The Lessons of Loss
A five-year young boy lies in his bed in the dark, trying to fight back or understand the tears running down his face. But he is too young to comprehend this new emotion, this overwhelming sadness that has engulfed him. He cries because tonight he’s discovered that someday his mommy and daddy will die, and he will never see them again. Though his parents are in the next room very much alive, still young and still vibrant, and will be with him for more than another fifty years, he has learned what loss means, that no one lives forever. It was an unrequested lesson, procured from watching movies like Bambi, or Old Yeller. But, however it was introduced into his world, “loss” is now a part of his understanding, part of his life, and he wishes he didn’t know that.
It’s how we deal with loss that shapes us as individuals. As a people it measures our character far more than the positive gains in our lives. It is unfortunate that it often requires losing to construct our moral fiber, but it is necessary if we want to survive the often rigorous tenets of social existence. People like Douglas MacArthur, Muhammad Ali, Richard Nixon, Moses, or even George Washington became resoundingly stronger, more determined to succeed in their chosen profession or endeavor after experiencing loss. Places like Europe after two World Wars, things like books after the advent of digital readers, ideas like curing polio or smallpox: all had to suffer setbacks, sometimes seemingly immeasureble, to move forward. Two steps forward, one step back is the underlying creed of surviving loss.
I am empathetic to loss as best as anyone can be. As with most people my age or older, losing is a standard and acceptable, though maybe not wholly understood, adjective. I’ve experienced the loss of loved ones, the pain of a broken heart (a loss in its own content), the lost hopes of faded dreams. Live long enough and loss becomes part of your vernacular.
Has it made me stronger, more capable of enduring future tragedy, more determined to succeed? I’d like to believe it has. It is the experience of earlier loss that helps me to persevere in times of adversity. It is what many call wisdom. The sage is not endowed with a knowledge of life because he or she has racked up a series of success stories. Those particular moments of endured emotional pain are what make the wise man wise.
Denying loss feeds the beast. Accepting the benevolent episodes of your life is enforcing your right to exist, to move forward as an individual endowed with inalienable rights to function as a contributing and vital human person.
Loss is a negative term, but don’t allow it to steer you off the positive track of living. And for those of us who’ve learned what loss means when we were still so young as I did, embrace the lesson learned or endure a hardened soul.
RjCook is the author of The Road Behind Me & Dream Lover and Other Tales. Click HERE for info.