How to Find the Positives After a Loss

Most people will experience loss at some point in their lives: loss of a loved one, of a job, of a relationship, or something else. How you deal with whatever loss you have can have an affect on your physical and mental health.

Loss can cause many different emotions, including grief, anger, and denial. Many of these feelings fade with time, but they also can linger and cause complications.

In some cases, grief can lead to health challenges, both mental (anxiety, depression, substance abuse, etc.) and physical (heart disease, sleep problems, etc.).

There are many different ways to handle a loss, and what you do might depend on the loss itself and the strength of your emotions.

Finding the positives after a loss or disappointment may help you through the grieving process, easing your mental burden.

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Why Is Positive Thinking Important?

A loss of any kind can cause changes in your everyday life, and you may need to adapt to what is now normal.

Looking for the positives after a loss may help you refocus your grief, easing some of your potential mental burden.

“It’s really important, in any situation, to try to find the positives,” says Jennifer Beckjord, PsyD, senior director of clinical services at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital.

Dr. Beckjord says finding the positives doesn’t mean getting rid of all other emotions after a loss. You don’t have to bury feelings of depression, guilt, or anger, but you should look for the positives that exist. Even a small amount of positive thinking can help.

“We need to be aware of and acknowledge the things that aren’t going so great and balance that with looking for the things that are going OK,” Dr. Beckjord says. “Look for things to look forward to or the positives that may come from hardship.”

How to Find the Positives After a Loss

The first step to finding the positives after a loss is to recognize the loss itself and identify your emotions.

According to a report in the Clinical Social Work Journal, it can be difficult for some to recognize losses that don’t include the death of someone we know. But non-death losses — of opportunity, of place, of time — can cause grief, the same way the death of a loved one can.

Finding the positives in any loss situation may help you cope. There are many different ways you can try to find the positives after a loss:

  • Get support: Talking to people about the loss you experienced and what you’re feeling may help. Try talking to friends, family, or a mental health professional for guidance. There may also be support groups in your community that can help.
  • Turn adversity into opportunity: Instead of focusing on the negative of a loss, look for ways you can improve your situation. If you lose your job, try to find a better one. If a romantic relationship ends, you may have a chance to rekindle your relationship with friends or loved ones. “We need to re-frame the adversity and look for the opportunity,” Dr. Beckjord says.
  • Remember the good times: Try to focus on the positive memories you have after suffering a loss. After the death of a loved one, you can try to remember your happy experiences with that person, your conversations, or something else that brings good memories.
  • Seek out positive experiences: Try doing things that make you happy, even just for a short period of time.
  • Turn to spirituality: Many people seek spiritual guidance after a loss, looking for meaning. It can provide some people with higher levels of hope and optimism, according to a report in the Journal of Counseling and Psychology.
  • Honor a lost loved one: Whether it’s starting a fundraiser or planting a tree, Mental Health America outlines ways you can honor someone’s memory.

Going through a loss is difficult, and you may need to take time to grieve. But it’s important to seek out the positives to help you recover.

For more information, contact UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital at 1-877-624-4100 or 412-624-1000.

Sources

Hoda Esmeali Douki, Forouzan Elyasi, Ramezan Hasanzadeh, Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Sciences, Effectiveness of Positive Thinking Training on Anxiety, Depression and Quality of Life of Mothers of Children With Leukemia. Link

Alex Gitterman and Carolyn Knight, Clinical Social Work Journal, Non-death Loss: Grieving for the Loss of Familiar Place and for Precious Time and Associated Opportunities. Link

HelpGuide, Coping With Grief and Loss. Link

Saba Mughal, Yusra Azhar, Waqas J. Siddiqui, Stat Pearls, Grief Reaction. Link

Jesse E. Roberts, Andrea J. Thomas, James P. Morgan, Journal of Counseling and Psychology, Grief, Bereavement, and Positive Psychology. Link

Camille Workman, PhD, Positive Emotions: Do They Have a Place in the Grieving Process? The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Link

About UPMC Western Behavioral Health

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. UPMC Western Psychiatric is the hub of UPMC Western Behavioral Health, a network of nearly 60 community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors throughout western Pennsylvania.