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The Head Coach: Transcendence through loss

A year ago, a terrible loss in life happened during the 30th annual BWC Toy Run in Clarksville. Three Bikers Who Care members and two of their loved ones died of carbon monoxide poisoning when a hatch on their RV did not function properly.

Those who died left behind 13 children.

Loss is very difficult, especially if the loss is a parent. I lost my dad at age 8. This loss caused serious problems in my life. I went from being a great student to a terrible one. I started getting into fights and yelling at teachers. Luckily, my school’s vice principal cared, and he called me into his office one morning to say I was going to be expelled unless I saw Dr. Carlson, a child psychologist.

That afternoon, I saw the Doc. Within a few minutes of speaking with me, he knew what was causing my anguish. He took out a pillow said, “Pretend it’s your dad and start hitting it.” I reluctantly agreed. I hit it gently at first, then all of a sudden, I started to rip the heck out of that pillow. Then I let out a painful scream.

Dr. Carlson allowed me to become aware of my emotions that were pent up inside. He helped me understand my anger and sadness that my dad had died and left me behind.

Once I became aware of these emotions, I changed. Although I still was sad that my dad had died, I went back to school as the good student I once had been.

In her seminal book, “Death and Dying,” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross proposed that we go through different stages of loss: anger, denial, depression, bargaining, and finally acceptance. These stages can be brief or last a long time. The order is not fixed, and individuals can skip stages altogether. Lastly, some people get stuck on one stage and never work their way to acceptance.

I lived through these stages with the loss of my dad. With Dr. Carlson’s help, I worked from anger to acceptance, and once I did, I became a different person.

Kubler-Ross’ work has always piqued my interest. Through my own experiences and the stories of others, I concluded that she left out an important stage — the last one — transcendence. I have seen this time and time again, with people who have experienced profound loss, whether of a loved one or of parts of their own bodies. One great example is my friend, David Meador, who lost his eyesight at age 18. David, who has spoken multiple times to my class, says he has become a better person because of this loss.

He told my class that when he had his sight, he was selfish and unfocused. But after his loss, he gained a better perspective on life. Instead of being distracted, he now is completely engaged in the moment. Hejokes that he is the only male in America who can go into Home Depot and not be distracted by anything on the shelves. Because he is in the moment, his life has become sweeter. His loss has led to transcendence.

While loss is difficult, it need not cast a negative light on life. It many cases, as with David Meador, loss ushers the wounded to a new awakening.

About Gregg Steinberg

Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a performance psychology expert, best selling author, and inspirational keynote speaker on the various topics relating to individual and team performance. Google+ Profile Get in touch with Dr. Gregg

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