We often hear about coping with loss related to as death or experience with terminal illness. But what about the other unacknowledged grief and loss that all people experience?
The Unacknowledged Grief and Loss
The end of a relationship, the death of a pet, and the end of a stage in life (entering retirement, leaving school, getting divorced) are all forms of loss. Grief can be born from any experience. For those of us with eating disorders, experiencing loss can reignite the urge for disordered behaviors.
After living with depression for years, suffering a loss may almost come as an uncomfortable kind of calm. You can finally point your finger at something and say, “You did it! You are the exact reason why I feel this way!” It can be incredibly validating to be able to have an external representation of your pain. This is especially true if you had a long, blameless, internal struggle.
Regardless of the cause of grief, it is important to remember that loss (cause) and grief (the effect) is defined entirely by the individual experiencing it. And it does not need to be justified to anyone.
Recognizing the direct source of pain and hurt does not make the suffering process any easier. There may be some guilt or shame in acknowledging the loss. This can be true especially if you consider it trivial compared to more widely accepted losses such as death and illness.
Acknowledging grief and loss
One of the most important things to acknowledge at this time is the presence of your eating disorder. This may be counter-intuitive act because recovery often focuses on coping mechanisms to counteract the disorder. What I mean by acknowledging the eating disorder: identify and recognize that maladaptive urges, patterns, and feelings may come up during this time period.
There will be moments when using the eating disorder may feel like the only way to escape from the pain and the grief. If you use old behaviors, move on and forgive yourself. Holding onto the shame and the guilt that your disorder brings will only perpetuate avoidance of your feelings.
Grief and loss are a natural part of life and accepting and working through our feelings associated with the loss can help in recovery.
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