Loss Means You Are Alive

I must admit that I am not organized. Yes, shocking, but I do not have everything in its place. I plan to get everything in order someday, but it is only Tuesday. I lose things.

I have a gadget on my car keys so I can find them from my phone. The challenge is that I’m deaf in one ear, which disables the ability to determine where sound comes from. I estimate that it takes triple the amount of time that a fully hearing person would take to find keys. I can tell you with full confidence that when I find my keys, I make all kinds of promises about the future. I will no longer leave car keys in a random pocket. However, I do not follow through. I guess it is a loss that isn’t meaningful enough to change me.

What I’ll call real loss is not fun. Loss is unpredictable. We never have time for loss which is undeniably a part of life. Loss can be great or small. Losing my keys is probably one of the smallest of losses. I typically don’t hug them when reunited. Other losses are significant and make my heart hurt physically.

Loss of a loved one is probably at the top of my personal list of life’s losses. The loss of someone who will no longer be in your life, no matter how that loss happens, feels wrong. My mother died after a battle with Alzheimer’s. It was simply wrong that a delightful woman who frequently thought of others more than herself had to go out in a manic, out of her mind manner. I learned a lot about the cycles of grief both before and after her passing. Grieving the loss of a dementia patient starts before death.

I lost a friend to a very sudden death. We shared many experiences over a few short years. I wish I’d known then how short our friendship would be. She really knew me and had a way of accepting who I am. We had a LOT of fun. Her sudden, too early, death showed me another angle to the stages of grief. Following a sudden unexpected death, grief takes on a more acute, rapid cycle.

The loss of people robs us of stories that can no longer be shared with direct memory of an experience. Each person I have lost has known me in different ways. Those parts of me now fluctuate between being closed off or occasionally taken out gently to be treasured. I have lost too many people.

I don’t think I can adequately capture the loss I’ve felt with lost friendships. It’s a different, sometimes sharper pain than losses through death. So many friends have moved to different places in their lives, both literally and figuratively. The loss is gradual until we don’t really feel the connection or freedom to reach out just to share simple things in daily life.

Shall I talk about the loss of a pet? Loss of pets shows us the disparity of life spans. It’s not fair that dogs and cats live so much shorter lives than we do. The loss of a cold wet nose in my hand, or a content purr on my lap are forever. I do bridge those losses with the acquisition of a new pet, but still hold closely those who have passed after sharing chapters of my life. Owning the decision to let a pet go allows us to gain the beauty of life as it slips away. Being with a dying pet is both beautiful and painful. Through loss and letting go an understanding is gained regarding life and the end of life.

Loss also includes inevitable clichés of life. Youth is lost while wisdom is gained. Health is lost unexpectedly as we don’t plan for it. When projecting our lives from a youthful perspective we don’t build loss into it. We “know” that hardships will come, but we are never prepared.

The loss of invincibility came to me when I got a brain tumor diagnosis. After much research, I knew everything would be back to normal after a quick check in to Mayo Clinic for brain surgery. I could not comprehend the loss of my life. While I did not lose my life itself, I lost my lifestyle. As I slowly adjusted to my “new normal”, I experienced life in a different way. I lost my career and many friendships. I lost a shared path in life as I had to forge a new  and unique one. I lost my smile, my hearing in one ear, and the privilege of living pain free.

I gained the skill of taking things slower. I gained the appreciation of a couple of good hours, and then days. I gained the appreciation of my family and how they were always there for me. And by that I mean always – while puking, unable to move due to pain, or searching for answers in the following years.

Loss of pain free living allows us to know that while hurting we are still alive. When my head doubles in density with pain, I have learned to focus on being still and breathing. Not trying to get anything done. Not counting the losses of the day. Knowing that another day will come. I have gained the knowledge that productivity isn’t always getting stuff done.

For me, loss of hearing has been strange. Some settings seem the same and I think it’ll be ok. Layer on a noisy background and it gets more difficult. Then if adding a conversation in public, I don’t hear what the person in front of me is saying but hear the entire conversation between others to my left. It is confusing and hard to clarify for anyone you are trying to talk to. The loss has made me appreciative of my good ear and the sound of ocean waves that drown out constant tinnitus. Life has now introduced the challenge of understanding people who talk to me with masks.

Covid-19 is global loss leaving many questions that have no answer in this world. Answers that will evade us until we slip into the next dimension. Answers that we reach for and theorize on. Answers that we ask in a loop that repeats indefinitely. Given the wisdom gain from many previous losses in life, I am taking it a day at a time. At some point we’ll look back and realize that we made it and that we’re ok.

Loss changes things. Loss has allowed me to gain perspective on myself and life. Loss gives us the knowledge that we are alive and can feel. We are here to feel pain, to carry on, and to figure things out. While I make promises to my lost keys that I never keep, I strive to appreciate all I have and to accept ongoing losses yet to come.

4 thoughts on “Loss Means You Are Alive

  1. Carol King

    Sally – Thank you for your beautiful writing (you have never lost your ability to speak from the heart”. Just having lost Lilly, the decision was so difficult, but she was so uncomfortable there was no choice, but during this time of isolation, the routines are very much missed.

    Our loss of being with people, seeing them face to face and hugging loved ones is extremely difficult for those of us who live alone, also our friends are experiencing the same, some handling it better than others.

    I found a statement the other day, tucked in a drawer that desperately needs to be cleaned out – is is a quote from an author “the loss of an older family member is like burning a library”.

    Thanks again for sharing, appreciate your inspiration.

  2. Charlotte Dyer

    Dear sweet Sally,
    I always find your writings to be so comforting. We all suffer grieve in some form and when I read about your struggles it eases my feeling of being so isolated with my struggles. God bless and stay strong.

  3. Maryfrances Slawter

    So very good to hear from you again! Makes me feel that I am not alone. Your way with words and perspective of our situation makes me smile . Be safe!

  4. Deb

    I too have had surgery for acoustic neuroma, my mother is declining rapidly with her dementia and I missed being with her with covid and 850 miles between us. The decline has been stark. One of my kids has rejected the faith they were brought up in, and in turn feels like they may be rejecting us. That is a significant loss, more than an acoustic neuroma/new vestibular nerve damage lifestyle. But I also feel like I’ve lost purpose and identity, and I’m still figuring out how to find those again. I’ve lost the ability to have goals. My surgery anniversary for a large-extra large tumor is coming up on a 3 year anniversary. There has been some regrowth. I’m still in OT for my facial synkinesis and getting functional botox too. And I now have cornea damage from dry eye in spite of all I did to try to prevent it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *