Paralytic Loss. That was me at ground zero after losing my adult son Drew in the spring of 2011 to suicide. I was so unprepared for what followed, that my mind just sort of stopped, and everything I knew with certainty was simply washed right out of my brain. The reality is that suicide is horrific, unspeakable Loss at its heart. What I have discovered is this: loss is loss – there are no measuring sticks to tell you which loss is greater than another. Loss has no “tragedy meter”. It is unique to each person, and it cannot be compared to someone else’s in severity.
There are tragic losses everywhere: loss of a spouse; losses from illness; stress at the workplace; losses experienced by physicians, nurses, caregivers, of livelihood, self-esteem, bullying; loss of home or shelter; loss of a relationship that was thought to last forever.
Exactly how do we work through the tragedy that has struck from behind? When blindsided, what tools can be utilized to see our way free of fear, pain and sadness? One of the most powerful of the tools I offer in my book Let Go and Let Love: Survivors of Suicide Loss Healing Handbook is Allowing and Zero Judgment.
When we allow, we are recognizing, through deliberate action and understanding, everyone’s given right to have a thought, opinion or personal declaration. Done perfectly, this process must include Zero Judgment, in which we successfully avoid forming an opinion or conclusion regarding the circumstances presented to us. Neither “We” nor “They” should ever feel the need to move from their own belief system in order to keep the relationship in balance. We should conduct our different approaches with respect and curiosity – give room to learn, grow and yet choose to stay put, without recrimination or consequences.
Good grief, how often do we do that? Most of us have a hundred opinions about the most minuscule topics, and we never seem to hesitate in telling the world how we feel about it. This paves the way for standing in judgment of another person, simply because their thoughts and ideas do not match up with our own. Here are some simple examples. Just put little quotes around each one of these – you will recognize your own voice, I promise.
· Here’s what you do…
· Let me tell you just what to do…
· There is a much better way to do this…
· What were you thinking?
· You cannot sit there and do nothing…
· Why couldn’t you see that coming?
· You handled that all the wrong way, you know that, right?
Allowing is a tough stretch for most of us. Even if we don’t state our opinion, we are thinking it, so body language gives us away. Winning an argument or discussion makes us look good, and always brings more companions to our side of the fence. So if I say “I allow”, but harbor a strong emotional reaction opposite to that, I am not allowing at all. I am condemning you quietly instead. I am judging your opinion, instead of allowing it. Because I was the “easygoing” one in my family, I frequently was the peace-keeper and the person that everyone came to, to gain points for their side. I was pushed back and forth between every opinion. When survivorship of tragic loss was forced upon me, I needed to get my beliefs underfoot and keep them there, since everything else was shifting badly. I learned Allowing first, even before Non- Judgment, but it was the right track to follow. What can you do to avoid being pulled into someone else’s collusion, especially if it hurts you in some way? You allow. There are 2 types:
1. ALLOWING FOR YOURSELF
In this type of allowing, you are giving yourself the benefit of grace in the face of unexpected thoughts and behavior of your own. Did you not respond or handle something very well? Did you get angry, regret an outcome you couldn’t see coming, manage to screw up miserably because your sadness was just overwhelming? This is the place where you say, “Ah well, I will just forgive me for that – I will do better next time, because now I know…” Move on. Regarding non-judgement, you avoid judging yourself as someone who didn’t measure up. To do that would be to undo all that you have just allowed on your own behalf. Figure out what you might do differently if you want, but more importantly, go to the next task. You’ve done well.
2. ALLOWING FOR SOMEONE ELSE
For this allowing, you need to exercise your right to state your feelings, speak your truth, and make no excuses. None are needed anyway. With allowing of someone else, you are never pulled or pushed into any position that is not yours or does not suit you, unless you let it or agree with it. The second part of allowing someone else must include non-judgment of their expression to you. If you allow it, you need to avoid judging it, simply because you don’t need to embrace it. It belongs to them, so why bother christening it right or wrong? Thank them for “sharing” – you stay where you need to be.
1. Set aside a time of day and/or an amount of time within that day to consciously practice Allowing. You can make it as long or short as you wish, but try to schedule it when you will be interacting with others in some way.
2. Be aware of what is being said to you or around you. You needn’t be an active part of the conversation, but it might be more compelling if you were.
3. Listen specifically for dialogue that may be controversial, opinionated, and vastly different from what you think and feel, a topic that activates your emotions in some way such as anger, something you feel strongly about, or anything that inspires positioning or polarization.
4. Try not to be judgmental about your emotional reaction, but recognize that you have one –identify it. Accept that it is triggering you, but remind yourself, their belief system is not your belief system.
5. Next notice how you may be setting up a protective posture to the other person. Do you feel the need to verbally convince them or change their opinion to yours?
6. Receive by listening to the other person’s opinion, without forming a judgment. Become neutral.
7. Try to extract yourself at the conclusion of the discussion by thanking them and acknowledging that they have an “interesting point of view.”
8. You have done your best; now give yourself congratulations for making progress.
Loss will never stop entering our lives. Tragic loss will occur even if we don’t believe that it will. How we view loss, how we work through our loss – now, that is how and where we can discover the greatest strength of all: within ourselves.