By Deborah Morris Coryell
In our culture the worst thing you can say about someone is that he
is a “loser.” But aren’t we all losers? Isn’t life about chronic
loss? The process of life is about endings and beginnings. We are
losing all the time. As a matter of a fact, we begin our earthly
existence by “losing” time, moment by moment. We usually don’t
think in these terms, but perhaps we should.
We breathe in, a beginning; we breathe out, an ending. Life is all
about letting go. If we can’t “let go” well, then we can’t live
well. It’s all in how we see what we see: We can choose to see it
as morbid (defined as having to do with disease), or we can choose
to see it as the rhythm of life. By holding on too tightly, we
become disconnected from the rhythmic ebb and flow of the world
around us. We turn night into day with the flip of a switch and
seek to defeat forces of decay and destruction. Loss becomes an
affront: This “shouldn’t” have happened.
It is our decision as to how we live “the losing” in each moment.
Possessions are lost or broken or otherwise disappear. People and
relationships change, move on, or die. Pets grow old as we do.
Places we loved once are no longer what they were to us. Dreams we
once had we might never accomplish, or we might change our minds
about our desire to realize them.
The ability to “change our mind” is a powerful skill and one we
need to spend a great deal of time with in the face of loss. The
power to “change our mind” lies in our ability to think about
something differently, to think about what loss is and what it
means to be a loser. There is an art to living, yes? There is an
art to dying, we believe. What about an art to losing, to grieving?
We are told, as children, not to be “sore losers” but did anyone
teach us how to be “good losers”?
Take a deep breath. Reflect on this for a moment. Losing well is
freedom — freedom from the pain and confusion and fear attached to
loss. We are as surely attached to our pain and fear and confusion
around loss as we once were attached to that which we feel we’ve
lost. Perhaps we have substituted our attachment one for the other:
the pain for the love. Breathe into the emptiness, breathe into the
pain created by loss. Stay for a moment. We love. We give our love
to someone or something or someplace. We are attached through that
love. And suddenly (or slowly) that object is gone from our sight.
Where do we put the love then? We have this love with no place to
put it. Grief becomes our experience of not having our love
received, of not having anywhere to put our love.
Healing our grief means continuing to love in the face of loss. The
face of loss — what we see — is that someone or something is gone.
The heart of loss teaches us that nothing — no thing — we have ever
known can be lost. What we have known we have taken into ourselves
in such a way that it has become part of the very fabric of our
being. It is part of who we are, and as long as we are alive we
have the capacity to continue to love even that which is no longer
a part of our daily reality. This means that we will need to
“change our minds” about many notions that we have had about loss:
That what we can no longer “see” is gone. That what we can no
longer touch doesn’t continue to live. That if there is no
response, the relationship is over.
Close your eyes and see that which you can no longer touch, that
which is gone from your presence. Reach inside of you to the
feeling of touching, hearing, smelling, being with your experience
of what you believed was lost.
We are haunted by societal fears that we should not continue to
stay connected with what is gone, what is past, what has been lost.
We are warned that there is a pitfall here, a caveat, symbolized by
Dickens’ Miss Havisham: be wary of that part of us that might want
to live in the past. The challenge is to bring the past along with
us in such a way that we haven’t lost anything. We don’t ignore the
challenge because of the pitfall. Truth to tell, we could not
forget our past if we wanted to. What we choose to leave in the
past, we can. What we choose to continue loving, we can. We are
being asked to give new form to what was contained in an earlier
relationship. Our grief becomes the container for what we feel we
have lost, and in the process of grieving we come into some new
wholeness. We create a way to incorporate, literally to take into
our bodies, that which has become formless. Like the caterpillar,
we go into a cocoon to a safe place so that the old self can
dissolve and a new self can be created.
Like the art of losing, this metamorphosis is not automatic. It
does not happen simply in the course of time. Rather, it is a
self-conscious act. Grieving is a path to self-realization because
in the process of grieving we acknowledge that which we choose not
to lose. In the art of losing we can choose who we will be. We
break but we break open so that we can include more of life, more
of love. We get bigger in order to carry with us what we choose to
Good Grief: Healing Through the Shadow of Loss
Giving Sorrow Words
The Value of Reminiscing
Creating Inner Space Through Prayer or Meditation
What About This Thing Called 'Acceptance'?
Also by Deborah Morris Coryell:
Time Does Not Heal All Wounds
Simple Presence – Open Heart
Morris Coryell has worked in the health field developing wellness
programs since 1974. She founded the Wellness Education Department
for Canyon Ranch Spa Resorts as well as for the Pritkin Longevity
Center. She is a visiting faculty member for Dr. Andrew Weil’s
program in Integrative Medicine and is cofounder and executive
director of the Shiva Foundation, a nonprofit
organization dedicated to the education and support of those
dealing with loss and death, located in San Luis Obispo,
Image credit: ©iStockphoto.com/elenaray