How to deal with loss in 5 simple questions

I heard Peter Jennings died yesterday. Wow! That hit me somehow, and I didn’t know why. Now, I’d been watching him ever since I had my own TV, probably in the mid 80s, first for a quick update on the day’s news, and then just to see what version of the news America was getting. But I didn’t know him personally, so why was that a shock?

That got me thinking about loss.

Loss is a normal part of life. There are everyday losses, like when you throw away the garbage, or give away old clothes, and once in a lifetime losses, like when a parent dies, and everything in between, but they all have the same structure.

You have to lose something to make room for something new. This is obvious if you buy a new book and try to fit it into your overstuffed bookshelves.

It’s less obvious with relationships, and still true – there’s just not enough time for too many good friends. So you lose touch with some. Often it’s due to decreased proximity. One of you changes jobs or schools, or moves, and it isn’t as convenient, and you lose touch.

It’s also less obvious, but gaining something can mean losing something else. When your teenager gets his or her driver’s license, it’s a good thing in many ways – the teen gets mobility, some freedom, and you get a helper, since he or she can run errands for you, pick up a little sister, or go shopping alone. But you also can have a loss. You can lose closeness, because those moments in the car can be really great times to connect.

How do you cope with loss? As I see it, there are 5 questions to ask yourself:

1) What did you lose?
Identify it completely.
2) What was its value to you?
There are all kinds of values: monetary, emotional, practical, etc.
3) When did it go missing?
Be honest. You can lose something long before you note its passing.
4) What will you replace it with?
Sometimes you can replace it completely, sometimes not. Sometimes you can replace some of its valuable qualities, or some of its aspects, but not all.
5) How are still connected to it? How do you still have it?
We always have memories, and sometimes non-physical connections.

I’ll go through this with three examples, one each of a thing (the easiest), a person (the most complicated), and a symbol (the most universal).


Several years ago, I lost a watch. Now, this was not just any watch. It was a watch my great uncle gave my father when he went into the army at age 17 for WWII, which Dad gave me for my high school graduation. And it was on a lovely gold band, which was my college graduation present. Its value to me was practical, as it told time, monetary, as it was an antique on a heavy gold band, and sentimental, because of how it had come to me. It was a link to my past and to my family’s past.

It went missing a few days before I admitted it to myself. I was in a hurry, and just took out an old Timex I’d had since high school, and used that till I scoured the house and really couldn’t find it. So I had already found a substitute. And to be completely honest, I’d already learned of the Teslar watch, which strengthens one’s energy field, and wanted one, and felt guilty about buying a watch I didn’t need, as I already had this lovely one. (Be careful what you wish for!) So I replaced my Dad’s watch with a Teslar one.

I still am connected to it, because I can still “see” it on my wrist, if I take a second, since it was there almost 24 hours a day for over 30 years.

And really, it’s only a thing.


My Dad, to whom I was quite close, died about a year and a half ago. What did I lose? I lost his hugs, access to his love, his advice and teaching, and the ability to experience things with him in the physical, and I lost some almost physical resonance with his body. For about the first 24 hours after he died, I felt really physically shaky, as if my body was looking for a genetic resonance it could no longer find.

When did I lose these things? Well, since we’d lived mostly apart since I was 13, I lost most of those hugs at that age. And obviously, since we weren’t together all that often, we couldn’t experience things together very often. His advice and teaching of me dwindled over the years, as I learned more, and as he respected me more, and knew I needed it less. And he’d been unable to give me any advice at all for the few months before he died. The resonance was lost, I guess, at the moment of his death.

While I can’t replace my father, because nothing can erase his imprint on me, and wouldn’t want to replace him, I do get great hugs and love from my husband, my family and many terrific friends. I get advice and teaching from a variety of people whom I respect in different fields. While the genetic resonance went away and hasn’t, and perhaps can’t be, replaced, I am still connected to Dad energetically or psychically. I hear him occasionally, at the oddest times, saying things only he would have said. So I know he’s there. If I can’t hear him more, it’s my lack of communication skills, not that he’s really gone. And if I concentrate, I can visualize him and feel his love, so we’re connected that way as well.

If you believe the soul is eternal, and I do, then the fact that I can’t communicate with him better is due only to my lack of communication skills. That’s something I can work on! And when I die, or change state to one more like his, then I expect the communication will get easier again. And when I miss him, I try my best to ask him to be with me so he can share my experience.


So – back to Peter Jennings. When he died, what did I really lose? I lost the image of a person who showed up in my home with great regularity, that I trusted to sift through the vastness of world events and competently tell me what was important in a fair, reasonably impartial way. (Okay, I’m older now, more savvy, and less trusting, but this was still true, if a lot less true than 20 years ago.)

When did I lose it? He went off the air 4 months ago, in April. It was a little sad then, but I took no real notice.

With what did I replace it? A varied menu of reading on the internet, accompanied by the occasional watching of some network’s nightly news, to see what America is being told about the world today.

How am I still connected to it? In memories – images of Jennigs on that 25 hour around the world welcome to the millennium, for one.

And I think his death hit me because it’s a reminder of time passing, that the only constant is change.

Hollis Polk is a personal coach (, who has been helping people create lives they love for 15 years, using neurolinguistic & hypnotherapy techniques, decision science, clairvoyance & the common sense learned in 20+ years of business. She is an NLP Master Practitioner, hypnotherapist & has a BSE in engineering from Princeton & a Harvard MBA. She is also a successful real estate broker, investor & business owner.