The hardest part about losing isn’t losing.
Yes, this headline is inspired by the 2016 Presidential election in the U.S.
Yes, I voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Yes, my heart hurts and I am scared about what the election results will mean for me and the rights of some of the people I love.
But, this post isn’t about politics. Instead, I want to use this moment in time to tap into something beyond politics – and just as personal:
How do you manage the shock when the reality you have isn’t the one you want?
Step away from this election, and a truth about life comes into clear focus: We all have lost (or will lose) something or someone that is very important to us at some point.
As you read this, whether you’re celebrating or mourning the election results, maybe you’re dealing with a less politically focused loss. Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one due to divorce or death. Or, maybe you’ve been recently downsized. Or, maybe, despite giving it everything you have, you’ve had to make the tough choice to close down your business. Or, perhaps you lost a friendship that was once dear to you.
Or, maybe you’re slowly coming around to realizing that “dream come true” isn’t going to come true.
Depending upon how recently you’ve experienced a loss determines how fresh the taste of uncertainty is. It determines the depth of your fear of the unknown and your pain, confusion and despair.
The human experience always has and always will involve loss.
But that doesn’t soften the blow when it happens to you; that doesn’t diminish the shock to your system; that doesn’t mean you don’t have to recalibrate because today is not only different than yesterday — it’s different that what you thought tomorrow would be, too.
That’s why I say…
The hardest part about losing isn’t losing.
It’s that you have to simultaneously manage the aftermath – emotionally and otherwise – whilst you figure out what comes next.
Herewith, I offer a few thoughts on choices to make as you begin to embrace the uncertainty that prevails when your reality has shifted. And, as importantly, how to do this strategically.
First, don’t rush to “get over it.”
Uh, I cringe each time I read or hear someone say, “get over it.” Not only does the comment lack compassion, it loses sight of the “why” behind someone’s shock and pain. You have to process your pain, fear and disappointment before you can move on. So, give yourself permission to acknowledge the loss and allow yourself to go through a grieving process.
You’ll make better quality choices when you have a clearer head and heart.
Second, avoid making hasty decisions.
At some point, you need to take action. I call this the ‘mourn-in-action’ stage. Move your body. Send an email. Make a phone call. Make a to-do list. Do something. Just don’t make any big decisions or decisions that will have far-reaching consequences while your wounds are still fresh.
Third, review your plan (or create one)
A large part of how you respond to losses has to do with how significantly the loss impacts your game-plan.
Hopefully, you are operating with a written game-plan – and not one in your head! Because I’ve yet to meet someone whom can do scenario planning and keep track of what-if scenarios in their head…just saying.
When you experience a loss, of whatever type, there are bound to be some choices, variables and assumptions that need to be adjusted. And it’s way, way easier to “play out” what comes next on paper before you make any commitments.
Plus, a written plan can help restore your hope and shift your focus toward possibilities because of what you “see” on paper. Think of it as creating a new vision, but without falling prey to untethered optimism.
Fourth, practice healthy doses of self-care
I really learned this when my mother died two years ago. Immediately following a loss, you will experience a shock to your system. As such, you may need to increase what you currently do to take care of yourself, or adopt new behaviors. But, please, take a moment to be kind to yourself – with both words and deeds.
Whether you’re celebrating or mourning the election results, uncertainty awaits us all. Uncertainty is deeply rooted in the fabric of our human experience…in the history of our civilization.
And as a wise and very dear friend said to me: “…our path forward has always been characterized by twists and turns and sometimes outright reversals…” Not only is this true when it comes to politics, it’s true when it comes to your (and my) personal lives.
Tap into the four suggestions above whenever you need to make sense of uncertainty as you plot a way forward. Sure, the path will be anything but straight and linear. Yet, like time, forward is the only direction we can go.
p.s. There is still time to register for “What the Heck Should I Do With My 401k?” This workshop is for you if you feel like you’re managing your account, but don’t really know what you’re doing. Or, if you want to get better at managing this account in the context of your bigger financial picture. During open enrollment, remember your financial health, too! Click here.