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  • Writer's pictureStephen Hart

3 Ways to Prepare for Loss

Updated: Jan 9, 2023

If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I can’t even imagine living without you” when looking at your loved one, I encourage you to read this article and incorporate some of these practices into your life. You will need them someday.

 

Imagine you’re a beginner surfer out into a 20-foot swell. You would probably get crushed. Wave after wave pushes you down, tumbling, not knowing which way is up, and you pray to hit the surface to catch a breath. You are terrified, panicked, and fighting for your life with all of your might. If you had the choice, you probably would not have gone out to surf that day.


This is how I felt, as do many when they lose a loved one for the first time. The pain is so intense and unbearable, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, it sent me spinning, not knowing which way is up. Every time I caught my breath, another wave hit me and sent me right back down. I didn’t know what to do, I flailed around, surviving one moment at a time until eventually, hopefully, the waters would calm.


Now, back to the surfer, should you have had years of training and preparation, and countless hours in the ocean under your belt, you may have attempted to surf these big waves. Even if you fell, you would be able to handle the punishment with a bit more understanding and grace, because you had been there before. You have the tools, you just have to use them when it counts.


Below I am offering you three tools that you can use TODAY to prepare yourself for the inevitable moment that you face losing someone you love, someone you can’t imagine living without. The side effects of this work will enhance your life all along the way. You may feel stronger, more at peace, more gratitude, and have a deeper understanding of Love in your life. It does take work, and at times it is unpleasant work. By going into the darkness with intention, you call in the lightness to your life. You can’t have one without the other.


Before I dive into some specific ideas and practices, take a moment to read my article on Emotional Observation as the concept is important to this process and I won’t go too in-depth on that again here.


1) Pre-Grieving:

Many of us have grown up in a society that sweeps death under the rug. We feel invincible and deny the fragility of life. We do everything we can to look and feel young. We don’t appreciate or even respect death. I remember when my mom passed saying things like “I just can’t believe this happened to me”, thinking I would be the exception to this experience.


In truth, the only thing that is certain in this life is that we die. Everyone who has ever lived has died or will die. It is just as important as life, yet we deny it. Coming to grips with this fact is essential. Not just in your head, but in your heart, you need to understand that everything physical in this world is impermanent. There will be an ending, always. Recognizing and embodying impermanence is the key that unlocks the door to presence and gratitude.


Practice: If this is your first time with an impermanence practice, tread lightly, start with only 5-10 minutes of work. In your meditation, select someone or something in your life that you care deeply for and bring yourself to that moment of their passing. See the sight you dread seeing. Feel the feelings of that moment. Bring yourself there. Grieve without resistance. Then, slowly, bring yourself back as you let the pain settle. Invite and allow gratitude to fill your heart for the fact that they are still here, you have more time with them, and the opportunity to make that time meaningful. You may feel tired, but at peace after this practice.


This pre-grieving process has been essential in my life. I started this work with the guidance of a therapist back in 2019, and though nothing can really prepare you for the extreme waves of losing your partner, it at least taught me how to swim. I continue with this process still today, grieving the loss of my dog, my father, my brothers, and myself. The result is a more profound gratitude for each moment with all of them, a deeper connection to myself, and access to more energy to live the life I want.


2) Take Control of Your Day:

In the wake of a loss, in my experience and echoed by many others, the morning is the hardest part of the day. Waking up to remember that your loved one is gone and never coming back is like waking up to a punch in the gut every single day. The day starts with nausea, anxiety, and hopelessness. This can last the entire day if you don’t do something about it.


Thankfully, before I lost my fiance I was guided through a process of making a list of all the things in my life that bring joy. These were things like taking a walk, going surfing, meditating, going to eat at my favorite restaurant, reading, etc. So, in the thick of it, even though I didn’t feel like doing anything, I picked myself up and forced myself to do an activity that would bring me joy.


It is important to note that healthy activities like going to yoga can still have a detrimental effect if they are used as an escape. Feeling the negative emotions, accepting them, and processing them is a vital first step that should not be skipped. It is only after this work that you go out and find joy. Feel with intention, not by reaction.


Feeling funky emotions is different than living in them. With self-study, you can decide when you feel unpleasant and when you feel pleasant. And when the time comes that you face the big waves, this vital skill set provides a road map to moving forward with your life instead of spiraling into darkness.


Practice: Start a “positive feelings” list. At the end of each day, reflect on the things that brought you joy that day. Write them down in a list format. Use a scale of 1-10 for the level of joy that activity brought you, so you can rank them in effectiveness. The next time you are feeling in a funk, after you have sat with your emotions, refer to this list and do an activity that brings you joy.


Pro Tip: I noticed that most of my list involved some sort of exercise or outdoor activity. I found myself in a whirlwind when I got COVID and did not have access to either of these options. It was extremely challenging and forced me to learn how to find joy entirely internally. This was accomplished through inner child and integration work, both skills I wish I had understood and developed further prior to needing them. A good therapist can help a lot with these. I will dive into these in a future article.


3) Emotional Self-Study:

Studying how emotions show up in your body, without judgment, helps you to recognize that you are not controlled by your emotions, but can be an observer of them, and therefore use them as tools to enhance your life. Understanding that the pain of a loss is simply a reclaiming of Love energy will soften the sting and allow you to lean in with more confidence. Read more on this HERE.


Practice: In your meditation, imagine walking into a bar, but instead of serving drinks, they serve emotional shots. You ask for a shot of anxiety. As you drink the elixir, you feel the anxiety swirl in your body. Instead of labeling it as bad, or a problem that needs to be fixed, just feel it for what it is. Where is there sensation in your body? Give the anxiety a shape, a texture, a color, a smell. Watch it as it moves. And then watch it begin to transform into something gentle, soft, and pleasant. See the anxiety becoming gratitude, feel what it feels like to objectively transform one emotion into the other, building an understanding that you have this power of emotional control within you. If you are struggling to find gratitude, use the list you created above to bring joy into your life. In earlier stages, it may take an activity to let go of anxiety and bring in gratitude, but eventually, you will be able to do it in a meditative state.


It is important to note that both gratitude and anxiety play important roles in our lives as messengers, neither is “better” than the other. Gratitude is a more pleasant emotion to experience, and learning how to transform an unpleasant emotion into a pleasant one is a valuable tool when feeling stuck in negativity.


If you are fortunate enough to not have faced this trauma in your life yet, you have a magnificent opportunity. You can train. You can prepare. You can develop a tool kit that will prepare you for the worst. So when that day comes, you will still feel the pain of the waves crashing on your head, but you will at least know how to swim.


I’ve done it both ways, my mother with no training and my fiance after years of it. My mother’s passing led me into the darkness of escapism, taking years to climb out, while Karina’s passing led me into my light and strength. Even though the pain was just as intense, if not more so, the ability to transform pain into expansion has allowed me a new life at a higher vibration than I could have ever expected. Instead of living in dread, anger, and resentment, I have found the opportunity to live in excitement, gratitude, and Love thanks to these practices.


 

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