Loss is a part of life, that’s reality. Everything ends, everything has a time, everything dies, we learn this at a very young age. It is a reality that we are aware of but that most of us put in the back of our minds. Loss is not something most people think about on a daily basis. Life is easier not focusing on loss and endings.
But when we are confronted with loss, we have to focus on what it means. Each one of us is faced with loss, it’s unavoidable. Our pets die, family members pass on, there is no escaping it. No matter how much we ignore it, one day it will smack us in the face.
There’s a quote from Doctor Who that has always stuck with me, “Every life is a pile of good things and…bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.” It really defines what life is all about. We are all going to have bad times, like experiencing loss, but we can’t focus on the bad times. You have to focus on the good times and not let the bad ones spoil them.
Often the loss we experience is unexpected. The shock of it can be the worst part. When the shock passes, we are left with feelings of grief. When dealing with these feelings, it is important to focus on the good memories. Simply focusing on one thing that made you laugh or smile can help to ease the pain of the loss.
Military life makes it easy to lose touch with people, even family members. We move so much and lead such crazy lives, correspondence ends up low on the list. This makes it harder when a family member passes on. Being left behind can leave us with feelings of guilt because we fell out of touch with them. The important thing to focus on is the times you did have with your family and that even if you don’t say it as often as you should, they knew you loved them. Family has a way of knowing these things even if we don’t express it.
Very recently I lost my grandfather. Unfortunately, he was a family members that over time I had simply lost touch with. It had been almost six years since I had seen him before he passed. When I got the 3:00 A.M. phone call from my dad telling me the news, there was a big part of me that felt guilty about the whole situation. He passed so unexpectedly that I didn’t have time to think about touching base with him. He and my grandmother were planning on moving in with my dad in a couple of months, I knew that would give me the chance to see him again. But, as life so often shows us, there isn’t always time to plan for tomorrow. I felt guilty for a bit.
Then I realized that my grandpa wouldn’t have wanted me to feel that way. He loved me, was proud of me and was proud of my husband’s choice to join the Coast Guard. This is when I chose to focus on the times I did have with him, the good times. I focused on the memories like going to Disneyland as a child with him and my dad getting “It’s a Small World” stuck in our heads for days because they sang it so much.
I focused on the memories of his laughter, he had the greatest laugh. It was the kind of laugh that made you laugh with him. He had a strong love for gardening and working in the yard. I remember the first time he met my husband and how they hit it off right away. I knew he loved me and even though we hadn’t spoken in a while, I know that he felt my love for him as well.
Don’t let your feelings of guilt overtake you. Remember the love you have for them and they had for you. Focus on the fond memories. Don’t let the bad times spoil the good. Live your life. That is the biggest thing you can do to honor those you love. Those you’ve lost, those who truly cared for you would want you to continue to live your life, life will continue regardless. Keep them in your heart, remember them and live life to the fullest, guilt can’t survive that.
Focusing on loss or the potential loss in life can drive you crazy. You need to focus on what is right in front of you. Pour yourself into the life you have with the loved ones that are still here. Keep the memories of the ones you’ve lost alive inside you and share those memories with others. But don’t let the loss overwhelm you. Keep moving forward and keep your mind in the present. That is best way you can honor those you have lost.