Interesting how each loss prepares you for the next. Surviving the loss of my son after he had been missing for almost two years was certainly the most devastating event in my life. And I have reflected back on the fact that each of my previous loss experiences both big and small helped me to handle something like losing a child. How remarkable that the very things I learned to handle that loss I am again using with new losses I have found myself up against.
I, my siblings and friends are at that time in our lives when either we have lost parents and or have aging parents that we realize will not be there for us one day. We find our children are growing up and are leaving home and we find ourselves mourning that connection when they were part of our daily lives. We are experiencing retirement or career changes and the losses associated with that. Some of my friends have life altering or life threatening illnesses, even the world we once knew is becoming a scarier place to be in and makes us feel sad at the loss of olden days and simpler times. Each of these things once again forces me to let go of the very false perception we have that we have control of our lives. In an instant the rug can be pulled out from under us, the course of our lives forever changed and leave us ungrounded and devastated.
What I have come to understand is that while the tide in our lives is the constant, what the tide brings each time is ever changing and seeing the beauty in this natural rhythm of things is profound.
A fact of life is we will experience many losses and in our lifetimes we live by losing, leaving and letting go. These are simply a part of our ever changing world like the seasons. We nor those we love can escape this sorrow that is part of life. Parents die, friends drift away and our children grow up and leave home. We lose spouses and partners to divorce or death; sometimes we lose them emotionally long before.
With each major loss, we often encounter multiple losses. For example, the death of a parent can lead to many other losses– of our identity as their child, of our family history, and sometimes of friends as they retreat from the intensity of our grief. Losing a job can lead to the loss of self-confidence, identity, and power. A miscarriage or infertility can bring about the loss of the dream of having a family. A divorce can result in the loss of a lifestyle, home, friends, and identity.
Our culture is one of acquisition and in it we are not taught how to handle loss. We often think that we can avoid the pain of loss if we keep busy, that we can wall off our hearts a little to protect ourselves. However it is the un-grieved losses that snowball and eventually take their toll on our hearts and deaden us. We do not realize that even these, as hard as they are, are connected to our personal growth.
Irish poet John O’ Donohue writes that loss is the “sister of discovery”. He explains that as it empties and clears away the old, loss makes room for something new. It allows us to grow and enjoy new things. Loss provides a “vital clearance of the soul”. It prunes away the dead branches so that new shoots can break forth.
When we are able to open our hearts and ourselves to the many smaller losses in our lives and treat them as teachings for the more major losses for which life will bring us, we are not so overwhelmed when a major loss such as the death of a child happens. Instead we are able to tap into that reservoir of loss we hold within us and not only survive it but grow from it.
Peace & Light,
Certified From Heartbreak to Happiness Coach
“Who then can so softly bind up the wound of another as he who has felt the same wound himself?”