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Sunday, March 11, 2012

A reflection on loss - Life is loss

"He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness."  – Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

I think about loss a great deal. Some days, thoughts of loss consume me. And though thoughts of loss can be incredibly sad, they aren’t as depressing as they may seem. There are many degrees and levels of loss. I am one of those people who develops very strong attachments, so loss has been especially hard for me all of my life. Many people feel their losses much more deeply than others, but loss is a universal experience that every person on the planet has experienced. No one gets through life without loss.

When I think about loss, I grieve for lost loved ones and lost years. I think about beloved pets that have gone on. I mourn lost friendships, ruined relationships, former jobs and coworkers, and lost belongings. I wonder about people I haven’t seen for years and how they were once a part of my life… and now are not.

I also feel for friends and the losses they have experienced, the struggles they have endured, and the pain of dealing with disappointments and endings. My loved ones and I have shared many losses from death, divorce, change, and growth. In truth, nothing really stays the same for very long, and inevitably people and things get lost along the way.

"Who except the gods can live time through forever without any pain?"  - Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound

Sometimes I think of my younger self, when I was raising small children. The world seemed very small then and I had my whole life ahead of me. Since those days, there have been small losses and unbearable tragedies to bear. Losses we never expected nor could have imagined. And yet, we survived. A very wise therapist once told me something I will never forget. “Life is loss.” I have thought of those three tiny words so very often, and the incredible weight in their truth. Yes, life is loss, and once you understand the inevitability of that fact- you are able to find the lesson and the hope you need to accept it.

Sorrow prepares you for joy.

It violently sweeps everything
out of your house, so that new
joy can find space to enter.

It shakes the yellow leaves
from the bough of your heart,
so that fresh, green leaves can
grown in their place.

It pulls up rotten roots,
so that new roots hidden
beneath have room to grow.

Whatever sorrow shakes from
your heart, far better things
will take their place.
- Rumi

Change is inevitable, but it isn’t always easy to understand or accept. I don’t just mourn the loss of life of friends and family. I also feel the incredible loss of lost time and wasted moments that can never be regained.

And although I think on loss a great deal, I am not hopeless nor am I depressed. I have come to understand and accept it; I live with it, and I deal with my losses- great and small. I do not allow loss to consume me. It is a teacher and a guide. My losses remind me of who I am and where I have been; and my losses guide my future decisions and choices. I do not dwell in misery or despair. I accept that loss is a huge part of life, but it is NOT every part of life.

"... even out of unspeakable grief, beautiful things take wing."  - A.R. Torres, The Lessons of Loss

The pain of losing people and things, that I have truly loved, reminds me to cherish the people and things I still have right now. Loss has taught me to appreciate what I still have and what is yet to come.


  1. Oddly, and for all the smug things I posted on Fb today on your excerpts from this, the Post had an article about a friend of mine that died at work about 8 years ago. Just seeing his face sent a shock to my nervous system that was as strongly a physical reaction as if I'd been slapped. Loss is a funny thing.

  2. Diana,
    You are so right... life is loss.
    We're no more that temporary beings
    residing here, while the Earth abides.
    (That was the title of a SF novel I once read.)
    all my family elders have gone, deceased.
    I find myself to be the eldest, still living.
    When advice is sought, there's no one else to ask.
    I've lost a daughter and son to a contentious divorce.
    Lost a step-son to heart disease.
    Have lost friends to accidents and age.
    Loss, and the dealing with it, is the one large divide
    between the young and the old.
    Before my great-aunt passed at 97, she bemoaned the fact
    that everyone she once knew was already dead.
    She'd outlived all her friends and contemporaries.
    Remembering her makes me wonder if it's all worth it.

  3. What a poignant piece on grief and loss. Instead of the insistence that one think happy thoughts, (which is emotionally unsustainable and dissociative), you honor the losses and the feelings. How beautiful.

    Thank you for your unerring, clear voice.

  4. my grandmother -- who i recently lost -- once said to me, pain and loss are a part of everyone's life. she was a devout christian, but it sounded quite eastern to me. she said it matter of factly, with acceptance.

    and it helps me to know that if i'm feeling loss, it's because i once felt love and attachment. and how blessed am i to have had that?

  5. Beautiful sentiments. Thank you for sharing them. I am touched and honored for the comments and the feelings.

  6. Revisiting this posting, I thought to share a blog post of my own from when my step-son died: