A friend of mine was anticipating running into an old girlfriend this weekend. He was trying to set himself up to be successful in managing what could be a painful situation with some dignity. I am beginning to plan how to handle a tricky situation later in the year that will be painful for me. Another friend is preparing herself and her children for the holidays and a new way of celebrating that may trigger feelings of loss.
We all have people, places and things that punch us in the stomach every time we experience them. The anticipation may be worse than the event, but, still, we must prepare. In fact, if we prepare we are much better equipped to handle it. If I know I’m going to be punched in the stomach, I can steel myself, put a protective barrier around my most tender spots or avoid the situation entirely.
Generally we are avoiding hurt. And almost every hurt is a result of some loss. It is astounding that any of us can make it through the day with the amount of loss we suffer in a lifetime. My biggest losses are those that caused significant trauma, but the truth is there are hundreds of small losses that cause me hurt all the time. They are the ones that punch me in the stomach when I’m not looking. They may not carry a wallop but if placed on an old wound, the slightest bump can cause bleeding.
I’ve learned to let myself feel loss. I spent a lot of time philosophizing it away, or eating it away or abusing other substances to numb out. The perfect shopping spree can make me forget about the pain for a day or more. A hot fudge sundae is a perfect distraction for a moment or two. A big project at work can keep me from feeling for days at a time. But when I wake up at 2 AM or sit down to rest, the pain lands a sucker punch.
Trying to be vigilant 24/7 is too exhausting. I have to feel my feelings and mourn the losses I experience. I may need to write about it or talk about my pain with a close friend. Even sitting in meditation and letting myself feel the pain enables it to dissipate and sometimes disappear. Pain and loss thrive underground. Bringing them into the light of day, touching them to allow them to surface, diminishes their power. Loss is inevitable. Suffering is a choice.