Denial, the first step on the long journey of loss. Loss does not necessarily need to be someone. It can be something or a significant change in everyday life. Many of us are beginning to experience losses that are affecting our day to day life. For some, it is the uncertainty of passing from one milestone in life to another, as is the case of those High School Seniors who may not have their last class, their graduation, their prom. College Seniors will be thrust into a world where the economy is uncertain. For some, it will be the loss of all losses, that of a loved one. The grief and pain of the events or canceled events will have similarities and differences, but one thing that will remain, it will take us on a journey through the cycle of grief.
The stage of denial is a protective one. It is not the denial in the sense of not understanding that prom will not be happening or the loss of a job or that last conversation with a loved one is, in fact, the final conversation. Your mind may play tricks on you, where you wake thinking life is unchanged only to realize that it is precisely the same as it was the day before or possibly worse. No one loss should be minimized as all are important to the person experiencing them.
Denial will present itself in many ways. It may be the obsessive planning for an event that you wholeheartedly believe will never occur. It may be the repeated verbalization of doubt in the current situation. It may be the momentary thought you will be late for work only to quickly realize there is nowhere to go. It may be a time you reflect on past times and successes at the apparent disregard of the current challenges and future hope. It is the first step of many to come.
Experts warn that not everyone will move through each step in a linear fashion, some will not experience all, and some will become stuck on one. The key is identifying each, acknowledging where you are in the process, and looking for ways to move forward.
Be honest with yourself. There will be days that are more difficult than others, but with the acknowledgment that something has changed is the recognition that you are ready to accept and move forward. You do have choices as to how you proceed.
One way of dealing with denial is acceptance of the situation as being temporary and the coming to terms that life may not continue as it did. The loss is of significance and will carry a lifetime memory.
Substitute sadness of the loss with a focus on what you did have, what you can do, what impact you can have, and begin mapping the way to the future. As soon as you start to think of ways forward while being mindful of your past, you can move ever closer to the acceptance and the hope we all desire in times of loss and change.