All though our lives, we experience loss, in little and big ways. Some we acknowledge explicitly and grieve for. Others we may not have had the time or space to grieve for and they can come up later on in life, and attach themselves onto some other loss. There can also be the gradual loss of our hopes and dreams, or the plans we have invested in our work, or the direction of our lives.
Robert Neimeyer, who has written extensively in this area, says that when we go through a significant loss we have an undoing of our individual and collective life histories. It affects our world, and changes our sense of self. If it is a significant loss, such as the death of one who meant much to us, or the loss of a partner or even a move from work or familiar suroundings, we can feel uprooted and homesick. He says that what is needed at such times is having people to turn to who care for us, as we “tell and retell our story”. We need someone who can listen.
Why is this? Because as humans we like to give our lives meaning by underpinning them with a coherent and consistent story. Thus when we experience these losses we need to reorganize our sense of sense and our sense of meaning in life. We reach a limit where we are invited to tell our story again, but in a new way. The losses of life can make us hard and fearful of life or can make us more open, more caring for others.
The Tibetan Buddhist master Chögyam Trungpa talks about a soft spot, a raw spot, a wounded spot on the body or in the heart. A spot that is painful and sore. A spot that may emerge in the face of a loss. We hate such spots so we try to prevent them. And if we can’t prevent them we try to cover them up, so we won’t absentmindedly rub them or pour hot or cold water on them. A sore spot is no fun. Yet it is valuable. Trungpa Rinpoche calls the sore spot embryonic compassion, potential compassion. Our loss, our wound, is precious to us because it can wake us up to love, and to loving action.
Norman Fischer, Love, Loss and Anxious Times