It’s all too easy. We can get so swept up in the daily rigmarole. Working, keeping house, raising families, trying to maintain relationships, our bodies, our minds. We spend countless years worrying about what could happen, if the right things will happen, and turning away from anything resembling pain or loss.
We get caught up in wishing for today’s suffering to ease. Or we have a good moment in our life, and we shiver for fear of losing it. All of these experiences, either trying to escape suffering or fearing the loss of something good, blind us from our reality.
We cannot be fully in our present moment life and pulled into the past or future at the same time. We cannot enjoy and fully appreciate what we have if we are not in the present moment. We end up missing our lives. Such a circular conundrum we find ourselves in, then. The only way to fully appreciate what is before us is to see it, but to see it we must also allow in the pain of the moment and the potential to lose it.
The truth is all the things in our life are temporary. This might create anxiety, or it could create peace. If we understand that everything is temporary – this job, this relationship, this hard day, this amazing day, this part of our life, this body – then we have an opportunity. We have the freedom to choose whether to live it, fully. Enjoy it, fully.
When we mistakenly believe that something is forever, even subconsciously, we run the risk of taking it for granted. That can be a difficult task, to seek out the dark places we are assuming something will last forever, and bring in the light of awareness. This, too, is temporary.
But Danielle, I don’t want to feel the pain of knowing something I love so much is temporary.
I feel you, there. The pain can be frightening. It can make us live in denial (of impermanence, aka everything is temporary). And, impermanence is life. We can not simply avoid it. To love is to lose. They are one. We cannot avoid the pain of acknowledging the temporary nature of a love we hold. It cannot be undone or avoided.
It can be traded.
Sometimes we choose to trade the pain of today for the pain of tomorrow. I’ll avoid the pain today by tucking, ignoring, or denying it. But since it cannot go away forever, it gets postponed. At some point, likely after the loss of the love occurs, all the pain we’ve been blocking floods in. Only now, there is nothing that can be done about it.
If I feel the loss of love, while I have love, I have opportunities to do something about it. I can love well, relish in that love, and feel gratitude in my bones for it. If I wait to feel the loss of love until I no longer have the object of my love, my options are limited. There is nothing left of them for me to dote on, love well, or relish. I’m left holding all my feelings and having to do something with them. It’s unnatural, and thus suffering arises. We are meant to love what we have while we have it.
If we love well while love exists, then when (not if) the love ends, we are left with the simple grief of loss. To be sure, this is hard all on its own. Simple might feel like the wrong word. But its simplicity comes from the ability to find ease, peace. We think we can avoid grief if we deny and ignore it. But when we haven’t fully shown up when love was still here, we are left, afterward, not only with the grief but also with a heavy cloud of regret. What is regret? A sadness, a disappointment over what we did, or did not do. A missed opportunity. And in this case, one that cannot be remedied.
Greif is tolerable. Regret feels intolerable.
What are we to do when we still have our love here?
- Relish it. Look at it directly, and choose to enjoy it.
- Slow down. Time slows down when we become present. We won’t remember the TV show, the video game, the social media scrolling. But we will remember the laughter, the joy, the connection.
- Strive for moments, not perfection. We are human. We cannot be fully present all of the time. What we can do is grow our awareness and practice stepping into the present moment, into our lives, a few minutes (or seconds) at a time.
- Remind ourselves often of the reality of impermanence, and be willing to feel the loss of love hand in hand with the love itself.
What are we to do when we have already lost?
- Keep yourself in behavior, not personhood. When the thoughts come up, the regret, start with keeping it focused on what you did that you would change given the opportunity, and don’t let it turn against who you are. If you behaved regrettably, like not enjoying something while you had it, it’s okay to feel the regret. It is not helpful to then tell yourself you’re a bad person for it.
- Focus on the physical sensations of regret, and try to come out of your mind when you can.
- Look for ways to feel compassion for yourself. Understand what led you to behave (or not) the way you did, and offer compassion to that past self for what led them there. They were doing the best they could with what they had and what they knew.
- Work toward acceptance. This is not being “okay” with something. It is an acknowledgment of what is. It’s pulling yourself out of wishing you could have something you can’t, or not wanting what you have. In the loss I’ve been going through this week, those might sound like “I wish I would have been more loving, more patient.” (not wanting what I have, which was not being loving and patient). Or “I just want to tell her, I just want her to know…” (wanting something I can’t have). Instead, we lean into acceptance. I had a love. Sometimes I did right by that love. There were times I didn’t appreciate, enjoy, and sink into the love the way I would if I could go back and re-do those times, with the knowledge I have now. And now, that love is gone. Acknowledging the what is.
This life and love and loss work is not easy. If you need support, feel free to reach out. We might not know your loss, but we know our own.