Nothing ever gets fully replaced. Sure, you can find something to fill in the hole created by your loss, but it never quite takes up all the space, leaving the corners unsealed and allowing the ghost of your loss to slip out and haunt you. No matter how many things you try to replace your loss with, it will never be enough. The pain of loss is always felt more acutely than the pleasure of gain.
Economists call this loss aversion, but I call it human stupidity.
Humans view loss as a bad thing. Our natural reaction to loss is to lose loss – replace it, and when that doesn’t work, get distracted from it. To us, loss is an obstacle, and if we fail to replace what we have lost, we cannot carry on.
If loss were a river, I would be drowning. I am consumed by my losses; I allow them to define me, control me, make my decisions. I can’t fall asleep because I’ve lost a favourite shirt. I can’t feel happy because I’ve lost a loved one. I let myself be my losses, until I can find a way to replace them.
Deciduous trees shed their leaves every fall, leaving their flowers more exposed to insects and the wind, causing pollination to be more effective. If there were two things I would rather learn from a tree than a textbook, these would be it:
One – loss is inevitable. Trees go through the seasons, losing their leaves and growing them back again, only to go through the same process hundreds of times. Yet, they still keep going. They do not choose to not regrow their leaves in the spring, even though they know they will lose them again in the fall. They accept that loss happens, and they carry on.
Two – loss is not necessarily an obstacle. When trees lose their leaves, they do not desperately try to replace them. They make use of their loss to help them bear fruit. They choose not to see their loss as an obstacle, but rather as an aid.
People lose things all the time. You can lose a pen, or headphones, or your keys. You can lose an investment, or a password, or your savings. You can lose trust in someone, or lose someone you love. You can lose faith. You can lose your way. You can lose your mind. In a world where things are hardly ever permanent, there is only one constant – loss. Why then, do we fight it?
Our failure is in refusing to acknowledge loss as a part of life. Loss should be avoided. Loss gets in our way. Loss should be cast aside as quickly as possible. But standing on a diving board knowing you have no choice but to overcome your fears and eventually taking the dive willingly affects you less than denying the fact that you will have to dive, only to get pushed over while you are convincing yourself that you will never hit the cold water below. The refusal to accept that something is going to happen will only affect us more than acknowledging the inevitable. Accepting loss is the first step to reducing its grip on our lives.
Alexander Graham Bell once said, “When one door closes, another opens: but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” It does not do to simply accept loss, for what is the point of staring at a closed door, still wishing for it to open again? As one door closes for another one to open, we lose something to help us gain something else. And it is our choice – to spend time reopening that closed door or to run through the door that has been opened.
I do not seek to objectify loss, or make it seem smaller than it should. Loss hurts – some more than others, and that is undeniable. It is okay to be upset, or angry, or plain depressed. It is okay to take a day, or a month, or years to get over a loss. I’m not saying that we should stop feeling over loss, all I’m saying is that just as the stars continue shining and waiting for the night even though the sun overpowers them in the day everyday, we can let loss take over us temporarily, but must hold on to the fact that it will not be forever.
It is not easy to be as perseverant as the stars, and it is difficult to be as positive as the trees, but I am choosing to lose my perception of loss to help me in my pursuit of a better one. And if loss were a river, one day I will be able to lay back and let the currents take me where I am supposed to go.