What Do We Gain From Grief and Loss?

By:  Brenda J. DeMotte, MSW, LICSW  An excerpt from her book:  Grief Demystified, A Companion Through Change  For more information or to purchase the book visit: www.griefdemystified.com

Let yourself be inert, wait till the incomprehensible power…that has broken you restores you a little, I say a little, for henceforth you will always keep something broken about you.  Tell yourself this, too, for it is a kind of pleasure to know that you will never love less, that you will never be consoled, that you will constantly remember more and more.  –  Marcel Proust

No Loss Without Gain

In the early days of bereavement, it’s hard to believe that anything good can come from your loss. But things are different now, and you may notice a silver lining or two. You may have or foresee more time to yourself, or more freedom of one kind or another. Your mind may protest that you can’t possibly want more time or freedom at such a cost. But these freedoms remain real enough. The gains from bereavement can be major gains in the way you remake your new identity (our definition of grief, remember, is nothing less than a redefinition of self) and also small, practical gains.

Small, Practical Gains

We’ll start with the small gains. If you are newly bereaved, you will likely be noticing already that some things in your life are a little easier. If you have lost a mate, for example, you no longer have to cope with his snoring, or wait while she looks for her car keys for the millionth time. Hold on, you may say, I’d cope with any amount of snoring or key hunting if I could just have my mate back. No doubt you would, if death or divorce could be undone by wishing. But that’s not the way it goes.

Grounding Yourself Through Small Gains

It’s a positive step in your grief work to dare to admit that it can be kind of nice to have sole control of the TV remote, to watch action flicks or soppy romantic movies that your late spouse or ex deplored, or to crank the type of music that you love but he or she hated. Such thoughts, far from being disloyal, as baby steps in accepting your loss. It is helpful and healthy to admit what is real. And because daily life is full of small, practical realities, grounding oneself by attention to these realities is a way to forge a new connection to life. All of this is the way things are, whether you like it or not, so why not find small things to like? People need permission to accept the practical gains that come with loss. Whether or not you wanted it, there’s simply more freedom. Options open and there may be room now for surprise and serendipity.

New Strengths And Paying It Forward

Gains are unavoidable from losses. If you think you’re doing something wrong by gaining from death or divorce, you haven’t yet grasped the full implications of your loss. For everything that was taken there’s a corresponding something given, a very real possibility that you are gaining new strengths from coping. Though you didn’t ask for or deserve the suffering, it’s here. It can crush you, or you can, over time, develop resilience. It seasons you and make you wise. Eventually, you can come to fully accept what happened, to the point that you turn naturally toward comforting others who will inevitably be in your shoes – because all of us go through this. We’re all in this together. There is no deeper wisdom than that.

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