Diann Schindler, Ph.D.
Loss is a Gift.
As I was cleaning my office recently, I came upon a stack of handwritten notes.
I sifted through and found these scribbled, personal notes, dated December 27, 2019.
Loss is a Gift.
Well, not immediately. The pain is too raw. Time must pass and conscious work must take place for these gifts to emerge.
I have to come to understand healing from loss requires that I embrace the overwhelming torturous grief that naturally follows.
Grief comes to me like tainted water dribbling from a corrosive leaky pipe. It is unavoidable.
Grief sneaks up on me, especially when I am sure that I am “getting over it.” It creeps into my senses.
A whiff of freshly cut wood… a familiar smell… catches my attention as I walk past a construction site. My dad. Anguish comes tumbling back, exploding in my brain.
For me, the sense of loss never goes away, really. But it does subside, changing from intense pain, to less intense and gradually to bittersweet. That’s my goal. I want bittersweet. That is, still missing those I have lost and, at the same time, grateful for the sweet memories.
My father passed in 1994. Years later in 2017, when I was in Prishtina, Kosovo, I saw a man who I thought, for minute, was my father. (This man is pictured on the left.)
His eyes were the same color green. Both shared the same straight nose.
My breath quickened. My heart sank, flooding me with a discomfort in my stomach. My arm pits stung with perspiration.
I stared at this familiar, total stranger. He turned, facing me. Our eyes connected. He smiled. Instantly, loving memories of my dad washed the angst away.
Triggers are everywhere. I hate/love them.
“The sorrow we feel when we lose a loved one
is the price we pay to have had them in our lives.”
― Rob Liano
So, here’s the truth:
Bobby, my only brother, my last sibling, died 2 days ago. I knew it was coming but didn’t lessen the shock or the hurt. It’s too early to reach for bittersweet.
I have no family left. I am the last.
My father died in 1994. Doris, my sister, died in 2008.
Two months ago, I visited my 93 years old mother in a nursing home in Ohio. She does not know who I am. Her memory is completely lost, perhaps the greatest injury of all. She says she doesn’t have a daughter.
I miss my mother.
Years ago, my children cut me out of their lives. It was gradual, but excruciating, none the less.
To lose a child at any age cuts and scars at the core. I don’t know, but I think it is worse if the children are still living and have refused any semblance of a relationship. All that I know is, among all my losses, this is the most difficult. Words cannot express my sorrow.
Over time, I have learned to respect their choices and I no longer try to change their minds. My goal is to get to bittersweet. It’s a process.
"My scars are a testament to the love
and the relationship that I had for and with that person.
And if the scar is deep, so was the love."
Just like deep-seated grief, memories, good and bad, waft over me without warning. I elect to embrace all of them. Capture the details in my mind, hold them close, allowing the ache to settle throughout my body. I cry.
Then I let go… let go, let go….
We are all made up of our memories, suffering, losses. And all of that is in us. It’s in me, a part of who I am. I’m better for it, more compassionate, more loving. I have been given a gift.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” –Dr. Seuss
The longer I live, the more I will lose. People die and relationships change as people and circumstances change.
I could deny this cycle of life. Turn in to a bitter old woman and hold on to resentful, looking for more opportunities to feed a caustic attitude…dysfunctional and happy in my acrimony.
Not for me. I choose the opposite. I will continue to learn and grow as a result of my losses, recognizing the importance of friends… and loving them as family. I am grateful for my gifts.