How We Respond to Our Experience of Loss Matters

Grief is the reminder of the depth of our love. Gordon Wheeler, psychologist

In one of my all-time favorite books, The Book of Joy, the Dalai Lama says, “Sadness and grief are, of course, natural human responses to loss, but if your focus remains on the loved one you have just lost, the experience is less likely to lead to despair.

In contrast, if your focus while grieving remains mostly on yourself–‘What am I going to do now? How can I cope?’–then there is a greater danger of going down the path of despair and depression. So much depends on how we respond to our experience of loss and sadness.”

The motherless daughters I interviewed for my book, Mom’s Gone, Now What? who seemed to have made the adjustment to their loss, more frequently talked about what their mothers gave them, even if their time with her was short, rather than all they had lost because of her death. 

Both conversations are appropriate, of course, but focusing on the former seems to lead to more joy and less long term depression and grief.

By her death, my mother gave me a greater sense of independence, the heart-felt knowledge that death is a part of life, and the ability to show empathy to those who have experienced loss.

Affirmation: I focus on the person I lost

Coaching questions: What is your response to loss? Is it working for you? What will help you focus more on the lost loved one and less on yourself?

My mom, Winnifred Martyn Horn, circa 1939

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