Dealing with Sudden Loss: Fighting the Urge to Retreat

“And you would accept the seasons of your heart just as you have always accepted that seasons pass over your fields and you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.” ~Kahlil Gibran

Life, for all its beauty and wonder, is interspersed with moments of sudden tragedy and great suffering.

This past weekend, some friends received tragic news: the sudden loss of their friend, a young man.

Sudden loss is completely overwhelming, utterly overpowering. One million unanswerable questions, why’s and how’s,┬árage chaotically. For all the turbulence swirling within the minds of those present, finding any words of comfort or consolation falls undeniably quiet.

Such unexpected encounters with loss force upon good men and women a pain so severe that we wish to withdraw completely from this chaotic and utterly unpredictable world. We feel the sudden urge to retreat from our very existence into a protective shell: one of social withdrawal. We wish to save ourselves from further pain; we are overcome with the urge to retreat and hide.

However, it is through these times of great suffering that we come to understand — instead of withdrawing from our world — that the more numerous, greater, and deeper the meaningful connections that we have to loved ones, friends, and others around us, the stronger our personal net of support — like a spider’s web — that exists beneath our feet to save us from falling, even during the saddest and most desperate of times.

Out of Fear and Hurt, the Urge to Retreat

Dealing with loss is always so difficult to endure, let alone overcome. When loss is sudden and unexpected, the burden is even greater. Spurred on by misery and fear, many feel compelled to retreat from the world as they know it. The protective shell of social withdrawal appears to promise safety and security. By confining our lives to a limited social existence, we deduce that fewer will be the opportunities for the chaotic nature of our world to claim the lives of those we love prematurely. Fewer connections, less loss, less tragedy, less fear…

The logic would seem mathematically sound: If the more friends and family we have equates to a higher probability of great pain and terrible sorrow, then the fewer people to whom we are soulfully connected, the lesser the chance that life exerts its toll and causes us to suffer. But equating the nature of human beings is neither absolute nor certain, and never so objective or mathematical as we might logically deduce.

A Web of Connections, Our Net of Support

Times of loss and sorrow can be so incredibly painful that instinct compels us to run away; to retreat from the world as we know it, to hide within a cocoon that is insulated from the chaotic and unpredictable world around us.

However, it turns out that during these very times of tragedy and loss, we come to realize that we should never withdraw from the world out of fear and sorrow. Instead, the unpredictable nature of life compels us to actually forge many more connections — deeper, greater, more meaningful relationships — with as many people as we possibly can.

In spite of the increased mathematical “odds” that unexpected loss and hurt can find us, we come to realize the greater strength in forging together a wider net of support and strength, of love and trust, for both ourselves and for all those whom we care about.

For the spider web, there will be times when a link is broken: when the life of someone we love is taken from us prematurely. Nothing shall ever redeem that loss. However, as we live and endure through the loss of those we love, we begin to notice that even with some broken or missing links, the web stays intact. We are supported. We are held up. We live on still. We provide that web of support for each other.

Each meaningful, loving connection that we forge over the course of our lives creates a link — dozens of strong, inter-connected segments — that spins a net of support and stability for ourselves and those to whom we are connected. The greater the web of love and friendship we have spun in our lives, the stronger the net of social support and stability that shall keep us from falling in times of sorrow and tragedy. Although we feel the initial urge to hide and retreat, it is only by more intently immersing ourselves in the lives of others that we summon the strength and support to go forward.

As time progresses and helps heal all wounds, we come to realize that by taking up a new mantle for living — deeper, more meaningful purpose in life — that who we have lost prematurely hasn’t really been taken from us; that his or her link in our web is not truly gone. Through our memories and by embodying a new, stronger purpose, we realize that the link has only taken new form. We realize that they live on still.

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