Thriving After A Loss

You read that headline and think: Whoever wrote that is plain nuts. Thriving after a loss?? Is that even possible? How can someone be expected to thrive when they lose someone they’ve loved dearly?

If I’d encountered that headline when my mother’s loss was still fresh, I would’ve had the same reaction. There is a time to grieve and mourn. Grief beats you down hard. But it is possible to get back up.

I watched a very illuminating Tedx talk by Geoff Warburton titled “The Adventure of Grief.” Psychologist, writer and innovator, Geoff has spent 25 years studying love and loss. He challenges conventional apathy to grief and loss and offers an alternative approach which combines Eastern wisdom traditions, psychology and common sense. Curiosity, openness and compassion, he says, help us go beyond “surviving” grief to “thriving.” According to him, loss through bereavement can become an adventure instead of a problem to be solved.

Geoff’s understanding of “survive” versus “thrive” versus came from his two grandmothers. One had lost both her brothers in a World War, and also a young husband. The other grandmother had lost two infants due to lack of medical care, and a husband working in a coal mine to lung disease.

One grandmother survived; the other thrived. And what made the difference was their approach and attitude. One had grown world-weary and closed off her heart; the other embraced loss as part of life and continued to engage with life.

heartDeath and grief are part of the mortal experience. “No matter how tragic the circumstances, it is not life cheating you. You cheat life when you close your heart after a loss,” says Warburton.

It’s the difference between asking Why Me or Why Not Me.

People who don’t let grief close their hearts embrace more than their emotions; they embrace whatever grief brings them. If you feel rage, anger, terror, sadness or guilt, allow yourself to embrace it all. Don’t push it away. Because when you close your heart to emotional pain, you also shut yourself off to the joys of life. They’re two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other.

Here are some questions for you to consider:

  1. If you’re grieving a loss, how have you numbed yourself from feeling the pain?
  2. What is one thing you can do today to open your heart?
  3. Who in your life can help you take that first step toward thriving?

Thriving after a loss is not a distant delusional dream. It is something you move toward, one baby step at a time.

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