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Four Life-Changing Insights From Experiencing a Loss in Life

LIfechangeAhead2We’ve all experienced loss. Sometimes it is a loss of a relationship, a job, or a friend. By looking at our loss in life there are life-changing insights that we gain.

Recently, a friend and coworker perished in a helicopter accident. This isn’t the first time. I’m ready for it to be the last.

Bill Croucher was one of those people who make you feel like a rock star every time you see them as he enveloped you with a smile and his contagious delight for life.

We won’t know all the details of Bill’s final flight for sometime and it would be remiss of me to speculate, but at first glance it appears like the helicopter had a mechanical issue.

Bill was the first Captain I flew with when I moved from flying single-engine helicopters to a dual-pilot multiengine aircraft. I was shy and nervous and still finding my way as a female in a male-dominated industry. There wasn’t a finer man to be my first Captain. To Bill, I was a pilot and his coworker. It was never about my gender. This was in stark contrast to some of the individuals I’ve flown with since who seem to be unable see me as anything except their “female coworker.” It is a subtle difference but it matters.

After experiencing a loss, I often feel like playing small, staying safe, and hiding from the world. Helicopter pilot or not, we all experience loss. But by experiencing loss we are lucky enough to be reminded of how fleeting life can be and how important it is to live a Big Life today rather than waiting for someday. Here are four more life-changing insights we can gain from experiencing a loss.

Four Life-Changing Insights from Experiencing a Loss in Life

1. Be compassionate with yourself.

We often are our own worst critics. More than once when my family was New Zealand after my dad’s accident, one of us would break down sobbing. The compassionate strangers around us always offered a sympathetic ear, a hug and a few sheets of “Tork,” the Kiwi brand of tissue.

One time I sobbed to my Dad’s palliative care nurse about the unkind words I had said to my mother. She said to me gently, “if you don’t say and unkind word to your mother during times of extreme stress, when you would ever?”

Sometimes the hardest part of loss is to allow yourself to just be with whatever emotion is occurring and grieve. We want to do something, anything so we don’t have to feel the pain of our loss. As we grieve the loss of Bill, some will fixate on determining the cause of the accident. Others will get angry.

You will also feel sad, shocked, and numb. Your emotions will vary from moment to moment. You may also feel happy and then catch yourself and feel guilty.

Don’t resist.

Just let each emotion wash over you one at a time and let them move through. Be compassionate with yourself.  You are enough.

2. Get Complete.

At one point when my Dad was dying my Mom said to me, “if you have anything to say to your Dad, now would be the time.” Although there is much I wish I could share with my Dad, there wasn’t any unfinished business between us. I knew he loved me and was proud of me. He knew I loved him and was proud of him. Complete.

What do you need to say to people to feel “complete?”

For most of us, life will end at a time we didn’t expect and in a manner we didn’t intend. You may not be able to talk to everyone- but you do have the power to get complete with or without their participation. Your life might end unfinished, but don’t leave things unsaid. Don’t leave things for later. Life’s too short to rush and it is too short to stay safe.

  • Who do you need to apologize to?
  • Who do you need to forgive?
  • Who do you need to tell you love?
  • What do you need to do to be complete?

3. Share your value with the world and acknowledge the value of others.

Offer your value to the world. We all have unique gifts. Creating a meaningful life and making a big impact isn’t about the things we do. It  is about who we are being when we do those things.

I have a friend who is contemplating career change. She’s feeling a sense of loss, worried about leaving her clients behind. I reminded her that who she is with clients is less about the tangible work she does and more about the intangible interactions she has with her clients. She’ll carry this ability to impact the lives of the people around her to whatever her new job may be.

What value can you offer the world?

Who are you not to?

Tell people in your life you are proud of them. Deliberately acknowledge their value and accomplishments. Try it. See how people react. It’s an easy gift to give.

4. Connect with others. 

One of Bill’s strengths was to welcome each person in his life as a friend he hadn’t yet made. Because of his attitude, most became friends.

Often the most precious moments in life are the small moments when we connect with others. Connecting with others requires the courage to make yourself vulnerable with others. Share your pain as well as your joy.

I hadn’t seen Bill recently, but when I saw him last, he greeted me with his usual smile and a huge hug. Thank-you Bill, for sharing yourself with the world. You made it a better place and all of us better people.

Loss in life is never easy. But finding the positives and letting these insights change your world for the better is a way to honor the departed. How have you experienced loss? What have you gained? Share in the comments.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Jill April 3, 2013, 10:00 am

    Great advice – and really enjoyed your TEDxAnchorage speech Saturday, as well. Thank you for sharing your value with the world. And your time and insights, from your unique life and experiences.

    • Lorena April 5, 2013, 11:33 am

      Thanks so much Jill! It was a great day and I’m so glad I had to opportunity to share my story. Looking forward to hearing about your own journey to get uncomfortable. :)

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