What I Learned From Loss

This post comes from our Australia contributor, Miann Scanlan. Follow along with her on Instagram @freepeopleaustralia!

While talking about death can be tricky, and even seem taboo, it’s one of the many facets of life itself. We encounter death every day when we read the newspaper or turn on the TV, but we are mostly detached, as losing a loved one is not necessarily something everyone goes through.

But having gone through the motions of grief recently, I’d like to talk about what we are learning from this aspect of life that none of us can escape from experiencing at some point or another.

coping with loss

Things will change forever, for the better.

As I write this article, today marks two years since I lost a parent to cancer. And still, two years on, it never ceases to amaze me how daily, things about the world just seem to be making more and more sense to me. For instance, this quote two-and-a-bit years ago would have seemed like another hippie-esque cliché reserved for bumper stickers and tacky household nick-knacks…but hindsight is a beautiful thing.

“The flower that blooms in adversity, is the rarest and most beautiful of all.”

You see, while grief is (I believe) one of the most gut wrenching, confusing, and horrific human emotions, it also has the potential to be one of the most beautiful and rewarding. I’ve always felt a sharp pang of shame when I say I am grateful for my grief – but had I not suffered such a tremendous loss, I would not have the positive outlook on life that I have today.

Nothing is as big as it seems

Problems begin to disappear, because in comparison to what you have just experienced, trivial issues like the toaster breaking or missing the bus are put in true perspective. These are minor, if not irrelevant speed bumps in the grand scheme of things, and you will forever take them more lovingly in your stride.

coping with loss

The clichés are true.

Back on the bumper sticker talk… “Carpe Diem – seize the day!” “Life is what you make it,” “Live every day like it’s your last,” “Life is short, buy the shoes.” Hell YEAH I want these cringe-worthy statements slapped across my car, because they are damn well true. Life is short – very short – and so unbelievably, incomprehensibly precious. And this kind of over-the-top enthusiasm about life is something you feel when you witness death first hand.

Love never leaves you.

Grief is never easy. It creeps up on you and disguises itself, buried deep within those fleeting moments when something doesn’t quite feel right.  It can also pop up during times of bliss and joy – it seems so crazy to cry when you are laughing, but the extreme range of emotions sometimes crossover. Just go with it. This is because when you lose someone, you lose a piece of yourself, and when that piece is taken away nothing will ever quite be the same.  The beauty is that while you have lost a part of yourself, you will always carry that person around in your heart and when pain and sadness do pop up, it is just a reminder of the beautiful love you shared.

You will learn to speak your tongue.

Unfortunately for us humans, there is something that seems to holds us back in critical emotional moments. Those moments when your soul is aching for you to verbally express your love and affection toward somebody, but the fear of rejection or sounding silly makes us bite our tongue. Goodbyes are never easy, but when you have to say your last goodbyes, for real, you find a tremendous amount of courage to let the love flow. And it will probably keep flowing as life goes on. Tap into the child inside of you who has no reservations about expressing emotion, happy or sad.

coping with loss

Grief affects everyone around you.

The natural reaction to when a friend is going through a tough time is to reach out and offer your shoulder to cry on, should they need it. But during times of adversity, particularly when dealing with death, it’s important to understand that everyone reacts differently.  For example, if you’re going through a break up, usually your girlfriends will want to pop a bottle of bubbly and take you for a night out on the town. However, there isn’t really a text book method of support for when the grief stems from someone’s passing.

While you may crave empathy and nourishment, understand that you need to be empathetic to those around you who might not know how to handle the situation. Speak with your friends, and ask them if they are okay – they may be grieving too. Don’t be afraid to be direct and discuss support, even if it means asking that they call you every day for a chat. I can almost guarantee that if you ask, they will.

Find Miann at miannscanlan.com & instagram @miannscanlan and @freepeopleaustralia.


  1. I lost my father to cancer as well. Two months ago. I’m eighteen, and I feel I still need him so much, to guide me through life and to see me grow. To be proud of me. I still need more time to reflect on what’s really happened, and to learn how to live with this loss, but I can relate to many of the things listed here. During my father’s illness, I embraced an optimism attitude that was not usual in me. I am, still now, after what’s happened, an optimistic, and more than ever, I’d say. Life, and everything around me, seems new. Everything has changed and aquired a new meaning. And though it’s painful, I would say it’s going to make me appreciate the world as no one else. Thanks for writing this, Miann. My best wishes xx

  2. I really appreciate this article. I lost my mother to cancer two years ago as well. I feel like I’ve cycled through many of these lessons and am still working on others. It’s all a process and it can be beautiful.

  3. this was so amazing. thank you miann. i lost my big sister to cancer almost 13 years ago now, and i can tell you for the future, that these still ring true to me. i was 13 at the time, very young to process the whole thing, and really just recently am i starting to realize some of the things you mentioned. i have a tendency to be positive about it when i’m talking about her around others, but alone, i feel nothing but lonliness when thinking about her. but seriously, this article that you wrote just now…. it totally changed my perspective. i should be the most positive person! and i am a lot, but i still dwell on things. not anymore. in a few months, i’ll be 27… she almost made it to her 27th birthday. i should be so so happy at the life i’m living and that i will see beyond what she did and she will always be with me. i can’t even explain what this meant to me, but thank you.

  4. I recently lost my husband of 36 years. I took care of him at home for the past 3 years. Your post is so right on. It is gut wrenching and a very lonely time. Grief IS experienced differently by everyone

  5. Thank you for this beautiful post and to the people who wrote their own experiences in the comments. It brought tears in my eyes…I experienced two losses that usually aren’t considered as real ones… I had two abortions and it really was like a loss to me, both times. It took me years to get over them. I think I know what it feels like to lose someone you love, in my case someone that I knew without really physically knowing. <3

  6. I lost my mother almost 3 months ago. I still don’t believe it. She’s gone, but I don’t seem to grasp that. I miss you mom. Thank you for this article. Namaste

  7. thank you all for sharing your hearts. I sincerely love you people for this and wish all the best in the world for us all, here, there and above. ((( <3 )))

  8. I just lost my father to cancer last week and wow the pain is very real – there is a void and an emptiness in my life that I am still learning how to handle. I know as time goes on, I will slowly move on but I definitely look at life from a different perspective, especially after seeing him pass on first hand. I really appreciate your post because until then, I felt vunerable and fragile. Your post taught me to accept the fact that it’s ok to grieve and take time to realise to feel all kinds of emotions before moving on. I will always feel a void and a longing for my father but take comfort in knowing that he is no longer in pain, and I will always do my best for him. Makes me treasure my life more and appreciate everything that my father has done for me, and will make sure that I can be the best that I can be for him.

  9. I just lost someone very important to me, and so I remembered this post. I’ve been falling in and out of tears, and I fell back in as I read this. Thank you so much. Your words are incredibly helpful to me, if that means anything.

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