Whether it’s something minor, such as losing an earring or something major, such as the loss of a relationship, the feeling of loss is unsettling. When my kids were young I would obsess about the one jigsaw puzzle piece that could not be found or the jacket that was left at school and had never turned up in the lost and found. The truth is I would have preferred that the jacket were ruined rather than lost.
A ruined jacket is visible. A lost one leaves one wondering about its whereabouts. Did someone else find it? Will it eventually turn up or will someone else be enjoying it?
Most of us form attachments at an early age, not only to other living things, but to inanimate objects as well. The toddler who loses his or her “blankie” will howl for hours and no amount of promises to replace it will assuage the pain of having lost the original.
In life we experience all sorts of loss at different stages of our lives. The loss of a parent, the loss of a spouse, the loss of a pet, the loss of a job. These are overwhelming losses, but losses that are out of our control. Yet even when we are in control of the situation, the pain of loss is present. For example, a man choosing to divorce his wife or a woman her husband will likely experience the feeling of loss even if it was he or she who initiated the divorce. Memories of better, happier times will likely bring a rush of longing for what was and no longer is. (In fact, unlike the death of a spouse, which offers finality, often people who have been divorced are placed in the position of wondering if over really means over. Can the relationship ever be renewed in the future? What is one’s ex up to these days and with whom? Kind of analogous to the aforementioned jacket).
Change is to be expected and with change comes loss. You decide to move to a different neighborhood for all the right reasons, but the loss of the life you once lived will inevitably bring with it bittersweet recollections. There is loss due to expectation. You dreamed of having children, but found you were unable to do so or you thought one day you'd get to visit Paris and have had to come to terms with the fact that odds are you never will.
My blog generally deals with nostalgia. What is nostalgia if it isn’t looking back, somewhat sentimentally, at the way things used to be? The loss of a time gone by.
When it comes to the loss of a relationship, people will be frequently be advised that it’s time to “move on”, to find closure. Often that is easier said than done. Yes, time does soften, if not heal, the devastating pain of losing a loved one but all it takes is a trigger to remind one of the enormity of the loss. A song, a scent, a handwritten note. It is unrealistic, for example, to believe that a parent whose child has died will ever completely find closure. Acceptance is the closest one might come to closure. In the final analysis, we all must come to terms with loss in our own way and in our own time.
An excellent book dealing with this topic is: CLOSURE: Endings as New Beginnings - http://www.closurebook.com by Lissa Coffey.
Ultimately it is not so much loss itself that defines us, but rather, how we decide to deal with that loss in order that we might survive and go on with our lives.
Thanks for joining me on RHODES LESS TRAVELED, have a great weekend.