How many of us can claim we haven’t felt the painful sting of true loss in our lives?
Of course, none of us can. Even the old monk who has nothing to lose has, at some point in time, lost a teacher or has left a family that meant the world to him.
In fact, most of us have recently lost someone (or something) dear to us. It could have been a grandparent, a cat, a job (that you loved), a sibling, or a significant other.
Obviously loss comes in varying degrees. We could have lost a great aunt that we happened to get along with well, or we could have lost the person we believed with all of our hearts that we would someday grow old with.
Most of you probably had a specific name or a face pop into your head as you were reading this. The memory of that person or thing instantly triggered a pain somewhere inside of us. The more intricately entwined with our soul that person or thing was (or is), the deeper and more astonishing that pain would have been.
We’ve all gone through it. The loss of someone unmeasurably important to us. The subsequent days in bed, looking out the window at a landscape that always seems to be dark and rainy. We sit in front of computer screens watching cartoons or scrolling Facebook. We do anything we can instead of facing that pain.
We desperately try to escape it, but we can’t. We buy our favourite foods only to realise we have no appetite. We organise a girls’ night only to realise we’re not really in the mood for company or the notion of changing out of our sweat pants. Some of us need to switch to stronger medicine. We binge drink or we get high. We seek out pleasures of the flesh.
Some of us chase a feeling – any feeling – other than pain. Some of us are happy just to numb ourselves. Some of us even like a bit of a blend, the numbing of our minds and souls but the good old stimulation of the physical senses. No matter our medicine, we close our hearts to the world.
But what happens to our heart when this happens? Where does it go?
Some say our pain is the risk we take, and a symptom of loving someone fully and completely. Others claim is it a symptom of loving foolishly, and with crippling dependence on that which we’ve lost.
I think of everything I’ve lost in my life and it’s easy to see where the pain comes from. I saw my grandmothers very infrequently, and my dependence on them was extremely limited. The pain of losing them, however, was great. I would say the same of the loss of my favourite dog growing up.
That is because the pain of our loss is directly related to how much love we put into a relationship, and how open and vulnerable we allow ourselves to be in order to receive the return of that love. It is in this understanding we can solace in dark times.
I’ve said it before, I know very little about this crazy world we’re caught spinning in. I know even less about that blinding force which we call love. In many ways, I’m hopeless when it comes to these things. But I look at the history of humanity and I see that humans inherently understand the beauty that can come with losing the people and things that we love.
I think of John Keats, of Dante Alighieri, Andy Warhol, and countless other poets, artists, and writers who used the power of loss in order to create something beautiful. Since the dawn of time, humanity has found ways to turn our losses into our gains. Destruction into construction. Pain into the inherent pleasure of creation. We’ve taken the holes left by loss and we’ve planted and nurtured seeds of beauty in them.
Life has many ways of taking those we love from us. Death, break-ups, situations of long distance or bad timing, and many other pressures of life. In this life, loss comes at us from all angles. We should expect for the agents of loss at every turn.
We cannot control who, or what, we lose. We cannot control when we lose them.
But we can always control how we react to it. As long as we consciously recognise and accept our grief, then it is in our power to limit and indulge in it as we see fit.
It seems funny that our natural response to losing something or someone is to sit still. To mourn. To hold our breath. To try and cease existing entirely. On the most simple of levels, mourning a loss is compounding our grief. We add loss to loss. We lose days and weeks. We lose our connection to the world around us, to the people who love us, and – most importantly – we lose the connection to ourselves.
If we’ve already lost someone special to us, why lose another moment, or experience, or chance to indulge in life?
Why not indulge in that pain as so many creative humans have before us? We can use that powerful energy and turn it into something that serves us rather than something that cripples us. Something that banishes us to the dark corners of the mind.
For mother time is a huntress who has never hunted a prey she could not track. She always catches her target. And she comes for us all.
This is why we need to keep moving forward, because time always moves on without us. We don’t have to get out of bed, but the world keeps spinning. We don’t have to pass the time, but the time will pass us by. Eventually our time will be up, and we will be taken away from those who cherish us.
So get out of bed, and put away the tub of Ben and Jerry’s. Turn your loss and your pain into something wonderful.
You can turn that loss of your dream job into that European vacation you fantasized about since you first saw photos of Rome. You can transform the death of your brother into a piece of literature that honours and immortalises him for all of time. You turn your loss of innocence into paintings which inspire emotions in people so powerful that it tells your story without using words. You can take getting dumped as a sign it’s time to start fresh and experience the thrill of living in a new city, or country.
Loss is a part of opening your heart to the amazing experiences of life. Unfortunately, it is unavoidable. The more fulfilling of a life we live, the more we’ll feel that familiar pain of loss. That pain is ours. We can run from it, or we can turn it into something that lifts the soul to the higher realms of creation. It takes courage, but I promise you have that courage inside of you.
What’s your choice going to be?
Be good to each other,