Processing loss

Take at least 30 seconds to practice each of the following “steps” in this exercise. Step one of this exercise WILL be uncomfortable. If it isn’t then, do it over until it does not feel good to do it. You should get at least a mild emotional negativity that is noticeable, before proceeding to the other steps.

Because of this “negativity” aspect of this exercise, you should be cautioned that if this exercise “strikes too close to home,” then you should not do this exercise. This is not meant to be a “heart wrenching” experience.

1. Pretend that a person you romantically love very much has just left you for another person. Imagine the actual first moment you find out. Use an actual person in your life for this experiment.

2. Now pretend that an hour has passed. Imagine yourself having subsided just a bit, but still quite upset.

3. Now pretend that a week has passed.

4. Now pretend that three years have passed and you are completely over it, and the loved one’s name can come up in conversation without a large negative emotion coming up.

5. Now pretend that still more years have passed, and you meet this person on the street, and you genuinely greet the person with the intent to enjoy the meeting as much as is possible without any hope of the two of you getting back together.

6. Now pretend that you are at the end of your life, and you look back on all that has happened to you-the heights and depths-the soaring, the scarring. See how all that has happened has “filled out” your life. Imagine yourself laughing with someone about this one negative incident in your life.

Ask yourself,If I can go through such a process in my imagination, in real life, if such a thing might happen to me, is there a way for me to speed this process up by consciously participating in it?

How long does this process take if the loss is much lesser in nature? Can I see all the steps in rapid succession for when, say, I drop my ice cream cone on the sidewalk or stub my toe or a friend snarls at me for no reason?

Is there a way to jump to the end of this kind of process by an act of will? Can I just “see where all this is going” and “just go there?” What is it about the passage of time that is so necessary to the process?

What is it that “quiets down” as the years pass, and what is it about time that facilitates this process?

What are the chances that at the end of my life the negativity I have endured will be found to be my strongest memories and my greatest character builders?

Can I rally around this concept during my coming trial? Can I enter an intellectual “eye of the storm” that is calm while all else is breaking loose?

Can I practice process like this during my easier, smaller challenges and thus build up my “maturation muscles” to handle more easily the processing of greater and more intense forms of grief?