When losing is winning

Broken-heart-lossOur routines, myths, news, and entertainment give us — sell us — a bunch of events that we are supposed to take as automatic big losses just because they happen.

We get a divorce or break up a relationship and we lose. Our house burns down and we lose. We get laid off or fired and we lose. We get a serious illness and we lose. All those other events that friends and family go “oh, no” can probably be included.

Certain human experiences get listed as losses. But losses can also turn out to be a first step to wins. This usually isn’t part of the narrative. It might be more interesting if it were.


Let’s say that a love relationship ends. It’s customarily treated as a loss if not a complete failure or a downright tragedy. But is it tragic or a failure if a bit later another relationship replaces it, one that is even better for the new you? Or if the end of a relationship prompts an unforeseen change that ultimately results in a major life breakthrough, is that still a loss?

It’s all about perspective!

I have heard of many people who at one time “lost everything” in a disaster, yet years later they were very thankful for the wins that the “awful” experience inspired. The loss put their life on a different path that turned out to breed a previously unimagined success.

Some people learned through the crushing pain of bankruptcy how much they relied on status and materialism for their happiness. When they were humiliated through sudden poverty, through their financial losses, they learned how much they had missed simple pleasures and that the best things in life aren’t things.

Losses still do bring pain and suffering, but they bring gifts, too. That should be part of the narrative.


Pay attention to someone who has just encountered a big loss. It might even be you. Notice how other people respond to it. What do they say?  How much of the talk intensifies the drama of the loss?

“Oh, you poor thing! How dreadful! That must be terrible! You must feel awful!”

While this may sound like a helpful dollop of sympathy, the polite thing to say, the loving thing to do, it also amps up the intensity of the loss. The more one slathers on the sorrow and the pity, the more likely we are to feel sorry for ourselves. That leads to thinking like a victim and not bouncing back.

I’m not saying to be stingy with compassion for people under siege from a recent event that they deem a big loss. I’m saying not to stay stuck in the soap opera or melodrama. It doesn’t help them.

When it’s your loss, consider tweaking your perception of losing. Allow yourself to feel sad or angry but don’t get caught up in glorifying the loss through constant story-telling where you see yourself a victim. Rather, keep your eyes and ears open for new opportunity. The more you look for the gift in your circumstance, the more likely you’ll find something positive.

At least that’s the message I’m telling myself as I recover from my losses.

4 thoughts on “When losing is winning

  1. nikkir1972 says:

    I see the conclusions you’re coming to and I think they make sense. I also think that some people…whether they garner sympathy or not will tend to see themselves as a victim because it becomes a habit.
    I rem once reading a story about a woman who didn’t have to work, her husband took care of everything and took her on a 2 week luxury vacation where her main focus of the trip when she returned was that she cut her foot on a rock in the water.
    I also think people’s reactions to something will vary depending on what it is. A loss such as a death should be acknowledged…it would heartless not to do so and often, someone else lamenting your loved ones loss can be comforting.
    In those cases, as grief is a process.
    But even negative human experiences are necessary. I wouldn’t be who I am without them, but to say initially that I felt good about them would be silly, lol. Many of the circumstances I can now see the whys, and some I never might.
    Good blog:)

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      I definitely agree that there are variables here. Not all losses are created equal. They vary in intensity as you say. When I am feeling a loss (ended relationship, suddenly unemployed, death in the family) I am comforted when people show compassion and empathy for my situation. It’s very sweet of them. But some have the tendency to carry the negative story on and on so that it’s harder to heal. It’s almost as if they want to keep me in a suffering place.

      I agree with you wholeheartedly that negative human experiences are necessary here in Earth School. That’s why we’re here — to learn. That’s also why in my own thinking process I like to think of “loss” more as “opportunity to change.” It helps me embrace “the bad stuff” more as part of my cosmic education than as random acts of meanness. Thank you for your comment, as always.

  2. nikkir1972 says:

    I know what you mean by that. I think in their minds if they go on and on about your plight, they make sure you know that they “care.” More often than not they probably do, but the worst are those who make a big scene of concern and you already know they don’t care….it’s just what they “think” is the right thing to do.
    “What goes up must eventually come down,” applies here. Those rare few who have managed to skate through life relatively unscathed are much more overwhelmed by a simple loss than those who have take more knocks.
    (I always want to inset hath but it’s old fashioned…grin)

    • Joshua Bagby says:

      Niki, I was raised in a family where we were drilled in caution and safety and not to take many risks. I don’t think my parents ever dreamed how crippling this would become for their children. Many of my friends had far worse childhoods with abuse and rejection piled high on their plates, but as older folks they are the most versatile and resourceful when dealing with loss and conflict. Bad stuff often rolls off their backs whereas I take it most seriously. They can’t figure out why I am so sensitive.

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