“Opening up to the pain of death, our own or that of someone we love, is one of the most mysterious blessings of life. Nothing focuses us more clearly on what matters, helps us drop our defense more quickly, or gives us more compassion for human suffering.” ~ Marianne Williamson
I once read something that said when someone dies we shouldn’t call it a loss, because it’s not the same as misplacing our keys.
I disagree. When my brother, my mother, and my beloved died, I lost something—a life on earth. It wasn’t keys I misplaced, but my heart. My heart was placed somewhere which no longer existed.
Sure, I believe my loved ones go to the other side, and certainly they still communicate with me. Nonetheless, I’ve lost them in their physical form.
But allowing ourselves to feel the pain of loss opens us to the lessons it offers.
We lose people and pets to death. We lose marriages to divorce, dreams to “reality,” our voice to society, our health to poor habits, and our finances to foolishness. Well, that’s how I did it.
What have you lost, my dear friend? Don’t tell me it was nothing. Please don’t pretend with me. We’ve all lost something, even as we gain.
I’ve lost loved ones, marriages, pets, even a home. I’ve lost my youth, even as I’m accused of looking younger than my 52 years. For a terribly long chapter, I lost my truth, my inner compass, my North Star. I had to walk away from the path I was on to find my peace.
Because the greatest loss is of one’s self.
May I never lose myself again. Any other loss I can tolerate. And truth be told, loss leads to growth if we let it, if we don’t pretend the pain away. Accepting, acknowledging, or hell, sometimes advocating for the loss may be the beginning of opportunity.
Have you ever found that when you learn of someone’s loss, you understand them a little better?
Our losses shape us if we claim them and decide to let them, because we are the potters of our clay hearts. We can seek the light and redirect our paths when we find ourselves in darkness. It’s an inside job—choosing how we respond. Will we deny the truth?
Oh, how I wish I could’ve last year when my boyfriend died. It was sudden, unexpected. I thought, “It can’t be true.” But of course, it was.
Do we have the courage to see and breathe into the heartache that loss causes?
Because even when we instigate loss, it can still sting.
I remember the job I dreaded going to every morning for seven years, wishing I could feel something different. Can you say denial?! The day I was finally dismissed, I felt a loss, a void, a piece of my identity deleted—the thing I wished could’ve worked for me, but instead turned out to not be meant to be.
Some losses are like that—difficult, even when we’re done.
That’s how my two divorces were. No one wants to be divorced. And twice? Ugh, the shame! But I had to let go; I had to leave because I was losing myself. My soul couldn’t dance confined.
How can you be soulmates, or even lovers or friends, when your soul is screaming for a new path?
I tried staying. And, I don’t mean like struck out once. I’m talking swinging and missing over and over and over again. I lived on my knees begging God to make it work. But the work was in the walking away, accepting the loss.
Once I did, I planted myself in a new environment and grew. Sometimes we have to lose to grow, although we may hate it.
Facing loss doesn’t defeat us, it allows us to funnel lessons through the experience. Because there are always lessons—even in the sh*t.
Even when we’ve been betrayed. Ouch, that one hurts something fierce.
Even when we’ve done nothing wrong, everything right, and they just f*cking die.
That’s the hardest one for me: Accepting a loss that I know was not meant to be, like my brother dying at age 27. A part of my heart wanted to go cynical. Life sucks, and then you die.
Instead, I decided to live in his honor.
Here was a guy who skied so recklessly that he broke a pair of skis every season, worked so hard that his body was pure muscle and his hands bore bruises, loved so deeply that he gave his heart too soon to women who disappeared too quick, and flew so fast in this world that he died in a car accident on a straight highway.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he was laughing on his way out.
You might think I learned to slow down or be careful, but I chose a different lesson: Life is meant to be lived. So I lived, and loved, and laughed. I made my mistakes with the image of my brother’s smiling face before me.
But last year, when the love I searched for my whole life died, that loss was like a thousand cloudy days delivered in a box that could’ve contained an engagement ring.
That loss almost broke me. Some days, it still does.
I had to take it all in and go to the depths of my grief. I had to howl, and hunger, and hiss at the gods who would do this to me, now, after all I’ve been through; when our love was so damn right, I had to receive this wrong. I had to let it run through me. I needed to lose my mind over this loss before I could come back to the light.
I see it now—one glimmer at a time—but I know for me, this time, I had to let the loss take me down. It was crucial. I committed to the pain being temporary, but let go of any illusion that I was in control.
Maybe that’s what loss teaches us: We’re not in control.
When we lose our keys, we just need to find them. When we misplace material possessions, we can attempt to replace them. When we lose a relationship, it’s likely been fraying at the seams for some time.
Tell me what you’ve lost. Does it hurt too much? Yes, it does. Until it doesn’t.
Loss is like yoga. We stretch, become unbalanced, agonize, even scream from our bodies, but if we breathe and stay present, something magical happens. We transform.
When we lean into our losses, we learn who we are without the people and things we’ve become attached to.
When we least want to, we have the opportunity to build something new from our brokenness.
We find where our valuable connections are and how strong our faith is—our faith in our ability to seek a new path when life hasn’t gone our way.
Kahlil Gibran said, “Pain is the wrecking of our shell of understanding.”
It’s not uncommon for loss to arrive at a time when we’ve come to think: “Ah, now I’ve got it.” But loss is coming to terms with the temporariness of it all—of jobs, relationships, and life.
Loss isn’t the place for denial, but for questioning.
Our first instinct may be to scream, “Oh, f*ck!” Actually, that’s not a bad first step.
But from there, we need to keep going. Because honoring our own pain leads us deeper into authenticity and compassion for others.
And if we’re brave, loss can lead us into transformation.
Author: Alice Lundy
Image: Natalia Drepina/DeviantArt
Editor: Nicole Cameron