Can we find anything at all in living with loss that in some way we might benefit from? Is it possible that something as terrible as loss, so final and irreversible, can contain a silver lining?
Maybe this isn’t exactly a silver lining, but I’ll tell you about something that has dawned on me as a result of losing my 22-year-old son in July of 2008. Even though I always knew in a factual way that someday I would die, I still lived in emotional denial of that reality. Since losing Danny, the façade has been ripped off of my denial mentality and I have come to realize the impermanence of all things that are physical, and the truth that everyone I love is impermanent.
Because I am one of those people who believes that we are each a soul and that the soul is, in fact, eternal, I do not believe that death brings an end to one’s essence, but that all physical things are impermanent. You might think that such a realization would result in a deep sense of sadness, but on the contrary, I see the world around me, in light of its evanescence, even more wondrous. From sunrise to sunset, my eyes gaze out with wonderment at the physical world about me.
I have read that in certain spiritual teachings it is considered wise to acknowledge impermanence on a daily basis, not to be morbid, but to awaken to a perspective that sees the bigger picture and is therefore more grateful and less critical of what is present today. It’s interesting to work with this, because when you incorporate this knowledge into your everyday life, you find that some things seem less important and other things, more important. This has been a positive thing for me.
The other silver lining is what I see as the desire that arises from loss to reach out and help others. I cannot tell you how many good projects have been started and people helped because someone suffered a great loss and wanted to be helpful to others suffering with the same issues that challenged their loved one. And this doesn’t necessitate having a lot of money. One of the men I know maintains a yearly toy drive to bring toys to children spending Christmas in the hospital, as his son did on his last Christmas.
But for those of you who feel exceptionally lonely, keep in mind that there are many people in need of company from our oldest citizens to our youngest. There are children that need to be mentored, there are old people that would love a story read to them, and if you’re not ambulatory, there are online sites where others could use a kind word or two to help them live with their losses. But, this holiday season, my advice to you would be push yourself to interact and participate in some way that can be of service to someone or something else. You will be better off for it because giving to others gives back an enormous amount of solace to the giver.