In a world of political spin, psychological interpretation, and marketing persuasion, it can begin to seem as if reality is what you make of it. Much of what we think is true is based on cultural assumptions and definitions, and a great deal of our personal growth arises from freeing ourselves of our unwitting assumptions, learned early in our lives. Growing up often means letting go of the ways we have understood the world and allowing for the uncertainty and diversity of a multitude of interpretations.
Still, in spite of the large chunks of life that can be interpreted, like the glass half-full, glass half-empty situations, there is some reality that is nonnegotiable. Some truths cannot be avoided. It is harder to accept those realities sometimes because we want to change them through intensive interpretation. But we are subject to the laws of nature and physics, and those facts sit in front of us like obstinate boulders.
People we care about die. Bad things happen. We do our best, and still we do not get the outcomes we were aiming for. We work hard and then get laid off due to re-organization. We follow the rules we learned as children only to see our relationships disintegrate. We try to be good people, but we see not-so-diligent people rewarded. Our vulnerability in the real world is frightening.
Sometimes it is difficult to keep going in what we believe to be the right direction when we have losses that we can’t change. These circumstances can lead to despair, the most destructive of perspectives. It can be painful to keep making efforts when we are living with profound losses.
Sitting down, or stepping back, and reflectively considering our experience and what we can see of reality can be the most constructive response to loss. Sometimes we need to recognize we are refusing to accept that some reality is nonnegotiable. Some losses can only be mourned, and not changed. And sometimes we need to change our world view, our assumptions, or our understanding of what is true, or right, or good. Sometimes we need to accept our imperfect control of the outcomes of our lives and focus on putting our energy in the directions we believe are most right and where we can do the most good. And sometimes we just need to cry.