Loss, Coping and Learning
I’ve spent some time thinking about a good friend who suddenly lost someone very close to them recently. Tomorrow I’ll be joining him, his family and friends in bidding his loved one as fond a farewell as we can muster.
Tonight I’ve been listening to some of his favorite music and pondering what he must be going through. We’ve all experienced loss of some sort, but the loss of a loved one, particularly unexpected loss, is something that shakes you to your core. If you’ve never lost anyone close to you, I’ll tell you now it fundamentally changes you. It changes everyone in different ways, but the change itself is certain.
There are amazing writers, poets and all sorts of creative types who have spent ages communicating the nuance of loss and coping in words I won’t be able to approach, so I’ll skip the poetic in favor of just trying to convey some things I’ve learned in my experience.
We cross paths with many people in our lives. From time to time, if we’re lucky, we find someone we allow to change us. These people are invaluable to who we are, who we become and who we want to be. When we grow apart they’re missed. When their departure is definitive, we struggle to cope. Luckily for us, these types of soul-wrenching losses are rare. They only occur because we have decided there is another human being so worthy of our concern, so valuable to us, that we are willing to risk anything; including mourning their passing; in exchange for having ever known them at all.
People will tell you they understand what you’re going through, they don’t. Attempts to identify with suffering are kind and polite, but they are, in the end, nothing more than kind and polite. People will tell you time heals all wounds, it doesn’t. 15 years later the same raw feelings I felt 1 year afterward still exist. You learn to live with them, but you don’t, and shouldn’t, learn to live without them.
What I can tell you is that loss can be an amazing teacher; if you refuse to let it break or jade you. It will shape you in ways you would never have imagined. It can inspire you; it can elevate you and it can offer perspective that the bright-eyed, uninitiated among us have yet to earn. Those that are close enough to shake us to our core with their passing have become an undeniable part of that core. They remain there, and for time far beyond that of their years on Earth they continue to reach and teach us from there.
The further you get from the event itself, as with anything, it becomes easier to see the bigger picture. The things you were “meant” to learn, the way certain pieces fit together and life lessons that couldn’t have been learned any other way. It is that perspective, those lessons, unhindered even by death, that make genuine human connection a spiritual and profound event.
In the end, my experience has been that losing taught me a lesson only it could. Those we’ve lost, once gone, teach us what it means to truly love.
I may not change the world, but I’m gonna leave a scar. -Blackberry Smoke