When Loss Strips You Bare of All That Is External.
We cannot compare losses.
We cannot say: My loss is not as severe as hers, so I have no right to grieve.
We cannot say: He got over it in six months, so I ought to too.
All losses have the potential to cut us deep.
All grief is legitimate.
When the unthinkable loss happens, we are first shocked, then we flounder in disbelief.
For the first 36 hours, we try to rescue the situation. We argue with the Universe.
In the back of our mind, we still hope it had not actually happened.
The only thing that keeps us alive is the fantasy that it could all go back to what it was before.
Days, weeks, months pass.
We realize nothing will ever bring back what we have lost.
The gaping hole remains there, staring at us every day.
We shake, we cry, we bargain.
We hold on to what was, refusing to see what is.
The feeling comes in waves. One moment, we see a glimpse of hope, the next moment, we are back in despair.
Even intellectually, we know this will pass, our heart cannot afford to be patient.
We swing up, and down, and back again, in this cycle.
The only thing we can do, my fellow soldiers stuck in similar cycles, is to move forward.
Carry your injury, and move forward.
Yes, the unthinkable, unjust, cruel has happened.
What was lost will never be back.
But we must carry our wounds and move forward.
We hold on tightly to what is left.
We summon the power of gratitude.
We take stock of our values and priorities.
In the sleepless nights, we close our eyes and wait for dawn.
We reconcile with an alien fate.
One day, we will realize whatever has happened has happened not to us, but for us.
No, this is not sugar-coating or denying our pain.
Our pain wakes us up to the truths — the universal, spiritual truths.
What are they?
One: We came to this world with nothing, and will leave with nothing. Nothing truly belongs to us. The only question we ask is: Have we been a good steward to what was bestowed upon us? If the answer is Yes, we have nothing to fear, nothing to be ashamed of.
Two: Nothing is life-or-death, except life or death. Take a longer view. Take a broader view. Think about sickness and death. Think about how fickle and feeble our human lives are — for all of us — in the grand scheme of things. Think how insignificant it all is — our calculations and concerns, our houses, our bank accounts, our jobs. Your soul matters, your flesh does not.
Three: No one cares about what you have achieved, owned, or for that matter, lost. The only humiliation is in your mind. You are the most beautiful when you are naked and vulnerable. When you are stripped bare of all that is external, your essence shines like the brightest stars.
Four: If you bear a bad fortune honorably, it is good fortune. This is a quote from my favorite philosopher Marcus Aurelius. There is no alternate reality. There are no what-ifs. What we have is the best version of reality, because it is the only one we have.
Five: You are not on your own. If you cannot find stories of pain and loss near you in our sugar-coated culture, look into history. Reach out, read, listen, be moved. It has happened before and will happen again. You have not been singled out, you have not been punished. You have not done anything wrong. I repeat, you have not done anything wrong.
If nothing works to make you feel any better, give up on trying to feel better.
Surrender into the river of grief.
Focus not on happiness, but on taking the next step.
Remember, sometimes, just surviving the next wave of despair is a triumph.
I want you to release whoever have deserted you during the cold winter, and cherish the true friends who stayed.
If no one else is there, I am here to tell you, I see you.
And I am proud of you.
So, so proud of you.
Imi Lo is the founder of Eggshell Transformations, a place for the emotionally intense, and author of the book Emotional Intensity and Sensitivity. She sits at where art, psychology, and spirituality meet, and her mission is to inspire and empower emotionally intense, sensitive and gifted individuals to rise from being the ‘misfits’ to leaders of the world.
Imi is a qualified Clinical Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, Schema Therapist (ISST), Mentalization-based Therapy Advance Practitioner (BPC), and Mindfulness Teacher (in MBSR, MBCT). She works holistically, combining Eastern and Western philosophies with other psychological and spiritual healing modalities. She was granted the Endeavour Award by the Australian Government for her clinical and academic excellence, and the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) for her commitment and contributions to social changes. She has been featured as a pioneer in the field in The Psychologies Magazine, The Telegraph, Marie Claire, The Daily Mail, and Talk Radio Europe. Her work appears on Psychology Today, Psych Central, Rebelle Society, and more. Leaving home at a young age, Imi has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, the USA and the UK. She has been a suicide counselor, social worker, artist, mindfulness teacher, yoga instructor, holistic healer, art therapist, psychotherapy trainer, and supervisor. She has also enjoyed an artist/art model career where she toured around the world. Her work reflects her passion in the emotional and existential themes that connect people. Imi’s artwork was exhibited in Australia and London’s East End and sold internationally. Combining her life-long passion and clinical expertise, she founded the Eggshell Transformations, where she works with intense people across the world. Imi owns over a thousand Japanese manga and eats broccoli every day.