Is Overcoming Loss the Gateway to Wisdom? by Robin Trimingham
When the subject of overcoming loss comes up most people immediately assume that this is in reference to the loss of a family member or loved one. Bermuda being a small community I often wonder whether we feel this kind of loss more acutely because we frequently are related to, or work with, or are friends with either the person who has passed or their suffering relatives to the point that it seems as though we are surrounded by suffering. The pain of this type of grief can be so overwhelming that many people get into the habit of thinking that this is the only sort of loss that exists, and that there is no escaping from it.
Having said this, let’s pause for a moment to think about some of the other types of loss that people commonly experience as they transition through life and consider whether loss arises to teach us something about ourselves.
In her book The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron once said “All loss is a doorway. All pain is an entrance. All suffering is a gate.”
Ask a man who is in the midst of mourning the loss of his youth, or a job, or a favorite dog, or his sports team what he is gaining and be prepared suffer the backlash of his sorrow, regret and anger. His emotions are running high and over riding his wiser self.
However, give that same man the time and space to reflect on the matter and he is more likely respond that his difficult experience has given him a renewed sense of hope, or taught him the value of friendship or the unexpected freedom to turn his attention in a new direction.
The irony of this world is that there is no growth without loss. To become an adult requires the loss of childhood, to become married requires the loss of a single life, to move to a new job or a new country requires the loss of those people and places you have left behind.
Sometimes the loss is planned and expected as when you reach retirement age and decide to cease to work. Sometimes the loss is a complete shock as is the case when you are made redundant or offered an early retirement package.
In all situations however, the key to moving forward is to recognize and accept that the transition from situation, or one phase life, to the next is a process; and the first step of this transition is the onset of a form of mourning the loss of the “what is”. This is usually followed by a process of wrestling with conflicting and often confusing emotions to come to a sort of understanding of what has transpired in order to make peace with the fact that “old life” or situation is gone.
The difficulty here is that some people endlessly mourn the loss of their old life to the point that they stop looking for, or even believing that there is a way forward.
The wiser optimistic mind, however, recognizes that this transition phase is a time to distance yourself from your emotions enough to see a path forward. Yes, you may still feel twinges of pain at unexpected moments but having the wisdom to realize and accept that this transition is just that – a process – and teaches you that calmly putting one foot in front of the next, is the only way to find your way out of the mud and seize the next opportunity, whatever it may be.
By Robin Trimingham