“Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow’
And others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable.”
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Winnie the Pooh
Losses are our companions from an early age
Loss is an integral part of our lives. Humans, in an inevitable and lovely synchronization with nature, go through the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Loss begins in our nascent years; in every step of our development, there are ways of being of which we must let go. We lose the constant contact of our mother, sacrificed for growth and exploration. We wean off milk when we are ready to eat solids. We start walking and let go of the hands which protect us. Then, we have to let go of what we call a transitional object in the form of our favorite toy or blanket. Our favorite pet may die some years later, after a long period of companionship and mutual unconditional love. We move to a new neighborhood and slowly lose touch with the friends we used to see on the playground, that one who had so passionately read poetry, or the one with whom we were too shy to become friends. As we grow older, losses continue.
We’re all made of stars
Years ago, when I had imagined the potential separation from my parents as a teenager, I told my father, “I am never going to move out”. In response, he explained how separation and individuation are part of life. He illustrated the way stars in the galaxies are also born as balls of gas and they may die eventually in the form of a white dwarf, neutron star or black hole. Even though his explanation did not then entirely convince me, viewing my potential separation in the context of a larger universe is a perspective that remains with me today. In other words, there is nothing fair about losing someone or something that we deeply love, but for better or worse, no one has ever been able to escape the rules of nature.
The slowness of grief versus the quickness of our lives
In today’s culture, we have not learned how to fully deal with loss and how to really grieve. We attempt to distract ourselves with the external world at every opportunity. We try to have a “clean” and “easy” way out of feeling any kind of pain, especially pain that is related to loss. Grieving with an attachment figure such as a parent, friend or therapist is a healthy way of dealing with loss. Yet, it is hard to find time, space or a trusted person with whom we can sink into our grief. In our fast-paced minds, no one believes they have the time to grieve since this process is slow and does not match the rhythm of the world we live in. However, by not fully grieving for our losses, we take away our ability to be fully alive and completely present. As many psychoanalysts believe, grief work is remembering, not forgetting.
Give yourself the gift of community when you grieve
There are places in the world which are better at dealing with losses. For example, in eastern Indonesia, when a member of their community passes, the entire village mourns with the family of the deceased, and shares in their burden. In other cultures, there are ceremonies and rituals for thirty or forty days for the purpose of communal mourning. In our society, however, such recourses are not readily available. As a result, many of us find that we need to create communities and support systems to help us with our literal and symbolic losses. What is often very helpful in grief work is seeking help in the form of individual or group therapy. In fact, there are clinicians who believe therapy is all about grief work – grieving what was missing in order to fully remember and appreciate what we had, what we have, and what we can have.
At WILA, we aim to create space for our community members to allow themselves to grieve for all that has been lost or never gained. We strive to foster an environment that does not place arbitrary limits on one’s journey through grief, such as time or form. If you are in need to process your own losses with a professional, do not hesitate to contact us at (424) 371-5191 to schedule an intake with one of our intern therapists.