Why Write About Loss?
Well that’s a thoroughly gloomy subject; loss. I can almost hear you say it. Yes, yes it is but there’s no escaping it.
I’m a ‘better out than in’ kind of girl, feelings that is, not bodily emissions. Therefore I sometimes write about the badness that simmers away inside me. Bear with me. It keeps an emotional tsunami at bay if I do.
I figure that you’ve probably had some loss in your life too. Maybe you also need this. It’s time to make all that loss our gain by writing and reading the hell out of it.
An Emotive Word and Subject
I think we’d all rather avoid facing up to loss, wouldn’t we? You may have looked at the subject and decided to avoid reading this post. If so I’m a bit of an idiot as I’m addressing this to someone who isn’t even reading. All my best childhood friends were imaginary so…
‘Loss’ is one of those turdy words we don’t really care for. Sure, loss is a bonus if it’s regarding your weight and you’re dieting, it’s the loss of a deceitful former friend, or a bad habit. Loss can sometimes be gain.
However, I’m dealing with that kind of loss that creeps into your bones and scratches itself into the marrow.
I’m writing about the kind of loss that seeps into your veins and poisons you with fear.
That shitty loss that tingles under the skin and you desperately try to claw it out of your body to set it free.
For such a small word, loss occupies such a large space. This is the one time I will not champion the cause of the little guy.
The Many Losses in Life
As you’re reading this, I bet you’re already starting to think about what your losses are. The longer you live on this planet, the more you’re going to accrue.
There are many types of losses we experience: being dumped, divorce, bad grades, getting the perfect job, redundancy, miscarriage, mental illness, broken friendships, material theft, destruction of our property, not fulfilling a dream, deaths, a halted career, losing money, your home, your income, your pride…
That lot is just for starters.
We all have at least one loss. The only gain I have to offer today is to tell you that you’re not alone. We all have been smacked across the head by the loss wand.
Cue the violins for this tragic section. Please excuse me if it seems indulgent to detail some of my losses but I feel it’s not cool for a blogger to write about a subject without showing that they have experience of it.
Allow me to share my losses to show you I know this business is real and that I get it.
In my twenties I lost my mind. Not literally. It’s still here. Just about. I lost what I thought was previously good mental health; I became depressed for the first time.
I’d lost a lot of my former self and I wondered where on earth it had all gone.
Would I find my sense of humour underneath the sofa cushions if I could actually get my arse off the sofa rather than spend my life, fatigued, upon it?
Could I find my will to live in photographs that showed me how I used to be?
Would eating enough carb calories to feed a small nation bring back my self-confidence?
Just in case you haven’t figured it out, the answer to all the above questions is a resounding ‘no’.
Since that first diagnosed episode of depression, I have experienced depression losses ever since. Yep, that wily bastard just keeps on taking from me. Depression means loss of confidence, self-esteem, peace, joy, friends, and far too much more.
Mental illness = loss.
I’m loath to state that the death of my brother is a loss. I hate the phrase ‘lost’ when someone dies. You do not lose someone when they die. They are not in the ‘Lost and Found’ waiting to be picked up. Death is final. No one got lost.
The loss is of the future. When a loved one dies the future you may have had is lost forever.
Your loss is of the present where you’re no longer able to see, touch or hear them again.
Death = loss.
My Teaching Career
I left teaching because of being severely depressed. I guess you could call this a double loss whammy. She shoots; she scores, or possibly misses. It is loss after all.
I grieved for the loss of what I thought would be a life career. I thought I was doing so well. Then I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I struggled with this loss for years. I felt regret, shame and guilt that I didn’t see it through; for my pupils, colleagues and myself.
Career over = loss.
My Mum Having Terminal Cancer
Every day I try my best to focus upon making the time count since my mum was first diagnosed with terminal cancer. I aim to see each day that she continues to live as a bonus but I’d be lying if I said I don’t also see them as loss.
With every day that passes I know she is closer to the end of her life. I am stuck in a paradox of loss and gain.
I am not a perpetual Pollyanna. I’m writing about loss after all. I wish I could be that sunshiney person who exhales joy. I guess I failed the ‘Optimism 101’ class.
I am losing my mum to a cruel disease. Every day she looks a little frailer and a little more scared. She’s becoming more infirm. She’s so bloody brave but loss lingers over her head like a dark cloud of that ultimate loss future to come.
Terminal illness of a loved one = loss
Can we ever be free of loss? Some of our losses are more painful and deeper than others. Some of us will talk about and/or seek help to deal with a loss. Others will soldier on and push it away into the past. Different methods work well for different people.
Loss remains. Even if it sits quietly in the attic of your heart, it is always there. You may never think of it again but it will have had an impact upon your life.
Loss changes us. We need to acknowledge it in order to know what we need to do with it.
Confronting loss can be heart-breaking. No one wants to see the deficits in their life. But if we don’t look to the empty spaces how can we ever begin to start to fill them anew?
Can Loss Ever be Gain?
Remember how I said I’m not that nauseating Pollyanna type? It still stands. I’m not going to go all lifestyle guru on you and demand that you turn your life around if you’ll just see your losses as gains.
You may be hurting so intensely right now because of a loss that you’d want to smack me in the face for even hinting at it. I know. I get you. I don’t want the optimism bandwagon hurtling towards me either but…
Loss can be gain *ducks the metaphorical punches*.
Hear me out.
Sometimes things we think are comfortable and satisfactory in our lives need to go. We may not realise how toxic or unhelpful they are until they’ve gone.
That cheating partner has to go. He/she did you a favour by leaving you even though you forgave their indiscretions countless times. You deserve better.
The loss of them is your gain. You will get over them in time and realise what a twat-waffle they were. Yes, I am qualified to tell you this. Been there, got the t-shirt, and made the voodoo doll. Moving on…
Your beloved first car that was built around the same time as Fred Flintstone’s, has finally died on you. It is a nostalgic loss.
As you wave your motor off into the place where all crapmobiles go to die, consider what you’ve gained. There will be no more huge mechanic’s bills because you’d rather pay hundreds each time to get it through an MOT than scrap it.
Honour your car for giving up the gas guzzling ghost and see the possibility of a newer car as a gain.
Now I’m going to get controversial and this may be too soon or too close to home for you to agree with. I respect that. However, even death, given time, can bring gain.
All I can do is recount my experience of how death has changed me and although I would rather have the deceased back with me in a heartbeat, their deaths have also brought surprising gains.
I have gained a deeper understanding of the nature of depression and suicide and how I am passionate about raising awareness of these issues.
I have seen how intensely I can love a being when my cat’s death showed how attached I was to him. This indicates that I might be a fairly decent parent – as long as the kid can look after itself, purrs when happy, and likes a belly rub every now and again.
Certain deaths have made me see that things that I used to get really stressed about are ridiculous and inconsequential. When your brother takes his own life, minor life stresses fade into obscurity.
Existing Alongside Loss
For all this optimistically tinged ‘loss can be gain’ speak I do have to nail my colours to the mast and say that loss, overall, is one of the most cruellest things we will ever have to endure in our lives. Not only does it immediately fell us, but we also have to learn to live with it. That, I know, is not easy.
Loss isn’t a welcome visitor. No one invited it. It hangs around like a bad smell and just when you think it’s gone, it pops up in your face and screeches, ‘Here I am!’
I’ve had a major loss recently. I’m not quite ready to write about it yet because it’s still fresh. Maybe one day I will.
This loss will not leave me. I dream about it. I feel like it defines me. I wear this loss like a dubious badge of identification; ‘Hello world, I am *name your loss*.
The weirdness is that you feel like you are a walking, breathing example of your loss. You must stand out, because it hurts so intensely, that the world knows right?
Except the world does not notice at all.
The world carries on. You walk through a crowd and wonder why people pass by without a glance. Don’t they know that you’re consumed by loss? Why can’t people read between the lines when you post a cheery Facebook status?
The reason is that the world is getting on with its own business. Each person is carrying their own mind around with them full of good stuff and their losses too.
When you’re steeped in it, you cannot see beyond your own loss. The world becomes murky and you feel invisible.
You wake in the morning and for a few seconds you feel the hopeful twinge of seizing a new day. Then loss deals a body slam, gripping your heart and whispering in your ear that it is still here and here it will remain for the foreseeable future.
When loss sets up residence, it becomes a dubious partner in life. Somehow you have to learn to live with it. I’m not there with this loss yet. I don’t want it to be here. It’s a nasty git that I wish would disappear but it’s just not playing my game. I try to hold on to the knowledge that I have lived with loss before and reduced it in size.
I hope every day, as more disappointments come along, that this time loss will not break me. I try to recall how I negotiated a relationship with loss before.
Forgive me friends; maybe I was being self-indulgent all along. Maybe I needed to write this for me as well as you.
I apologise if this isn’t my usual witty (maybe I am an optimist!), chatty, writerly self. But maybe sometimes you have to just let go and count your losses so you can make some gains later on.
May your losses be few.