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I Hate Labels

Woman Rollerblading on a PierIn our world of speed, we speak in shorthand, abbreviations and identifying labels.

We don’t go to the store and buy a can of beans – we buy sodium, sugar, carbs, and calories. We don’t have a problem in our lives; we are suffering from ADHD, PTS or OCD. We are not just stressed but have an anxiety disorder. We lengthen labels to be politically correct and shorten them for expediency.

Labels are descriptive words or phrases used to describe a person or group that usually triggers some kind of response and image. 

Labels try to condense and explain complex behaviors and situations and in the process identify and define someone or something. But they also become buzz words we bandy about making us feel informed or in the know.

I have trouble with the label of grief and loss. It has become an easy way to explain what someone is experiencing with the loss of a spouse, good friend or child. Rarely, however, does it touch the depth and scope of what that loss meant.

The loss of a marriage, a childhood, a miscarriage, continued health, physical limbs, a dream or goal are also the death of something of importance and value to us. While the term is supposed to be all inclusive, we seldom think about the need to grieve these other major endings. 

No matter how far in our past, if a significant loss to us at the time was stuffed, ignored or denied, the emotions attached will continue to impact our lives.

When a memory laden with passionate and powerful emotions is triggered, we experience all over again the intensity of those emotions: anger, shame, guilt, sorrow, etc. The event itself often becomes blurred, distorted or not even remembered. Until we go back and process what created such intense feelings, grieve what was and what could have been, those emotions will continue to surface.

To grieve past losses we need to remember the events. We need to listen to what the emotions are telling us. We need to understand why we were wounded by that loss, reframe it and then put it to rest. We don’t forget – it just doesn’t have the sting and power it used to have.

Now the loss becomes a milestone, a changing or strengthening factor in our lives – something that is a part of who we are and how we are able to define ourselves. When grieved, those losses become an opportunity to build something new and positive.

What events from your past keep resurfacing? What emotional responses are constantly being triggered that don’t fit current circumstances? Do you find yourself over reacting, quick to defend and attack or get angry? Do you find yourself getting intensely sad or melancholy?

Perhaps there is a loss in your past that needs to be processed, grieved and put to rest.

©2013 Marlene Anderson

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