Loss, it seems, is one thing all humans have in common.
Whether it is the loss of vitality from the natural decline of the body, lost possessions, or the passing of a friend held dear, it is the sense of loss and not the loss itself which pains.
Some have a built-in mechanism for managing the sense of loss and apparently are less affected. Some deal with it by ignoring the pain or by occupying or numbing the mind, such as over-emphasizing their work or turning to addiction. Graffiti painted on the wall in a German village says it clearly, 'Fuck the pain away.'
My qualifications for writing about loss do not come from professional credentials but from a lifetime of experience. The close-knit family I grew up in unraveled one loss at a time, beginning with the transition of my nineteen year old brother when the car he was driving went off a mountain road. I was twelve.
Nine years later my dearly loved younger brother passed from this life when the car he was driving was hit by that of a drunk driver. He was seventeen and until it was snuffed out, full of talent, promise and vitality.
Nine years later my mother went into open heart surgery and did not return to us. Nine years later, my wife had surgery to remove a tumor on the brain stem. She returned, but our marriage did not and nine years later we were divorced. Dad had a strong will to live to ninety and he made it, going a couple of years beyond the nine year mark.
My story is far from unique as loss is part of life. Many, such as my wife now, have not lost people they were close to but have experienced equally impacting senses of loss.
Philosophizing about loss is one way to avoid the reality of the pain, on one hand. I have done my share of avoiding, but have come to a place of seeing life as it is and accepting it. Regardless of whether the essence of a living being continues after the expiration of its physical vehicle, what we call death is a fact of life.
While respecting always the right of others to their beliefs and ways, for myself there is no value in making sentiment over the sense of loss, as in rituals of grief and mourning. The death of my younger brother was especially impacting on me and I am not certain I am clear of all the pain I felt in my heart in the days following his funeral forty-four years ago. But I feel I have found a way to honor his life and turn the pain into something more beneficial, something which can grow.
Indeed, the way I have found honors not only the people who were in my life and are no more, but also those among whom I am presently living.
The key is to focus on being empowered from within, which brings out more fully my authentic nature and enables me to live in a more relaxed, heart-centered and giving way. Bettering myself in this way is the best I can do to honor all who are within my circle of life and awareness.
Written in response to the question from Thrive Global: 'How do you honor those who have passed away and, in turn, learn to better appreciate the special people you still have time with?'