One loss – a death, breakup, job loss – is difficult to handle. But how do you cope with multiple losses in your life? Heaps of pain? Oodles of suffering? One ton of bricks after another, falling from the sky, crushing your heart and soul and spirit and body?
In my care group last night, a woman – let’s call her Molly – talked about the multiple losses she’s facing. First, her daughter (a mother of four young children) was in a car accident and lost the use of her right arm because of nerve damage. This daughter is also facing a lawsuit because of her role in the car accident. Molly’s husband was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, her mom died of natural causes (she was 87), and her 95 year old dad needs to be moved to a residential care facility. Against his will.
Talk about multiple losses: helplessness in the face of her daughter’s suffering, fear about her husband’s cancer diagnosis, grief over her mother’s death, problems with moving her father to a care home. How does one cope with all those losses, one after another? I have a few ideas…
What losses are you facing? Maybe you feel like they aren’t as “bad” as Molly’s — but don’t compare your losses to hers, or anybody’s. The pain you feel is real, whether you’re broken-hearted over a breakup or coping with the loss of your mother.
Write about the multiple losses in your life — whether you’re coping with two or 12. Writing with your hand, using a pen and paper, is better than on a keyboard or phone. A pen and paper will help you connect with your heart and soul, and slow your thoughts so you can actually work through them.
3 Ways to Cope With Multiple Losses in Your Life
You know there aren’t any quick tips or easy solutions, right? We live in a fast culture – especially if we spend a lot of time on the internet – and we tend to expect speedy results. But there aren’t any quick tips for coping with multiple losses in your life.
Quick tips? Not when it feels like you’re losing everything. A slow process of healing and Blossoming, of learning how to live a “new normal”? You better believe it.
Know that you WILL get through this, and you are not alone. You will survive the dark valleys and stormy seas. You won’t always feel this bad, sad, or alone….and you will find good in the bad, healing in the pain, and joy in the sorrow.
Believe, trust, and hold on to your faith.
1. Find and hang on to people who understand loss
Not everyone knows how you feel. In fact, nobody knows exactly how you feel, even if they’ve experience the same losses you’re facing. Your loss and grief is different because you yourself are different. Your past, memories, personality, genetics, education, family and lifestyle all make you who you are…and everything about you makes your experience of loss different than Jane’s.
But, even though nobody knows exactly what you’re going through…they know their own losses, griefs, and pains. And, they too have coped with multiple losses. You are not alone in your loss, even though you feel alone. But your feelings are not always representative of truth.
Talk to people in person, not just online. Find people who know what it feels like to have “lost everything.” Talk about the losses you’re facing, about your grief and suffering. Hang on to people who understand how it feels to need help when you’re a grieving spouse or make it through the day when you dedicated your life to your kids and now they’ve all moved out. Don’t walk this journey alone, for alone is where the darkness and pain is.
2. Don’t be surprised by multiple losses in life
The more we love, the more vulnerable we are to loss, grief, and pain. Husbands, moms, daughters, sons, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, friends who are closer than family…the more people we love, the more losses we face. Pets, too! The grief of pet loss is just as devastating as other losses, but not as accepted or understood. Losing a dog, cat, horse, or other beloved animal companion is really, really painful.
While we’re on the subject of multiple losses, we might as well mention natural disasters, terror attacks, violent rampages, infertility, personal liberty — the list is endless. But I will end it here.
The longer we live, the more lose. Unless, of course, we shut our hearts down and stop loving so we don’t get hurt. But that’s an unhealthy, fearful, dark, lonely and sad way to live.
This world is filled with heartbreak and suffering — and you’re just like millions of other people who are coping with a lot of loss. Why should you be different? Loss is part of being alive. Not accepting loss is foolish, because loss is inevitable.
Loss — or even multiple losses in life — doesn’t mean God hates you, or that He doesn’t exist. Loss doesn’t mean God isn’t loving, compassionate, or kind. Loss is just part of this world. In fact, loss is natural to this world because we don’t live in the Garden of Eden anymore. If you can accept that loss happens to everyone, and it’s inevitable, and that there may even be a purpose behind it…then you’ll be able to cope with it.
3. Set your heart on something you’ll never lose
Are you completely heartbroken about the losses you’re facing in your life? Do you feel like you can’t live without your boyfriend or husband, or you’ll never be happy again? That means you’ve put your heart in your boyfriend or husband. You have made a man the center of your life, and he rules you. He is the powerful king and you are his slave.
Ugh. How awful is that?
Losing loved ones is hard. Saying goodbye to a season of your life is difficult. Grieving, coping with multiple losses, living without people you love with all your heart is the hardest thing to bear. I understand, I know what it’s like to have to let go of people I love. It hurts like hell.
If you set your heart on people, pets, possessions, and places that don’t last forever, then you must prepare yourself for devastating grief when they die. They may not even die — they may leave you, or get really sick, or rust, or crumble to the ground. It’s not wrong to love people and things that are important to you…but if you set your heart on them, then you will fall apart when they leave.
Here’s what to do instead: set your heart on something that will never die. Set your heart on a God you can trust with your life, because He is life after death. Set your heart on Jesus, who you can trust to carry you through anything and everything. Set your heart on the Holy Spirit, who will guide you through the valleys, storms, and deserts.
This is especially important when you’re coping with multiple losses. Take a deep breath, and look up. Take time to listen for God’s still small voice — and He will bring you comfort, healing, and peace. He will carry you through this, and His joy can be your strength…if you look up, accept Him, and allow Him to be God.
What do you think? How do you feel? Tell me how you’re coping with multiple losses, and what you’d say to people who are grieving a loss in their life.
If you need virtual hug, read Words of Comfort When Your Heart is Broken.
Need encouragement? Sign up for my weekly "Echoes of Joy" email - it's free, short, and energizing. Like me! Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.