Thelma Duffey Ph.D.

Works in Progress

Finding Your Way Back From Loss

It's all about perspective. Here's how you can manage yours.

Posted Jun 24, 2015

Konstantin Sutyagin/Shutterstock
Source: Konstantin Sutyagin/Shutterstock

When we think of Plan B, we often think of it as a back-up plan. And a back-up plan is almost always a second choice. Plan A is, of course, our top goal, or even our dream. When we invest deeply, but in spite of our best efforts Plan A doesn't work out, we feel disappointed. We may even feel grief. Some may call this a lost dream, and it often is.

Recovering from lost dreams, such as the loss of a relationship or a valued job, is not easy. Depending on our attachment to the dream, and the circumstances surrounding its loss, recovery can take significant time and effort. However, when we are able to move forward with our lives in spite of a loss, these challenges can sometimes result in unanticipated and even far superior opportunities. In other words, life can work out even better than we first imagined. Although some of our losses are legitimately regretful, in some cases Plan A can retrospectively look like a dodged bullet.

Take Bill, for example: He was deeply in love with Lisa, a girl he courted for years. For reasons he could not put into words, and in spite of experiences that could have led him to think otherwise, Bill believed Lisa was the girl of his dreams. He simply could not imagine life without her. Bill was relentless in his devotion—not only to Lisa, but also to his vision of life with Lisa. Unfortunately, in time, the circumstances became too clear for him to ignore, and he made the painful decision to say goodbye. 

It is very possible to become attached to the idea of a person, place, or thing. Over time, we can convince ourselves that this idea or perception is reality. In actuality, our perceptions are colored by many factors—and it is only when we reach some clarity that we can see a bigger, more accurate picture.

Even so, letting go is not easy.

Bill sought counseling after his breakup because he was not sleeping well, his work was suffering, and he was frustrated with intrusive thoughts about his choice. All to be expected. The good news is that, although it took time, Bill did turn the corner. He grew to see the relationship, and Lisa, through a different lens, and in doing so re-claimed his responsibility for his own well-being and ensured his own sense of dignity. Moreover, he refocused his energy toward new directions, and found doors of opportunity and satisfaction he didn't know existed. 

Coming to terms with a lost dream can feel complicated, particularly when we have invested time, energy, and trust into a situation. Gaining perspective helps us redirect our attention and discover new opportunities. 

If you are trying to make sense of this kind of loss, consider these thoughts:

  1. Your feelings of loss are legitimate. The greater your investment, the more powerful your grief. Give yourself the same compassion you would give a close friend or loved one as you adjust.
  2. The ability to care deeply and invest is a virtue, a sign of strength, and a source of resiliency. It will serve you well as you get past your current situation.
  3. Give yourself the space and time to adjust. Then invest your energy into new experiences and possibilities. Life can bring many unanticipated gifts. When we open our hearts and minds to them, they may surprise us.
  4. You deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. If you are grieving a relationship, job, or other situation in which you were disrespected, think twice about what you are losing.  
Source: Perspective/Pixabay

Plan A does not always work out. And as we move toward some Plan A situations, we may get hurt and bruised along the way. To add insult to injury, Plan B can seem like a consolation prize just because it is not the first plan in our hearts. However, there is good news: Plan B can look far more attractive, and bring unexpected joy, once we assimilate the facts and release our hope for them to be different. As we do this, we may even see our former situation in a new light. 

A new perspective can work wonders to take the sting out of lingering hurt, feelings of rejection, or feelings of loss. A new perspective can also provide a new framework in which to view oneself—as someone worthy of much more. This is a wonderful thing.

In the meantime, if you are grieving the less-than-desirable loss of a Plan A, connect to others who appreciate you and then reciprocate the feeling. Mutual respect and care go a long way toward living a productive and fulfilling life. Connect with the positive energy around you. With clarity, perspective, and hope for the future, the opportunities and possibilities are easier to spot, appreciate, and make happen.