very quickly brought me down. It was such an intense and awful feeling that I wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible….to run away from it so I could not feel it. Then I thought, why I am pushing against and running away from this feeling? Is it possible for me to embrace it and even allow it to embrace me? After much mental debate, my answer was a resounding ‘yes.’ I also started thinking a lot about most of you – my Surviving 2 Thriving readers – and how as special parents of special kids, you can (and do) experience loss on a regular basis.

Many of us think that experiencing loss is largely related to death but loss can take many forms. At its core is this idea of something missing, not being there, a feeling of being incomplete, having less of something/someone, etc.  I, as well as many mothers I have worked with, who  had children born prematurely and who underwent emergency c-sections, have often stated how we missed going into labor. Without a doubt, women who have experienced labor would think us utterly insane!

As parents of children born early, sick or who have special needs, from the beginning, we have felt a loss. Not that we don’t love our children unconditionally,we do, but given that things didn’t turn out quite like we had hoped, expected or planned, at times, we can sometimes feel a loss of what wasn’t to be/what could have been. Loss of a complete pregnancy, loss of a healthy child, loss of a ‘normally’ developing child are just a few examples. I use the word ‘normally’ very loosely here, as I often think to myself – ‘what is normal?’ My belief is that everyone has a deficit, a challenge of some sort in their lives, and that some challenges are simply more obvious than others. As our children grow and possibly continue to struggle with many medical, developmental, behavioral and cognitive issues, we can miss having a noneventful routine life -and in many ways can feel a loss of the sense of stability/normality that a routine life has the potential of giving.

How can loss be welcomed, embraced, even celebrated? I would like to suggest 4 ways:

1) Feel  – I t is so important to completely open yourself up to feeling loss. Sit with your feelings – taste, smell, see, touch  and explore them. As parents, many times we are so busy being parents and doing all of the practical daily things, that we don’t often sit with ourselves and allow ourselves to feel. Maybe in a way, we are afraid to feel because we think we have to appear strong, etc. – but if you are not intuned to what your are feeling, then you tend to become very reactive in nature as opposed to being proactive. This month, I had zero desire to feel my loss but when I did (and am still doing) and opened myself to all that came with it, I not only saw the beauty that was inevitably a part of that loss but also experienced a love that I probably wouldn’t have felt otherwise.

2) Mind Shift  – You’ve heard sayings like: ‘mind over matter,’ ‘As [a man] thinks in his heart, so [he] is’, or ‘If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ In many ways, these sayings are so true. How you feel about your life’s experiences has a lot to do with your response to these experiences – which literally requires a shift in the way you think about them. You know that my 3 1/2 year old son is legally blind and I admit that I have spent many hours lamenting over what he wouldn’t be able to see (i.e. my face) or do (i.e. play sports) etc because of his loss of sight. I would look at him searching diligently to find something on the table/floor that was only inches away from him and feel sorry for him…..I now realise I was mostly feeling sorry for myself.  I had to shift my mind and fast! Instead of focusing on what was missing (i.e. his sight), I started focusing on what was there and boy did that change my perspective and lift my spirits. Now I almost forget that he is legally blind – his sight hasn’t significantly changed – but my thinking has. I had to apply this same ‘mind shift’ to my recent loss – and start thinking about what I have (am) gaining personally from this experience (i.e. deeper love and respect for my husband, family and friends, greater inner strength, greater awareness of my boundaries, greater appreciation and enjoyment of my son, etc).

3)  Share – your feelings of loss with someone you trust, who will respect your feelings and be discerning enough to give you the support you need. The more you share, the less you carry. Who you share your thoughts with is very important as some people won’t understand how you feel. Others will – go to them.

4) Release – Implies a sense of freedom – and this is exactly what I want you have. Freedom from any negative connotations you’re holding onto regarding loss. Instead give yourself new and positive connotations to this word – and make them true for you/your life. Instead of thinking of a loss as a loss, think of it as a gain. For example, being the parent of a special chid can give you a level of patience, strength and empathy that you probably wouldn’t have had otherwise – or at least not to the same degree.

So I challenge all of you – when you experience any form of loss in your life – to embrace and welcome it. It is a gift of strength, perseverance and love to yourself that you won’t regret.

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