The Way is gained by daily loss. Chuang Tzu
Fall is shifting into winter, a time of letting go and loss. We are losing the light as the days shorten; as the sap returns to roots in the dark earth, trees are losing their leaves; plants are dying back. This is a natural time every year to feel our losses.
Over a lifetime we will experience many losses. In every stage of life, losing, leaving and letting go are essential parts of our ever-changing world. We cannot save ourselves, nor those we love, from the sorrow that is part of life. Family members die, friends drop away, cherished possessions are lost. Our children grow up and leave home. We lose spouses and partners to divorce or death; sometimes we lose them emotionally long before. As we age, we will be faced with the grief of unfulfilled dreams. Daily we experience disappointments, rejections, failures, mistakes, setbacks, mishaps— all the little losses that are a part of our every day living.
We are tempted to think we can avoid the pain of loss if we keep busy, that we can close our hearts a little to protect ourselves. However, it is the ungrieved losses that take their toll on our hearts and deaden us. We forget that even these, as difficult as they may be, are connected to our vitality and growth.
Every year nature in her cycle of seasons shows us the vital connection between the contraction of fall and the expansion of spring. In the fall, the life force withdraws into the roots; the growth in the deep, dark underground is what supports the new growth in the spring. Likewise, loss invites us into our depths so that in time new possibilities can break forth.
When we open to the daily losses, we make room in our hearts for the greater losses. We gain strength to grieve when a major loss shakes our world. If we pay attention to small losses, we may find that they tap into that well of grief we hold inside. Periodically take time to review your daily losses and then grieve them. Pay attention when a current loss brings up one from the past that is unresolved. Grieve that loss. Don’t talk yourself out of feeling your grief. Then explore the new perspectives and choices that these losses have brought into our lives. Embracing this grief will keep your heart spacious and open to life.
In opening to grief over our daily losses, big and small, we experience both the exquisite beauty and sorrow of being fully alive. We savor the ordinary, simple moments. What a joy to simply watch the trees explode into brazen reds and coppery oranges just before their leaves drop away——what a brilliant testimony nature offers us to the beauty and power of loss!
Some suggestions for grieving the daily losses:
• Make a list of the losses (big and small) you have experienced in the past year.
• Review this list and circle the losses that you never took the time to grieve. Notice if any of these current losses have brought up unresolved grief from previous losses that need your attention now.
• Create a sanctuary for your grieving and each day focus for 10-20 minutes on your grief, taking the time to turn toward each loss (only one at a time) and embrace whatever feelings may surface— suggestions for creating and using the sanctuary in my new book Honoring Grief: Creating a Space to Let Yourself Heal.
• Explore whatever new perspectives or changes these losses have brought into your life. To help with this, ask yourself questions, such as: What brings me joy? What is calling to me now in my life?, What changes do I need to make in order for my life to truly sustain me?