People say that the death of a loved one is the greatest loss that can be experienced.
I think losing the living is much harder.
Here are some things I have learned from the losses over the years; mine as well as those of others who have trusted me enough to have shared theirs with me:
- Relationships need to be conducted with attentiveness
Losing someone to death somehow shifts our perception of them slightly. Our relationships with the dead often seem so much more beautiful when they are gone than when they were there. That’s because such a relationship is so easy to have! You don’t need to invest anything – time, energy, effort, attention, compassion, forgiveness, love; or work at it to keep it alive. You don’t have to work at keeping communication going or worry that they will be neglected or feel ignored, unvalued or unwanted.
There are no demands or uncomfortable needs to meet; no adjustments made or concessions granted; no fear of loss. No risk of all that. You don’t have to be thoughtful at all. No pressure! You are neither accountable to them, nor responsible for how you treat them. You could forget about them for weeks or months, and there is no backlash. Such a safe and secure relationship! There is no mutuality. The only other relationship that would work if conducted in this way is the one with god!
In all our other relationships, we need to be mindful. They need us to be attentive; both in terms of our awareness of all the related aspects as well as how we conduct them.
- Appreciate the people who have touched your heart
The relationships with the living that we lose are a lot more difficult to deal with. While people say you move on and get over situations, I somehow find that untrue. You could get through situations with whatever the due process is for you, and you could get past them with some effort, but a part of you just comes to a standstill. Time just ceases to tick around that situation. It remains with you like an elephant in the room. I think a little part of us is left behind at every loss we endure. While the agony of the loss depletes us in some ways, it forces us to find or create reserves of strength we never knew were there, impelling us to grow and evolve. Sometimes, I feel the lessons are too hard won though! However, I have never fallen and not learned something valuable from the fall. The heart and mind suffer, but the spirit evolves.
It may be beyond our power to bring back someone who doesn’t want to come back, but it is very much in our capacity to appreciate them even more deeply than we did when they were there. Their loss to us does not have to be the loss of our love for them. They touched our heart when they were there and they continue to do so when they chose to turn away. It’s okay to continue to feel what you feel for them, if that is how you function. You don’t have to reject them because they rejected you.
Appreciate the blessing that you lived the experience of having been touched by someone’s light.
- There is no need to pin blame
Every few months, a stranger or a person I interacted with recently or many years ago, shows up in my life with, ‘I’ve been thinking of getting in touch with you…’ They come with all kinds of concerns and issues. I realise they don’t come to me for solutions; I am not a psychologist. They come to me looking for some clarity, compassion, validation of who they are as a person, or simply for understanding. Most come with angst, indignation, confusion, and anger. They are still hurting and need to process their situation. Some come with frustrated animosity. Their energy is scorching, though their suffering is real. These I don’t understand. My mind finds it difficult to grasp that a person who has truly loved another would want to cause them pain or harbour ill will. To these, my gentle suggestion is to examine whether there really was love there between the two people.
This is not to say that we don’t cause hurt to the ones we love. Life situations may make that happen, but it is contextual. However, a conscious desire to hurt, a vindictive and vengeful heart where love existed but a little while ago, that is not understandable to me.
A few want to hurt the other in retaliation. I mostly only lend them a sympathetic ear; occasionally making a few suggestions if they ask. Some who approach me are wonderful, sincere people in relationships with good people. They come with the pain that they gave much to a relationship that still broke down. They are hurt, heartbroken or bewildered, full of doubt about themselves; guilt weighing them down with ‘I didn’t do enough.’ ‘I wasn’t good enough.’ ‘I wasn’t worthy’.
The experiences of these special ones and my own have given me very valuable insights. It really is difficult at times to grasp why wonderful and meaningful connections are ended. Why people who are meant to be connected find reasons to distance themselves. Why is the relationship, in whatever form it is, not valued more or honoured enough? I don’t have answers for these things, but I think it is okay to forgive yourself when people you love walk away; they didn’t understand your depth, sincerity, or your honesty. They didn’t open themselves to receive your love.
I find that people have a need to feel big by playing victim and then announcing that they forgive the other person. Well, the other person has their own perspective. Sometimes, there is nothing to forgive them for; they aren’t in the wrong. They just couldn’t see you or your love. Or didn’t want what you offered unconditionally. There is no blame to pin. No complaints against them. You rise beyond ‘they said/I said, they did/I did, they didn’t/I didn’t’ and so on.
It isn’t necessary to have someone to blame for your situation or carry bitterness. Bitterness is poisonous. A person dies every moment if bitterness isn’t released. Relationships break down even as love and respect endure. That is the real tragedy: that we don’t get past our pettiness and recognise that the core is intact and so, the breakdown need not be. Reconciliations are hard because egos get in the way – the need to pin blame on the other, or prove to yourself that you were less responsible for the breakdown than the other is very strong in most of us. The petty desire to prove ‘I was right; you were wrong’ cruelly erases the wonderful connection that had withstood trials and storms, remained intact, grown and blossomed over a lifetime. If we recognised that love and respect endure, reconciliations wouldn’t be so difficult.
- Let your core be your anchor
I don’t have advice on what to do to fix situations. We each deal with our situations differently. What I do attempt is to try and show people that they are good and caring; that pinning victimhood on yourself is a choice. You could feel wronged, cheated, victimized, or you might feel injustice was done, however, and you should communicate that and try to address it, if there is scope for understanding. It’s relationships that break down. Hearts do to. Sometimes people say their spirit is broken. They say love is gone. But while you suffer and the agony is indeed unimaginable, a part of you remains untouched; shaken, but safe from being broken. That is your core. I have built up mine to have no bitterness in it; it is pure, loving, honest, compassionate, glowing, beautiful and whole. It is important to recognise your core, understand its nature, and nurture it consciously. This is what I have done and this is my message to those who come for help. Your core is who you really are. It is what anchors you. While you might react to situations in the contexts that they present themselves in in your life, you should be able to centre yourself eventually and find your core.
It is from this kernel of knowing that you may draw your strength when you most need it. This is not to say that you would cease to feel the pain or the hurt. If you are like me, the pain doesn’t go away. Ever. It becomes part of you. But you learn to detach from it a little even though it is always in your awareness. So, you see it and feel it continually, but it bothers you a bit less.
- Agony and suffering teach us to be giving
Experience teaches us to be grateful for what we have, what we have had, what we have learned, and how much all of these things have helped us evolve and rise. Failure humbles us; defeat teaches us resilience; adversity acquaints us with our character; loss teaches us compassion; and love imbues us with courage. When we go through the agony and suffering all these entail, we learn the value of giving. Our own pain becomes the foundation for our ability to heal others. In so doing, we learn to heal ourselves.
We cannot really get over the loss of someone we have loved dearly; who was and remains a part of us despite their absence. All we can do is coach ourselves to live without them. Losing changes us in profound ways. We cannot be the same again. The experience of loss can make us ugly or more beautiful than we were. It’s our choice to make.