Coping with loss on the spiritual journey

On the spiritual journey, there is often change, and that means loss of what once was and the corresponding emotional upheaval.

The loss or crisis (think about something like burnout, divorce, loss of a job, death of a loved one, illness, trauma) can be either before the awakening to a spiritual dimension of reality or it can come after awakening (or both). Some people have the breakdown first, and then they wake up as a consequence of hitting rock bottom. Or they awaken first, and then circumstances in their life are rearranged by an invisible force and that means loss of the old and arrival of the new. Asking new questions about the meaning of life may well mean that the universe thinks it is time to end an old job or relationship – to replace it with something of which the higher self thinks that it is better.

Regardless of whether the loss, crisis, or trauma occurs before or after awakening, it is usually some time of stress and emotional upheaval. When the awakening was before the crisis, then there may already be some understanding about the process and that can make it easier to cope with the crisis. Somewhat like it is useful to have had a childbirth preparation class before going through labor pain.

But unfortunately, teachings about the phases of the spiritual path do not belong into the curriculum at school, at least not in the western world. Therefore, people may go into the journey unprepared, like a woman who is suddenly feeling the nausea of pregnancy or the pain of giving birth but without any awareness that she was pregnant in the first place and without any knowledge about the process of pregnancy and birth.

If there is no knowledge about the process of the spiritual journey and the reason for the loss, then there is just the experience of loss or crisis. And this can be utterly painful and terribly devastating. For some, it can be close-to-suicide devastating.

Among the periods which were difficult for me were the severe onset of rheumatoid arthritis right after the birth of my first child (2003); then, the anger about what I perceived as unfair treatment at work and the subsequent disengagement and loss of passion (since 2009); a phase of apathy in spring 2014; and the loss of trust in my guidance after a health-damaging hike in 2016 and the subsequent dismissal of a negative spirit guide (2017).

Here, I want to list some things that have helped me to cope.

Talking about it
I found it helpful to talk to others about it. However, it was tricky to find people who could ‘hold the space’, that means they would listen and not judge or try to fix things.

Even when I had no people to talk to, there was still journaling. It was important for me to write everything down which was going through my mind. My journal was a safe space. It would always listen, but not judge me or try to fix me. After I had written down all my frustration and calmed down, I would then try to see things from a different angle. Why had it happened? Were there any benefits of the new situation?

Feeling the emotions
It is very important to feel the emotions and not suppress them. Suppressing them because it seems to be more socially acceptable or more spiritually correct to always be happy can lead to health problems. So, I felt my emotions. Bouts of anger and waves of grief.
However, here comes the tricky part. I felt the emotions, but I was likely to drown in them. I received nudges from my guidance that I should eventually arrive at a point of letting go. Easier said than done.

Value of inner peace
I had experienced the contrast of anger vs inner peace. When I was angry, light bulbs would burn out and other weird stuff would happen. On the other hand, when I was in inner peace, then I would experience small miracles, synchronicities and a feeling of being more in the flow of events. Having experienced this contrast, I was motivated to get back into inner peace whenever possible.

Learning about the stages
There are several models out there about the stages of the process of loss. A well-known one is the model about the five stages of grief by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Another model suggests the following phases: Shock and numbness; yearning and searching; disorganization and despair; reorganization.
I have found it helpful to have a map of this process of coming to terms with life after shit had hit the fan.

Hoping that it was good for something
From the books Your Soul’s Plan and Your Soul’s Gift by Robert Schwartz, I had learned that sometimes we plan difficult circumstances in our lives before incarnation. That insight helped me to shift my feelings about the difficulties in my own life. Surely, there was a gold nugget in what I had gone through, even though I might not always be aware what that benefit was.

What was also helpful was forgiveness work, for example, using the processes described in A Course in Miracles (which is to be still and in inner peace and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the higher perspective) or in The Work by Byron Katie (which is about questioning the truth of my beliefs and thinking , and how about if the opposite of what I believed was true?)

Reading stories of others
I also found it helpful to read stories of others who had gone through sometimes tremendous difficulties in life and to see how they experienced it and how they eventually coped. Not only did I learn something about their coping methods, it also gave me hope that it is possible to overcome this.

Seeing glimpses of the divine
On my journey, I found it comforting to catch glimpses of the divine shining through the veil. Every meaningful dream with guidance, every little synchronicity that seemed to be a message like ‘you are loved’ or ‘there is nothing to worry about; have faith’ was a reason for me to feel joy and awe.

Guidance leading me out of crisis
I realized that there was a powerful, invisible force active behind the veil, that would send me messages through various channels (dreams, inner voice, songs in the head, synchronicities etc.) that were answers to my urgent calls. It was a bit like having a psychotherapist or coach constantly by my side who was nudging me with suggestions like, ‘Maybe you’d like to you read this book.’ or ‘Here is another way to look at this disturbing situation.’

It’s not real anyway
For some people, breakdown and loss is meant to lead them to the only real thing there is which is awareness, our I AM presence. We are usually so focused on the ever changing contents of our consciousness (things, places, people, emotions), that we overlook that one thing which is forever unchanging, and that is the awareness or consciousness itself. This place is Home and it moves us like puppets are moved by a giant hand of the puppet master. As long as we don’t realize where Home is, we keep looking for love in all the wrong places – until Source says, ‘Enough!’ and takes our toys away from us so that we can eventually go looking for love in the right place which is within.

The channeled work A Course in Miracles (ACIM) uses this approach (that what we get upset about is not real) to forgiveness.

“Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.” (ACIM)

In retrospect, I see that even though my slow and winding road uphill on my spiritual journey was arduous with all its difficult and painful challenges, it led me to recognizing myself as awareness and it led me to the joy in the Awareness Watching Awareness meditation. Even though it was hard, it was probably worth it.

Having knowledge about the general map of a spiritual journey
One tip from my side to those who are going through crisis would be: Do whatever you need to process the emotions and feel better, but also familiarize yourself with the general trajectory of the soul which is about waking up and coming into alignment with divine will. From this bird’s eye view, maybe it is a bit easier to understand what the bigger picture is and make peace with crisis, breakdown, and losses.