The Big Difference (K.Blais)

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Awful things happen to us or to the people we love and care about. Terrible things occur continuously in our daily lives. We make decisions which end up being disastrous, although they may have seemed like the best option at the time, and in other cases choices are made for us without our having any say in them at all. Sometimes we hold the power in the decision-making process, and other times we are completely powerless.

Through it all though we strive to stand up and not to sink. We do our best not to let the floods drown us or to pull us down into the depths of despair, even though they may threaten to.

It isn’t always easy. And it doesn’t always work for all of us.

It is essential to remind ourselves that eventually the waters will recede. It’s tricky to remember that sometimes though and, by no means, do we ever intend to make light of the terrible things that happen, but it remains extremely important to attempt to search for the positive amidst the negative.

Out of every horrendous situation is there always a positive to be found? Depending on individual perspectives the answers may vary: maybe, maybe not… and maybe not right away. But, if we search hard enough there is always a bit of light, a small glimmer of hope, a tiny piece of dry land that we can place our feet on, even if it’s just a tiptoe to start. Maybe sometimes the negative just requires a different perspective.

A very close person to me, my dear friend Tracy, has struggled with some health issues over the past couple of years. She one day found herself with mobility issues, needed surgery to repair her knee injury, had a health scare with a dangerous item on the job site, and was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after that (all issues completely unrelated to one another). Add to that other issues which she has dealt with throughout her life, the scope of her tribulations was immense. To be perfectly honest, her world was bleak and dark and at some very low points. With so many negatives piling up on her, there were days when getting out of bed was too much for her to think about.

The floods threatened to close in on her on more than one occasion, but through it all she always searched for that tiny aspect of hope, that glimmer of light, that small piece of land on which she could attempt to stand. Her faith led her to the belief that her cancer was a blessing because having gone through what she had, she was able to be a support system to others battling with cancer. Her journey led her to new friendships which she may have otherwise not have made. Her struggles allowed her to realize the love that so many people had for her. The darkness has allowed her to appreciate the light all that much more. All the negatives that have happened to her have led to so many more positives in her life because she chose to see past them.

Some of us battle with physical or mental health issues, or have loved ones which are battling, which have affected our (and their) quality of life. Frustration, powerlessness, and a feeling of incompetency may overwhelm us. It can be hard to find the positive when we feel so awful. Sometimes we have to realize the negative for what it is. Sometimes we need to surf the waves when we cannot stop them.

Financially or materially we may be experiencing damage or loss. There may be days when our situation seems so bleak that there seems to be no place to go. It is hard to find the positive when the negatives are reflected in everything we have, even our bank accounts.

We may have lost a loved one or loved ones. We all know someone who has experienced the immense grief of losing a person very close to them. It’s extremely hard to see the positive in death and loss, especially when we are in mourning. Sometimes though death can bring us closer to those who remain in our lives. Sometimes death brings a new appreciation for all that we had and all that we have shared with that person, and it may encourage us to cherish and hold dear the time we have with the loved ones left with us. A belief that we will be reunited with our loved one one day can offer peace. Sometimes death can lead us back to life: to living each moment to the fullest and with a deeper appreciation, and may even lead us to taking nothing, even the little things, for granted.

Perhaps relationships have dissolved, friendships and partners have been lost, and life as we knew it has become an illusion. It is difficult to see the negative when everything around us in our personal life seems in a disarray. Sometimes it is difficult to understand how things can fall apart so easily… and perhaps we neglect to see that sometimes things need to fall apart so better things can come together.

Being positive does not mean to ignore the negative. There is no need to put blinders on and pretend that the negative does not exist. Being positive, and living a life which chooses to focus on the positive, can simply mean to live by overcoming the negative. That’s the big difference.

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Immeasurable Loss (K.Blais)

How do we measure loss?

This week our small community was rocked by the loss of another young person, a life cut short, too short, a life full of promise and hope. We ask ourselves why. We search for reasons and an understanding, but we often come up with nothing. There seems to be no measure for loss.

I’ve written several posts on the topic of time, life, and the search for fulfillment and emotional happiness. There doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by where these huge, all encompassing topics don’t somehow filter into my writing. This week I chose to write about loss and how it affects us.

I pause here to note that it affects each and every one of us differently and our own personal reactions to loss are just that – personal. There is no right or wrong way to react to loss, because it is as individual as the loss itself.

As I thought about loss and its immeasurability, I considered the five stages of grief, a hypothesis introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross as she studied terminally ill patients. The Kubler-Ross Model was expanded for use in multiple, different situations in which people experience a significant loss. It is important to note that not all individuals experience all stages of the model, nor do they necessarily occur in the order presented. Kubler-Ross stated that an individual will always experience at least two of the stages. Often the stages will be experienced in a roller-coaster effect – switching between two or more stages, returning to one or more several times before working through the experience itself.

These stages have evolved since their introduction and have been often misunderstood over the past three decades. In an article defending the Five Stages Model, Elisabth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler stated that the five stages were “never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages” rather “they are responses to loss that many people have, but there is no typical response to loss as there is no typical loss.” (www.grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/)

Below is a quick overview, restated in my own words, which outlines my understanding of the five stages of grieving and dealing with a loss:

Denial – The first stage which helps us survive the loss. This is the stage in which the world feels meaningless and overwhelming. It is in this stage where we feel numb from the state of shock and denial. It is this denial and shock which help us to cope and to “pace our feelings of grief”. It is our mind’s way of protecting us and only letting in as much as we can handle.

Anger – This is another necessary stage of healing from a loss. Allowing ourselves to feel the anger will help the anger to disappear more quickly. The anger may be limitless – extending to everyone involved somehow in your loss, maybe even to God. Under the anger is pain and perhaps a feeling of desertion and abandonment. Anger may give us strength and act as an anchor or focus for our feelings.

Bargaining – This stage involves bargaining with God or attempting to form some kind of truce to return life back to the way it was. “What ifs” and “If onlys” prevail in our thoughts. Guilt often accompanies this stage as we find fault within ourselves and imagine what we could’ve done differently.

Depression – The depression stage moves our feelings into the present as we begin to accept what has happened. We may feel empty and begin to withdraw from life. These are very natural feelings and are not a sign of mental illness, rather a natural response to a great loss. This stage may seem to last a long time, but that again is individual to the situation.

Acceptance – This stage is often mistaken as the idea that we are “all right” and “ok” with the loss that has occurred, but this is not the case. The acceptance stage is actually about accepting the reality that the loss has occurred and that a new reality is now permanent. This stage is not even about liking the new reality but it is about accepting it and beginning the slow progress of moving forward.

Loss may never be understood. Loss may never make sense to us or seem “fair”. We may even want to try to deny it in our minds. We may lash out in anger towards anyone near us. We may attempt to bargain with God, praying for things to return to the way they were. We may fall into despair and depression, losing all desire for the things and life we once enjoyed.

We will at some point come to terms with our loss and accept that life has changed. This new reality may be approached with reluctance and trepidation but it will come to us.

There is no measure for loss, there is only our own personal grieving process which comes after the loss has taken place. There is no magic cure, no click of a button, or flipping of a switch. There is hope in the certainty that out of darkness there can shine light, however dimly at first. Our love and compassion for one another can bring peace to those who suffer loss. We can listen and be there for those who grieve. No one needs to feel alone.

Loss does not need to be measured. It only needs to be understood.

(photo courtesy of smartcanucks.ca)

(Dear Readers, My prayers are with those who suffer loss – present and past. May you find comfort and peace. Love, ~ K ~)