Loss is an integral part of our lives. Loss can be understood in so many different ways. Loss of a loved one, loss of one’s health, loss of stability, status, loss of a baby, loss of a possibility of being a parent, loss of being able to repair, to give, to go back in time and to get what you did not …
We all want to avoid loss but it doesn’t matter how cautious or “lucky” we are, no one can escape it. Maybe there is a deep reason for that and maybe it is not all bad. Yes, it’s painful and disruptive but it can give us a chance for significant change in our lives. I believe being in touch with our loss and grief makes us stronger and at the same time more sensitive, more able to connect with ourselves and others in more intimate way.
Loss makes us more human, more related to each other. We can offer more to another suffering soul if we’re actively in touch with our own suffering. If we have experience we can relate and understand others on a deep level. How else can we learn about human experience if not through our own?
Loss and the process of grieving opens areas in us that were undiscovered before, often creative, passionate parts of us that we may not have known existed. These parts make us more honest, bolder. When the walls are falling it’s terrifying but also a relief. We have nothing to lose. It forces us to abandon our old often limited ways and brings us into new territory. It’s a force that we can fight or accept. We may feel confused, out of balance, out of control yet there is something deeply true and meaningful about the experience of loss and mourning.
Is it a relief that we can’t hide when we’re in touch with our loss in the midst of mourning? Maybe, we don’t really want to hide, we want to be seen the way we are. But we’re afraid. What are others are going to think of us? What about our image that we’ve worked on so hard? We can’t appear weak, defeated, or sad, at least not for too long. You can have a difficulties but then you need a success story that follows soon after.
People need to see the true experience of others, where loss is present. Children need to see their parents as real people who have losses and can grieve. This helps them to make sense of their own emotional experiences and gives them relief that they’re not alone.
The presence of an absence
One of my patients never knew what his parents felt and if they felt anything at all. On the outside everything appeared fine, the mother was supportive and reassuring in a flat, confusing way. Even if the patient felt the mother should not agree with him, she would. Father did not speak much, was emotionally unavailable, and busy with his work. He never knew how they felt about him or how they felt about each other. He suspected his father’s frustration and disappointment in him but he could not be sure. He could not develop his own sense of emotional self – he did not know how he felt, or how he supposed to feel since there was nobody there to make sense of his experience. His sibling became mentally ill which he found out about only by accident. It was never talked about. Most of his life he’s been disconnected and lived behind a fog.
He was deprived of experiencing his parent’s emotional life, the truth about how they felt about other people including him, and what they expected from him. Their inability to experience loss and disappointment made it impossible for him to be in touch with his own feelings including his loss. Instead he felt he was missing something, constantly confused about how he felt and how other people saw him. He was convinced that he had nothing to offer to other people.
The loss that he experienced is an absence. In a way the absence of something essential is more difficult to understand and put into words then when there is an evidence of a traumatic experience that people can connect to their suffering.
“Putting loss into words makes the loss real. And being willing to experience loss makes finding language possible.” Alice Jones