Can You Make Peace With Loss?

The first step to emotional maturity and spiritual enlightenment is the ability to discipline oneself, teaches Dr. Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled. Part of that discipline requires making peace with loss, because along with every rebirth comes death. As the former Cat Stevens sings, “To be what you must, you must give up what you are.”

Dr. Peck lists some of the deaths every mature adult must mourn:

  • The state of infancy, in which no external demands need to be responded to
  • The fantasy of omnipotence
  • The desire for total (including sexual) possession of one’s parents
  • The dependency of childhood
  • Distorted images of one’s parents
  • The omnipotentiality of adolescence
  • The “freedom” of uncommitment
  • The agility of youth
  • The sexual attractiveness and/or potency of youth
  • The fantasy of immortality
  • Authority over one’s children
  • Various forms of temporal power
  • The independence of physical health
  • And, ultimately, the self and life itself

The Things We Must Release

To become a doctor, I had to accept carrying a pager with me much of the time and this meant mourning the loss of my freedom, not to mention my sleep. To become a wife, I had to let go of the possibility of dating other men. To become a mother, I had to let go of the luxury of making decisions solely based on what I wanted, in order to accommodate the needs of my helpless, dependent newborn daughter.  In order to become a professional writer, I had to let go of my identity as a practicing physician. I even chose to let go of my OB/GYN board certification and mourned that loss.

Growing Up

According to Dr. Peck, in order to grow up, we have to let go of reacting to our lives the way we learned how to act as children. We have to transform into mature adults, and that means letting go of patterns that make us comfortable but impede our personal and spiritual growth.

Life is full of suffering, and much of our suffering comes from our resistance to letting go of what we must inevitably lose.  Growing up is all about learning to find peace amidst loss, finding within us an unshakable core that can withstand the traumas of life without leveling us. I believe the secret to navigating this sometimes painful transition is to cultivate a relationship with that part of you I call your “Inner Pilot Light”.  (Sign up here to receive free daily messages from your Inner Pilot Light.)

The Urge To Cling

No matter how grown up we become, it’s still tempting to cling like children hanging onto Mama’s leg to things we fear losing. We cling to our kids because we can’t bear the idea of losing them. We cling to the stability of a job- even a job we don’t like- because we fear change or financial instability.  We cling to lovers and friends and material possessions because we’re afraid of losing what we value.

And yet, as the Buddhists teach, our greatest suffering arises from that to which we attach. The relief from life’s inevitable suffering lies in surrendering to what is, rather than clinging to what was.

A Brian Andreas cartoon that I love depicts a woman riding the wind in an upside down umbrella with her feet kicked up in the air. The caption reads, “”If you hold on to the handle, she said, it’s easier to maintain the illusion of control. But it’s more fun if you just let the wind carry you.”

I Still Cling

I guess I’m not a grown up yet, because I still cling like my life depends on it sometimes, so don’t follow my lead on this!  I try to set goals and release attachment to outcomes, but I still find myself getting attached. In fact, I attach to attaching sometimes. I look at some of the Buddhist monks at the Green Gulch Zen Center where my family attends dharma talks. And they’re just so…zen.

Part of me is jealous, because it seems such a serene, peaceful existence. If something starts to ruffle them, they just go meditate. But then part of me doesn’t want to be that detached. Part of me likes to suffer. It feels real. It feels human. When I love something or someone-and then lose what I love- I feel loss, and that feels sad. And it feels healthy to grieve the loss. I’m an emotional creature- so bite me.

But I am trying to attach less, to trust more, to give myself permission to grieve but also to have faith that I will endure and that the Universe is a friendly place, even when I lose what I love.

I still haven’t completely sorted this out. I guess that’s why I blog sometimes. This is how I process things, and I drag you all along for the ride!

What Do You Think?

Tell us your stories about love, attachment, loss, and growing up in the comments.

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Andy Smith
Past Member 4 years ago

who ever is reading this testimony today should please celebrate with me and my family because it all started like a joke to some people and others said it was impossible. my name is ANDY SMITH, i live in London, United Kingdom i am happily married with three kids and a lovely wife something terrible happen to my family along the line, i lost my job and my wife packed out of my house because i was... unable to take care of her and my kids at that particular time. i manage all through seven years, no wife to support me to take care of the children and there come a faithful day that i will never forget in my life i met an old friend who i explain all my difficulties to, and he took me to a spell caster and and the name of the temple is called, priest grace, i was assure that everything will be fine and my wife will come back to me after the wonderful work of priest grace, my wife came back to me and today i am one of the richest man in my country. i advice you if you have any problem email him with this email: and you will have the best result. take things for granted and it will be take from you. i wish you all the best for luck his email:

Winn Adams
Winn A4 years ago


'Great White' Earth & Bei
'Great White' 4 years ago

I have gone through a ton of family deaths (for still a young person; of both human and animals I have loved) and death is the one thing I can never accept and like, hardest thing in my life to deal with!

Robynne W.
Robynne W4 years ago

This was not what I expected by the title.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R4 years ago

Yes. It takes time, work and, most importantly, good friends.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago


Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

It's certain, only if we're not stuck in negative thoughts and feelings

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you Lissa, for Sharing this!

Chinmayee Jog
Chinmayee Jog4 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago