Dani Shapiro, author of Still Writing and Devotion, packs powerful thoughts in describing the 7 people will all lose in our lives. And then teaches us how to accept it with compassion and bravery. Check out Part 1 from yesterday.
4.The Death You Never Saw Coming
As the Buddha once famously said, life is suffering. To love is to lose. In the natural order of things, we will eventually lose our own parents and in the natural order of thing, this will happen after we’re already adults. Except when it doesn’t.
I lost my dad when I was young—suddenly, in a car crash. I never had a chance to say goodbye. He never had a chance to see me grow from a messed up girl into a much-less-messed-up woman. He died worried about me. I live with this. And yet, his early death shaped and transformed me in enormously positive ways. I grew up. I’ve spent my life trying to make him proud. We metabolize these sudden losses like shocks to our system, and they continue to live inside of us like fault lines, like the traumas they are.
Ask anyone who has experienced any kind of shocking loss and they will tell you: the air today is just like it was on that day; the scent of hibiscus, of an oil refinery, of powdered donuts, brings it back. And suddenly the tears pool in our eyes, our hearts crack open. We live in all the beautiful, human brokenness of these losses. Our awareness becomes our teacher. Perhaps it even helps us to embrace the ordinary as the amazing turn of circumstance that it is.
5. The Death You Had to Face Day by Day
My mom died when I was already an adult—a mother myself. Her death was slow, expected. This made it no easier. Losses like this begin well before the person is gone, because we imagine the world going on without them. The anticipation of it is like a slow, steady burn. We become used to grieving. We hold their hands, press compresses to their wounds, watch as medication drips into their veins, all the while faced with the impossibility of our own powerlessness. This too, is beautiful, human brokenness.
6. The Therapist/Guru/Mentor You Outgrew
Certain relationships have a built-in expiration date—or at least, they should. After all, the point of having a therapist, a teacher, a guru, a mentor, is to grow – and that very evolution will eventually mean that the relationship comes to close. In the best cases, that intense bond we feel with someone who has helped us tremendously can morph and become something else—something more equal—perhaps even a friendship. For that to happen, though, we have to become willing to lose the dynamic of a relationship that has been, in effect, one-sided. We have been helped. Someone has done the helping. And now perhaps we can discover just how far we’ve come.
7. The Person You Thought You’d Be
When I was a kid, I thought I would grow up to be an actress. I thought I would live in New York City, in a high-rise apartment building, with my husband and family of, oh, five or six kids. I thought I’d live an urban, impossibly sophisticated life. Money would be no object. Perhaps there would be a private plane. (I should mention here that these fantasies were firmly rooted in the 1980’s.) Well, I grew up and left the city for the country. I married and had one child—an only child, just like I had been. My husband and I work hard to make ends meet. But my life – my rich, imperfect, complicated, contented life—is the one I’ve built for myself. It’s an honest life. It’s a life of integrity. It’s a life I love. But to have it, I had to lose my fantasy straight out of the pages of a magazine of what it was that I thought I wanted – of who I thought I was. I was underselling myself, it turned out.
To love, to really live is to become willing to lose people, places, things, dreams, even to lose versions of ourselves that no longer serve us. And in place of what is lost, something new emerges. It may not be what we imagined. But it is beautiful and it is ours.