How Loss Can Change Your Life
Loss Is Inevitable
Loss is a certainty of life that cannot be avoided. Every loss is painful and changes us. Some are so traumatic and the imprint so deep that they define our lives.
I am not a psychologist or any kind of health care practitioner. I am only a woman who has lived a long life and suffered more loss than I thought I could endure. Each one has left its mark.
Loss as a Young Child
My first life-changing loss was at age six but was the result of something that happened when I was not quite two.
My mom was struggling with menopause and taking care of my oldest sister’s two babies. She was overwhelmed and begged my brother to take the two younger children. He said no but offered to take me instead for a few weeks. It was a short visit that turned into four years.
When I was almost six, my birth-father insisted I “come home” because it was time to go to school. My brother did as he was told – and my world as I knew it was shattered.
I had lost my safe haven and the people I thought loved me. As a six-year-old, I had no way to understand or cope with what had happened to me.
To make my plight even worse, my brother and his wife were in so much pain from losing me they couldn’t bear to be around me. When they visited (which was rare), I would try to climb onto Ellen’s lap; but, she would push me away, saying, “Go sit on your mom’s lap, she is your real mother.”
Such absolute rejection was devastating. The emotional trauma to my young heart and mind created two powerful beliefs that have cost me dearly.
Deep Beliefs Resulting from Loss
The messages I received in my sweet innocence were that I was not lovable or they would not have left me; and, I must always take care of myself because there is no one who will ever love me enough to be there for me.
Believing that you are unlovable makes it almost impossible to trust that you will ever be loved. It is terribly destructive to relationships.
The belief also created problems with my children. I love my children and would have (and still would) give my life for them, but I didn’t have the ability to love them freely and unconditionally as a mother should. I didn’t know how to nurture and feed their souls the way children need.
They are grown, with families of their own and my relationship with each of them is cordial, but distant. I rarely see them or talk to them. Most of the time our connection feels obligatory because I am their mother. We do not share a deep-seated, “I love you with all my heart” connection that some children seem to have with their parents.
The second belief that I must always take care of myself has made me independent to a fault. I rarely ask others for help. I will ask ONLY if I have no choice. It has set me up for a lonely, isolated existence most of my life – and is more painful with each passing year now that I am older.
Loss Can Change the Direction of Your Life
As a young adult, loss struck again with a vengeance and changed the direction of my life. It was not a single loss, but several related losses that started with my move to San Francisco after college. I met Conrad, my first love, a handsome Naval Lieutenant.
The romance was primarily by mail and occasional visits when his ship was in port until he was discharged. He left California (and me) to return to New York to take his place on Wall Street.
After he left, I reluctantly dated and met the man I “had” to marry because I was pregnant! It was a disaster that neither of us wanted to face. He was very clear that ‘he did not love me.’ His best friend talked him into marrying me – and the deed was done.
In less than a year, I had lost my first love, my innocence, my dreams of a happy, loving marriage, and what felt like the loss of any chance for real happiness. It was a very bad time in my life.
Loss of the Family Unit
The third loss was my divorce. Although I had little interest in staying in a loveless marriage, it was still traumatic. I was a single mom, with four children, a difficult situation for any parent.
I didn’t mourn the loss of my husband. In fact, that was a relief, but I did mourn the loss of the family unit and a father for my children. I was grief-stricken over what it would do to them. I had no idea how far-reaching the impact would be.
Each child suffered in his/her own way. The older daughter was angry with me for years, the second daughter lost her way and without any kind of role model she never figured out how to choose a man that would treat her well. The older son started using drugs, and the younger son withdrew inside himself.
The Greatest Loss
For my older son using drugs as an escape from the pain of divorce and the crazy behavior of his confused, struggling single mother began a downward spiral from which he never recovered. The loss for him was literally life-shattering, which led to my greatest loss of all – he took his own life at age 40.
Mothers are not meant to outlive their children. To lose a son to suicide is the worst thing that can happen to a parent. I blamed myself and continue to wonder what I could have done differently to prevent it.
The loss of my smart, handsome, talented, sweet son was almost more than I could bear. He told me, just before he died that he couldn’t remember ever being happy and that he did not want to live. December 7, 2012 is when time stopped for me. The pain is still sharp and clear. I have learned to live with it, but it is ever-present. Sometimes the grief washes over me with such force I can hardly breathe. Life will never be the same.
My most recent loss involves my son’s beautiful daughter who was only four-years-old when he died and will have to grow up without her dad. Over the six years since he passed, her mom has poisoned the waters of my relationship with her and now we have lost each other. I am no longer allowed to see her; she is only 10.
My eighty-first birthday is coming soon. I want it to stop….please.
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