On Personal Loss

Death is inevitable, but it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. I have given a lot of thought over the past few days as to whether I wanted to write you this letter. Then last night my husband encouraged me to write it but decide later if I wanted to send it to you, so here we are. I don’t know if there was an invitation to send this but lately life has been telling me that I should say something if I want to, if I feel the profound need to, even if I don’t know how or the reason why. So, with that in mind, let me begin.

We live in a world right now where there is so much change. In truth, humans have been evolving for millennia, but only now have we been cognizant of how fast that change is and how constant it is. Loss is something that was never discussed in my family, openly. It made all of the loss in my life that was always so sudden very traumatic in a way. On the one hand, loss is reality. The cruelest, most raw, and most real kind of reality there is. On the other hand, my family never spoke about it, so when loss occurred, to me it always seemed like there was a ghost of something unsaid, something unseen, something very much unresolved, and I love that. I love that because I think part of my resistance writing to you is part of my coming to grips with the fact that grief is real. Loss is real. I’m working my way through a grief meditation pack myself where the person guiding the track speaks about how we never really “get over” loss; rather, loss becomes part of our lives. It never really “goes away.” We might get better and more able to get through the day, but to ignore it would be to ignore who we are as people, and to ignore who we ourselves really are.

Death is hard for me because it is the death of our expectations and our old selves. Though I am a Christian, I pay attention to what other systems of belief, including atheists, say. And in Buddhist thought there is the idea that we die many times, but we also become alive many times. I’m sure I’m screwing it up, and I love that, but I think the idea to me is that we are constantly changing, morphing, evolving, and dying day by day. I know I’ll probably raise some eyebrows in what I say next, but the first thing I thought about after my cat Calcifur died was that “we were supposed to move to DC together.” That expectation, the expectation that someone special was going to be around, even if our existence for the last part of his life was tortured in a way, was something that I clung onto for a very long time. It was the expectation that I formed my own identity around. I was a person who took care of him, who loved him, who knew that part of my purpose was to be with him.

Death of someone has always involved death of my expectations, whether I realize it or not. The point is that to move past that pain, I had to release and mourn not only him, but the loss of my old self. The acknowledgement that life changes fast, and it doesn’t wait for people to catch up, but eventually, I will.

The emptiness created by loss is huge and profound. But that emptiness also brings a certain kind of opportunity, even if it can be hard to see in the present moment. The emptiness left behind from release, from loss, from death itself is a place for more love and belonging and compassion to come in. It’s a space that we can choose to move into and discover that we are not our old story, or our past.

I do not know the reason why those we love leave in the way and time that they do.

I don’t feel a need to understand it.

But what I have found so helpful to understand and to try to work towards is finding a place where that emptiness creates a space for me to be my own truer self. For me to allow myself to get to a place of healing where I can be a space for others that may come into my life, for me to love and care for. And in that sense, that emptiness, though it becomes a part of me, is not a place of darkness, but a place of acceptance and wonder and joy at what life may bring ahead.

I write this letter for you as much as myself. I understand that. I know that, and I love that. I used to end letters like these with words of advice, maybe something concrete for the person to try. I’ve since felt the need not to do that, because I am now believing that everything a person needs in already inside of them. You know what you need to do.

I wish you all the best in your journey and leave you with these thoughts. Go far beyond what you perceive to be.

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