How well do you cope with major losses?

by | Oct 4, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Major losses lead some individuals to feel depressed — not just sad, but clinically depressed, with sleep problems, appetite problems, difficulty concentrating, lack of interest in formerly enjoyed activities, etc. Other individuals don’t sink into depression when they experience a major loss such as the death of a family member, loss of a long-term job, loss of good health, or loss of some cherished hope (e.g., becoming a celebrity, becoming rich). What is the difference between the individuals who are knocked down and stay down for the count and those who get up quickly and keep fighting?

Studies of psychological resilience suggest that individuals who cope best with major losses tend to have high self-efficacy (they think they can cope with a crisis), good social support, positive thinking (e.g., “into each life some rain must fall”; “some things are still going right”; “the positive side of this development is…”), high meaning in their life (e.g., a cause that is very important to them, such as helping others), and good problem-solving skills. Also, these individuals seek help as needed.

When my sainted mother died, many years ago, I felt very sad. It was hard for me to imagine a greater loss. Still, I had thoughts that helped me cope: She was suffering from an incurable illness, and her quality of life was not good. She had a good life and reached the average lifespan.  Her genes live on in my brothers and me. The effects of her kindness live on also in us.

I had good social support. I had high meaning in my life, including helping others and having new and exciting experiences. So I coped reasonably well.

I feel sad now thinking about the loss. That’s OK. Although I accept the loss, I do not need to feel happy about it.

What helps you cope with major losses?

John Malouff, PhD, JD, Assoc Prof of Psychology



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