Loss is something that no one wants to experience. And it’s understandable why that is. Loss has a uniquely sharp pain that absolutely no one in the world would want to experience. But a fact of life that can not be avoided is that you will experience loss at some point in your life, avoiding it is damn near impossible. At any moment a loved one could die, something out of your control could get you fired from your job, the pizza guy could have gotten your order wrong. A lot of bad things could happen.

The inevitability of bad things happening is a rule of life. So knowing this, how are we supposed to live well? How are we going to accept all of the terrible things that will happen to you? Well lucky for us we don’t have to think about that, smarter people have done all the thinking for us.

The key of living a life that’s free from the sadness coming from tragedies, some thinkers would say, would be the philosophy of stoicism.

Stoicism

Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. It’s a philosophy that focuses on ethics. In other words, a philosophy of how people should live their lives.

So what is stoicism all about? Well in the fewest words possible it could be summarized in the motto of alcoholics anonymous of all places. The quote is:

God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
This beautifully encapsulates the philosophy as a whole. Stoicism in modern culture is seen as a philosophy where it’s followers must be devoid of all emotion and passions. This is absolutely not the case. Stoicism is all about not caring about the things you can’t control and learning from what you can from it so that you can do better in the present and the future. It’s not about ridding all emotion, it’s simply about putting logic and rationality first.
 
Stoics believe in soft determinism (Something you can learn more about here and here) wherein everything is connected to each other and everything is the logical consequence of a series of causes and effects. This soft determinism also says that the only thing people can truly effect is how they react to situations. 
 
Instead of perceiving the world as what it could be, the stoic sees the world for what it is and bases their expectations around that. This perspective keeps the stoic from being disappointed or surprised when things inevitably go wrong.
 
For stoics, all the things that you can’t control shouldn’t be cared about. The reason being, why would you? What benefit would you get from it? If a volcano explodes then there’s no use in freaking out about it. You need to find a way to deal with living through that not freaking out. In the same way, there’s no point in being worried about being fired from your job if you did all you could do to prevent it. It would be better to calmly figure your way out through it.
 
Another point in stoicism is to not just accept every bad thing that comes your way.  You have to do your best to avoid trouble but if even despite that bad stuff still happens, there’s no need to worry about it. You did your best and there’s nothing you can do past that. That’s the point of stoicism.
 
Here’s a video from TED-Ed about stoicism that explains it’s history and background better than I ever can.
 
 

  So with all that in mind. I’m guessing that you could already see how this could connect with dealing with loss. Let’s take the example of a lost loved one. They become sick and you do all that you can in order for them to get better, but unfortunately they pass away. Should you be sad about this? Stoics say no. You did all that you could have to let them get better so there’s absolutely no reason for why should feel bad about this.

Death comes for us all eventually, that’s a fact of life. Hoping that you can hold on to a person forever is not only selfish but it’s akin to asking for grass to grow during a snowstorm.   

Some of you might be thinking “How dare you compare my loved one to grass!” It’s an uncomfortable fact to accept, one that I myself am trying to fully wrap my head around but it’s a fact nonetheless. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you when bad things happen, use your rationality and logic first, even if it’s painful to do so. Once you get past that barrier you will be able to live life happier and more freely than before. This is what’s at the heart of stoicism. Using rationality to live life to the absolute fullest.   

If you follow this philosophy you can even conquer the fear of death itself. To conquer something that almost every single person fears is something that can not be overstated. Because as Seneca, a famous stoic philosopher says.

“He who fears death will never do anything worth of a man who is alive.” – Seneca

The bottom line here is to calm down when your emotions get the better of you and to think. By doing this you can do so much more in your life.

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