“To own only after you know how to accept loss,” Fujiyama by Albert Leung.
“Cannot forget about you cos you are so unforgettable,” Rashomon by Wyman Wong.
There are many topics in counselling and one key topics is on the subject of loss. It can be something tangible, like losing a job or being sick. It can also be something more subjective such as not feeling young anymore or losing meaning in life. When one has desire to own something, he is attached to his ‘self’ and bound to suffer when losing something or someone. This often happens in our daily lives. Since the object lost is deemed to be so important to oneself, he has very strong feelings when losing it. From the prospective of his inner world, he has lost not just an important object, but also feels like a part of him is gone. Life becomes empty and meaningless.
People have different reactions when facing loss. Common reactions can be struggling to accept, not letting go, feeling lost, sad, and grieving. In serious cases, people can feel depressed. Apart from this, some people blame, e.g. blaming their lovers for not being loyal. Or they may complain destiny is not fair. Sometimes, loss brings fear because it impacts on the security or even the meaning of life of the person involved. In other cases, loss transforms into jealousy and causes the person involved to vent his anger on the one who ’deprives’ him of his loved ones (e.g. siblings, an intruder to a relationship).
Characteristics of the self
- ‘Belonging to self’; believing one ’owns’ things; or things ’belong’ to him; and expects he is able to control this ownership or fully manipulate it.
- ‘Grasping’; when losing something or about to lose something, one can have feelings like clinging, and not wanting to let go. In other words, he is attached. He uses methods like trying to retain, transform or substitute in order to avoid losing it completely.
- ‘Suffering’; when loss comes, one can feel sad for not ’owning’ the object anymore. It does not belong to him anymore. Since he no longer has the object he was attached to, he feels helpless or even desperate. No matter what else he does, he still cannot alter the fact that it is lost.
- ‘Not letting go’; even though “loss” has become an objective fact, he still refuses to accept this and tries to continue to ’own’ it in his inner world. This includes finding a substitute, not wanting to forget and fantasizing. Sometimes, grasping will transform into hatred, violence, indulging in pain, and feeling victimized. By doing this, he makes sure he does not forget about it and allows it to continue owning a place in his heart.
Self Help Tips
- Accept suffering; separating from someone unavoidably causes “suffering”. The Dharma does not deny suffering but accurately understands “suffering” and separates it from “pain”. Since “suffering” does not necessarily bring “pain”, when facing loss, the first thing is to accept one has suffering and to accept his emotional reactions.
- Accepting loss; facing loss requires courage. To accept the loss of something and for it to become a fact, is like cleaning a bandaged wound, although dealing with the wound is painful, by facing the pain directly we can heal ourselves. Accepting loss is about being honest with oneself and a starting point from moving out of a depressed mental state and to continue moving forwards in life.
- Acknowledging the past; admitting loss does not mean denying the past. There are good and bad memories and experiences from the past. Accept its imperfection, because no matter whether it is positive or negative, it is still your past, a part of you. We cannot alter our history but we can adjust the way we see history. It would be better if we acknowledge both the good and bad times of the past, to accurately accept the imperfectness of the present and go back on track instead of living in the past and dwelling on day-dreams.
- Understand impermanence; wisdom comes from experience. So if life has just taught you a lesson about impermanence, and loss, you should not waste what you have ’paid for’. It’s better to accept ‘impermanence’, as it’s the nature of life and it’s unavoidable. However, individuals often think of other people’s loss as trivial whilst their own loss is a more serious version. Indeed, we are all equal before “impermanence”. There is no difference between you and someone else, rich or poor, noble or degrading. Impermanence is also a friendly reminder that helps you treasure the present moment, and what we already have.