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by Donna Bennett
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Losses and Gains: The Surprise in Moving from the Known to the Unknown

Loss is inherent in the human experience. It is a constant in all of life. Yet, it always comes as a surprise - as if it had never happened before. As if it isn't supposed to happen.
Loss is most often wrapped up in negatives - negative thoughts and words that conjure up negative emotions.

I asked several people, "What words bubble up when you think of loss?" They were quick to offer words such as: regret, uncertainty, grief, sorrow, emptiness, missing, overwhelmed, anger, isolation, separation, sadness, pain, alone, stalled. One offered, "release, hope, and joy."

All had experienced pending or recent losses such as job loss, career change, a parent's health, children leaving the nest, personal health issues, and the loss of a close relative. Some losses were expected, and some "came out of the blue." It didn't seem to matter. Expected or not, with loss comes surprise. With every loss there is change, and what was, will never be again.

While loss is inherent in human experience, many find a need to move quickly away from it. Others choose to hang on to what was, literally and/or emotionally, because the unknown - the place beyond the loss - is too difficult to imagine.

Even when loss is a matter of choice, such as leaving a job or career that no longer fits, leaving a hurtful relationship, relocating, or retiring, there are still surprises. Loss means change and the unknown. Whether planned or unplanned, expected or unexpected, it is critical to our emotional health to grieve our losses. That is, to feel them, experience them, talk about them, celebrate what was, and celebrate what will be. If not properly grieved, our losses will go underground and attach to the next loss, compounding new grief.

What is common in loss is:

what was, will never be again, and what is ahead, will be new and different.

Making the transition from the known and familiar takes planning and preparation. One way to begin this transition is to make a list of what you must say good-bye to (both the good and the bad) and another list of what you can say hello to. Hope is what is possible in this exercise.

As surprise is found in loss, surprise is also found in gain. It can be difficult to imagine gain after loss. Emotions tend to take all the space reserved for energy or new ideas. It often takes something or someone external to get us moving (i.e., a counselor, a class, a support group, a friend).

In the case of job loss or career change, self-discovery can be full of surprise. You may rediscover strengths and talents that, in the past, went unutilized or were underutilized, and are now valued in a new field or endeavor.

As you open yourself to new possibilities, and prepare and take action to move in a new direction, surprise will surface again as you discover that fear and anxiety become smaller, and the unknown becomes more familiar.

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