It seems that one of the biggest fears we face is fear of loss. We can get very caught up in the fear of losing people, opportunities, youth, conditions we like etc. We can get very attached to who and what we have and not want to let it go. Author Alan Cohen has said, “I leave claw marks in anything I have to let go of!” All of us can be a lot like that.
This fear can become a huge obsession about what the future may bring keeping us from being able to relax and trust or be present to the good in our lives right this moment. It can make sense to us to obsess like this especially if we have experienced some very hurtful and impactful losses in our past. Our attempts to brace ourselves, obsess about it to prevent it happening can feel like a great protection mechanism. Yet, it saps our life force dramatically. How can we overcome it?
Firstly, we can see that nature shows us how to journey through loss. Each year the seasons change. This change causes trees to drop their leaves, plants to go dormant, the weather to shift. While we may prefer one season over another, we keep moving forward because we know that the season we are in is temporary. It is just for now. We have trust that it will shift and a new season will emerge; maybe one we find more enjoyable. So we do our best to take care of ourselves in the season we least prefer, and stay warm, dry, or cool, and present to the passage of this moment; this season.
Our bodies also move through this process. We emerge from a baby to a toddler, to a child and many other phases of living. Additionally, right now cells are dying off and being born in our body. We may not even be conscious that it is happening. We only tend to become obsessive about it when it means the visible loss of some youthful trait such as skin or hair. Yet the body endures this ongoing journey throughout our lifetime.
All of this natural loss shows us that with every loss, there is also something to be gained; a new experience, a new wisdom, a new phase. When we learn to embrace this reality, it can support us in walking through every loss we face feeling the sadness at what has fallen away, yet also being willing to be present to the gift of what will be gained in the process. This willingness builds trust and confidence and can help us feel safer as we experience loss in our lifetime.
As that confidence begins to build in us, we can find ourselves being almost heroic in the face of loss. This is a vital part of transcending fear in general and vital to learning to diminish our fear of loss.
Being heroic with regard to loss is about remember the Hero’s Journey. We love stories about heroes and superheroes because those stories touch into a deep aspect of the truth about each one of us and what is available to us, through us and around us.
We love stories about heroic beings because in every one of their stories heroes have this great combination of skills yet they have to fling themselves into trust and take action from a deep listening. Whether it is superman who has to learn how to deal with his powers, or Harry Potter learning that he is a wizard, or the first responders at a sight where a bomb has gone off, at some point fear is no longer at the forefront of the experience, even though loss is all around, something calls them to a deeper listening.
When we give up our fear of loss, which is a choice and it is a practice, a daily practice, we find a peace and calm and an ability to step forward in our life.
There is a lovely teaching story about a traveler who finds a precious stone that is so valuable that she could feed herself and her family for the rest of her life. She meets up with a stranger, another hungry traveler. They share food and companionship briefly. The stranger sees the woman’s stone in her bag and asks if he can have it. Without much resistance she gives him the stone. He quickly bolts lest she changes her mind, and as he runs thinks how fortunate he is. Then after a while he turns around and returns to the woman and hands her back the stone. She asks him why he has brought it back, and he says he thinks she has something even more valuable that he would like to learn more about. She asks that is? He says, “whatever it is inside you that allowed you to give me that stone.”
She was able to give this stone to the man, because she trusted so completely in life, and in her source. To weather the storm of loss, we heroes and “she-roes” have to learn to trust like that.
We also are challenged to learn to accept that just as the leaves will fall from the trees, loss is a part of life. Things will change, people will come and go. As we accept more, we can become a great loser!
There is a lovely poem called One Art by Elizabeth Bishop that says:
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or next-to-last, of three loved houses went. The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love)
I shan’t have lied. It’s evident the art of losing’s not too hard to master though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
Lastly, all this worthy exploration of loss and learning to trust, does not mean that when it happens we don’t feel sad or grieve. This is a part of the human experience. Our heart can fall into deep pain when loss happens.
This is normal. Walking through grief is profoundly valuable for us when we experience loss.
To attempt to avoid grief by stuffing those feelings, only makes life harder. Where as feeling it, sharing it, journaling about it, allows the sadness of loss to be processed, expressed, and eased.
When we suppress our sense of grief, we are like a river that has a dam built up. Eventually when the dam breaks, the intensity of the flow of the water will be profound and intense. Yet, if we allow ourselves to feel the full measure of our grief along the way AND trust that it will pass, the river of our life force and emotional energy can flow in a more balanced and natural fashion. It hurts to lose what/who we love. That is the reality. Yet that pain is often an indication of love. We have loved people, situations and opportunities. The evolution of our soul, our journey and our experience is always calling us all forward. Often this means giving one stage or set of circumstances up to embrace another. It looks like loss, it feels like loss, and it is the growth and development of life itself.