Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Unrequited Tone of Loss

Dealing with Loss and Tragedy

Life has two (2) definitive sides. "Before" tragedy and "After" tragedy. Most of us live life in the "before" stage but when loss or major misfortune hits a life the trajectory of that life will never be the same again. In the "after" phase the self is reconstructed.

After the untimely passing of David, my cousin to Thymus Carcinoma and witnessing his courageous, calm struggle I marveled and wept. Not much later, I received news about two devoted parents who lost their children in a fire nearby. I knew them. Praying and meditating is a way I feel helpful in powerless situations as I can't  begin to imagine the pain endured by those closest to these angels. That said, I felt the need to dedicate a post to a part of life that none of us want to think about...loss. 

Our modern society runs from tragedy and in so doing never prepares us for dealing with it properly. The process is left wide open resulting in hyper shock, panic and pain with little understanding of these hefty events along the journey. We tend to say, "why? I don't deserve this!" But as many who live in the after-affects of loss tell us it can happen to anyone, at any time, so what we should be saying is "why not? It has nothing to do with deserving it or not." This realization helps us appreciate the gift of life everyday.

I believe our survival is hinged to a better intelligence of loss. It can bestow upon us a better way to live in the "before" and "after" stages. When a person experiences loss whether it be loss of a career, loss of family, loss of a home, health, a child, a spouse, an aspiration or safety by being victimized by crime they become attuned to the depths of insecurity and sorrow that living on this earth can bring. Their focus is primed  to enable a different perspective on the  "before," searching out  kinder options. Life does not play games and our control is quite limited. The threshold of death is real but also surreal. It is difficult and humbling to try and understand that there is a process greater than ourselves that we know very little about.

In the "before" stage of life, this understanding may be cloudy, we take unusual risks and prioritize the self. By learning what tragedy is and that no one is immune to its arrival it helps us live better and more honorably. Each day is a day gone by; a big piece of life... an opportunity.

"Love and grief is a package deal," in the words of  Elaine Mansfield. She found incredible ways to bring meaning to her beloved husband's battle with cancer. Her story chronicles purifying ways to honor those who pass through our lives by performing acts that give purpose to the intensity of this situation. Rituals associated with that person's accomplishments and passions become a key part of enabling their life to continue and ours to stay is a two-way street. I too, believe that forgetting about our loved ones who have passed is wrong. Our association with them can help us unravel our own life's true purpose.

Powerful rituals help us embrace pain in a positive way. Mrs. Mansfield felt closer to her beloved by cleansing him with soap, touch and tears. Physically reaching for all the items that had importance to that person by filling the area also helped. Elaine Mansfield spoke of her sons pouring coffee beans and bittersweet chocolate around her husband as he adored that combination. "It made everyone smile." If we look deeper into history we can spot many instances where ancient people and tribes perform some of these same rituals. A loving mother I know planted her child's favorite flowering trees in order to continue her child's spirit through a growing plant. I humbly believe those who have passed are still here just living in a different form and by keeping rituals alive we honor their continuance alongside us.

We know that grief and pain is synonymous with love. Perhaps love is a current that runs through us like wifi connecting us to all parts of life. We are a human device made to be a vessel for love's cultivation. It is that cultivation, hence, "attachment" that brings love to its most majestic form. For if an attachment is struck down it will bring us pain, we will fall to the ground in excruciating emotion. Our vessel has been fractured and cannot co-exist in a world of nightmarish  injustice.  Could it have been prevented? Was it an inexplicable twist of fate? Confronted with so many unanswered questions the missing pieces are now replaced by hate, anger, guilt, terror, resentment and post traumatic stress as our new partners in the "after" phase of tragedy.

Inverse to what  you might be thinking, these are not bad partners. They are our refuge! The power of a love that is lost is what signals its very importance. If we close off all the pain, anger and trauma then we close off love's impact and power. Furthermore, if we close off these significant emotions we close off our human ability to heal and recover. These new partners are here to navigate  the road ahead but how we do that is integral to the process. Learning how to lift love and hope as the proper victors over anger, pain and fear will seem near to impossible....but we must try to repair our vessel. We all process misfortune differently but the basics are the same.

1. Be with the pain. Allow yourself a place to grieve, cry and throw emotion around.

2. Find avenues of support, invite therapy, join a group and learn from others who have wisdom. Lean on friendship to stay afloat.

3. Write down your feelings in a letter, draft a prayer or meditation. Writing is therapeutic.

4. Find a serene place in nature or take a trip to another culture. Sometimes getting away from the area of pain can soften its blow and kindle new friendships and perspectives.

5. Create rituals that keep what has passed alive and you alive. Find small daily rituals that brings peace to your life, eg, a trip to the park, coffee store or pie bakery can break up weighted thoughts.

6. Craft something with your hands as research shows that doing something manually dispels sadness and depression. Petting a dog or holding hands with someone stimulates our sense of touch fueling oxytocin a soothing hormone.

7. Turn to music as singing and moving to the beat secretes endorphins that channel out worry and pain.

8. Know that healing is not a straight line upward but rather a lightning bolt that zigs up and zags backwards briefly before zigging forward again.

Life breaks us in the midst of tragedy, our plans are forsaken, our dreams are missed; a single day feels like a century. We seem to distance ourselves from love and hope. But as we learn to  decode a new way of waking up, healing begins and we become elevated, different, reconstructed.  It is true that loss Invokes a rebirth of the soul, imbues wisdom and deepens appreciation. Insightful gifts are strictly exclusive to those "after" devastation. As we once again exalt love and hope we may not be perfectly happy but we will be divine. The philosopher, RUMI said, "The wound is the place where the light enters you."

We don't have to look far to see examples of wounded enlightenment. Abe Lincoln lost his mother, his aunt and three children and hoisted our country toward better thinking. Eli Wiesel  survived the brutality of not one but two Nazi concentration camps and felt duty-bound to address something bigger than himself, social injustice. Life's misfortune can strike us in incomprehensible ways, but it can also lift us just as inexplicably.

* Bless you, and if you have any special ideas on what has helped you through loss please share these in the comments below.




  1. Great! I have learned that you should use your nice things and get rid of stuff you don't use. Paula Chalmers

  2. Hello Paula, I am so glad you found the site and you are so right, we tend to save all these things for special occasions when really everyday is a special occasion! Love to you all.


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