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Overcoming the Fear of Loss

I find myself worrying about losing this one (who is nearly 15 years old) a lot these days. It is not an easy worry to cope with.
I find myself worrying about losing this one (who is nearly 15 years old) a lot these days. It is not an easy worry to cope with.

Lately I’ve been pondering loss a lot.

Perhaps this is just what happens when a 45th birthday is just around the corner – a nice midway point if there ever was one to contemplate such things.

Or maybe it is the recent upsurge of hate crimes, acts of terror, shared empathy for those affected and an underlying senselessness that simply refuses to play well with sense.

Or it might be a combination of all three.

I suspect it goes deeper than that, however.

I am thinking it may be part of our same ancient limbic brain system – the part we share with basically all other life, human and non-human – and the same part that gives rise to “fight or flight” and other inconvenient reactions more useful in decades gone by.

I am thinking that, to the limbic brain, loss (of other) = death (of me).

In other words, if I lose contact with or simply lose my flock, my pack, my herd or my clan, I probably just moved down a notch in the overall food chain.

But since today this is not nearly so true as it used to be, the loss takes on a less primal “survival” tone and becomes deeper, more poignant, less well defined and much more deadly.

A few years ago I learned about something called “broken heart syndrome.”

According to the American Heart Association, broken heart syndrome (clinically termed “stress induced cardiomyopathy”) is a temporary situation that occurs when the stress of a loss is so sudden and so intense it produces a chest pain victims liken to the pain of a heart attack.

Sometimes it can be fatal.

Loss is that powerful. 

The loss doesn’t have to be an actual death, either. It can be a sudden separation, a sudden shock (even a good shock), a sudden rejection, a sudden change in situation.

It seems that today, instead of a loss producing us as “lunch is served,” lunch produces the potential to kill us off – or at least maim us significantly – from within.

We have internalized that limbic pain to the point where we need only to feel it to be harmed by it.

Interestingly, this has given rise to another theory I plan to explore more.

If I have internalized my sense of losing someone or something (and most of my loss-fears center around losing beings, not things), have I perhaps not also internalized by sense of “having” them in the first place?

Some of my most favorite teachers – luminaries like Don Miguel Ruiz, Sr., the Dalai Lama, Pema Chodron, Byron Katie – say that all the love we ever need is already within us.

It is inside – just like the fear of loss.

Here is one of my recent favorite quotes from Don Miguel Ruiz, Sr.’s, Instagram:

We search for love outside ourselves when love is all around us. Love is everywhere. But we don’t have the eyes to see.

I want to develop the eyes to see.

I want to see so deeply, so constantly, that I no longer have that (literally) heart-stopping thought:

“But what if I lose [Pearl, my boyfriend, my parents, my friend]….?”

I want to know that the love I am so afraid to lose is now, has always been and will always be within me, safe and sound.

I want to know that the essence of what I am so afraid of losing is the one thing I can never and will never lose.

I want to know this, but I don’t know this yet. Or at least my limbic brain doesn’t know this yet.

We are working on it.

Today’s Takeaway: In the wake of some of the world’s recent (and not so recent) terrors, horrors and disasters, do you ever find yourself gripped with the fear that someone you love, someone you depend upon for what seems like like itself, is lost to you forever? How do you move through that paralyzing moment? What comforts you – if you can find any comfort? What do you think about Don Miguel Ruiz, Sr.’s words? Can you find any comfort in them? Are there any other teachers and mentors you look to for comfort and insight in such times?

Overcoming the Fear of Loss

Shannon Cutts


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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2015). Overcoming the Fear of Loss. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 22, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/mentoring-recovery/2015/11/overcoming-the-fear-of-loss/

 

Last updated: 14 Nov 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 Nov 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.