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How do I deal with loss?

Not very well.

I’m human.

When I experience loss, I don’t pull out my trusty roadmap for suffering and loss and follow the guidelines. No one has written such a book because each and every response to loss is unique to that individual. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to loss. Sure, there are books about the grief process, etcetera, but these cannot speak specifically to your own experience. They can help buffer the pain, but they will not eliminate it.

Even the most spiritually advanced people experience loss personally. I suspect people who claim they feel no pain and experience no grief.

I’m reminded of an old legend of a Buddhist monk whose son died. He holed himself up in his cave. After many, many days he emerged out of the cave where his disciples were waiting for him. They were bewildered that he was experiencing loss and grief… in a word, that he was suffering. They inquired, “But master, haven’t you always taught us that suffering is an illusion?” To which he replied, “Yes, but this illusion was particularly convincing!”

In other words, it hurt. He experienced loss. He felt grief. A normal human reaction.

Let me tell you how I experience loss. Like, say, the loss of a friendship. As I’ve travelled my own spiritual path… because I must… I have gained some new friends along the way, but I have also lost some too. How do I deal with the loss?

First, I descend into a deep dark pit. I feel overcome with sadness. I feel powerless because there was nothing I could do about it. Sometimes I even question my own ability to have and hold a friendship. I’m inconsolable. Now, in the back of my mind I hear my truer, peaceful self, full of wisdom, encouraging me to be the peaceful, wise, enlightened person that I am (haha). But I resist this for a while because I want to feel sad. I want to feel this sense of loss. For me, it is an automatic, even involuntary expression of gratitude and honor for what I lost. It is paying my respects for what I had. So I just tell the illumined part of me saying “Get over it!” to get behind me. Let me feel this for a while.

Next, I start to allow my enlightened self to emerge. (By the way, I think we all have enlightened selves, so I’m not speaking boastfully here.) I begin seeing how this had to happen. Because it did! It is real. And I choose to love what is real. Reality rules! So the sooner I embrace this the sooner I will actually end my suffering. When I stop believing my negative thoughts and realize that I am well, that all is well and that all manner of things will be well, my peace reestablishes itself in my heart and mind. I also realize that the friend I lost is believing his thoughts as well, and that if I believed the same thoughts he was believing, I would unfriend me too. It’s amazing how much peace this brings to my mind. This is the peace that abides, always there to take the throne.

Finally, I learn from it. Perhaps I do suck as a friend. Perhaps I have done things that give people no choice but to unfriend me. (When I say ‘unfriend’ I’m not necessarily only talking about Facebook, but friendships in general. Facebook coined the term and I find it useful to my experience.) I also learn a lot about people in general, the human race, humanity. It’s during times like this I can look into my heart and realize that I really do have compassion for all living things because I can feel compassion for the person I just lost. I learn how to live as a more loving and compassionate person. I also learn that being a loving and compassionate person will not always be easy and that I may not always be understood or accepted. That’s a lesson worth learning.

I don’t think I’m naive to say I consider everyone my friend. At the deepest level we are all connected, one, united, and that it is only our thoughts that seem to apparently divide us. But these thoughts are illusions. They aren’t reality. For me, the reality is that we are not separated or divided. So an ex-friend, in my opinion, and with genuine feeling I can say this, they are still my friend even though I might not be theirs. I wish them well.

Way back in 1997 I went through a massive church split. I was the pastor. Suddenly I had a whole boat load of enemies who just the day before were my closest friends. I’ve been around this block before and since. At the time I could not process it. Then, one might I had a dream in which I met with the leader of the split and I embraced him. I awakened the next morning no longer angry with him, no longer feeling estranged from him, no longer hurt or confused. He was no longer my enemy. I felt that dream was the emergence of my deepest and truest Self showing me what reality was: that even though we’ve never restored our relationship, that I could still love him and wish him well and not lose the real connection between us.

Loss hurts. But this is how I process it.

I hope this helps.

With love my friends,