Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines loss as “the experience of having something taken from you or destroyed.” Sounds like a pretty simple definition, yet this four-letter word has the potential to hold enough emotion to crush a mountain. Sound extreme? Maybe. I suppose it depends on the sort of loss you have experienced in your life. For me, it is an accurate description of this little word’s power.
Prior to 2014, I had experienced loss. All four of my grandparents had passed away, I had experienced the loss of friends whose lives ended too soon, and I had valuable friendships come to a close. But those sorts of losses, as sad as they are, are expected. People age and die. People get sick and die. Friendships evolve and sometimes end. That’s part of life. Sad, yes, but it’s how our universe works.
The loss I experienced in 2014 when my marriage collapsed into a unrecognizable heap was one for which I don’t think anyone can really prepare. Initially, you might think that you “only” lost your spouse. However, once the first round of shock (or the uncharacteristically large amount of alcohol you may consume to deal with the blow) wears off and you begin to really assess the aftermath, you start to realize that it is so much more than that. It’s not just the absence of the Mr. in the Mr. and Mrs. equation; it’s your identity and all that encompasses. And the most difficult part of that, for me at least, is that the realization of these losses trickles in over time. I didn’t just wake up one day and magically realize all that I had lost. No. That would be too simple. It happens over time. And that, my friends, just plain sucks. You could be going through life thinking that you’ve finally done it, you’ve finally gotten over that invisible hump in your grief when out of nowhere you get blindsided by another piece of that loss that steals your breath and, temporarily, your joy. For me, it has often hit me at strange times or places. In July of 2014, I was traveling to the beach to visit my friends. I had never been to Pensacola Beach before and was definitely looking forward to getting away from the personal hell I had been going through since P left the house. As I crossed a bridge nearing Pensacola, I saw a water tower that simply read “Cradle of Naval Aviation.” That’s all it took for me to begin to see another part of my loss and that was my role as “Navy Wife.” I had been doing it for years. I loved it. Yes, P was a reservist, but we went through deployments together and I met some of the greatest people via the Navy. I took great pride in supporting him and so many others as a military wife. I can’t describe it to those who haven’t experienced it, but it is different than just supporting our troops. With one decision on his part, I was losing another part of myself by no choice of my own. I was crushed at the thought and cried the remainder of the way to my friends’ home. See what I mean about loss? It hides out until just the right time and then it pounces. In 2015, I sat for a huge, very stressful exam for my Marriage and Family Therapist license. I studied for months for that exam. It was f*cking brutal at times. It took me 3-hours to take the exam and when I got to my car I just sobbed. Not because I thought I didn’t do well or because I was relieved it was over. I sobbed like a baby because the one person I would have called in the past was no longer “my person.” I couldn’t call P and express my feelings about the test. He wasn’t going to show up at home that night to celebrate with me. The loss I felt in that moment was heavy. I felt so alone. There was loss, again, stealing my joy.
I could spend the next week writing examples of the different dimensions of my loss, but that’s not the point. Plus, you would probably never want to waste your time reading my posts again. I suppose I decided to write about loss because it’s been on my mind so much lately. Every day when I bust my ass to create a good future for myself and I come home mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted, I am reminded of my loss. Had things taken a different course in 2014, I doubt I would be working three different jobs to reach my goals. But you know what? I can’t change what’s happened. I can only change how I choose to handle my circumstances. So each day, I CHOOSE to get out of bed. I CHOOSE to see clients or go into the school. I CHOOSE to find happiness in each day even when loss tries to rob me of what I know I deserve. Why do I continue to push forward even when the grief threatens to suffocate me at times? I do it because I have learned that when you lose something or someone in your life, a space opens up for something new. You get to decide what goes in that space. For me, it has been new relationships. I have built some of the most amazing relationships the last two years with people I would never have imagined in my life.
Loss is inevitable. You can’t escape it. What you can do is overcome it and that is what I am choosing to do each day.