Written by Janet Kim
There comes a moment in everyone’s life when they are met with loss and are forced to confront painful memories that appear without invitation. This notion of loss can be embodied through many different forms- betrayal, heartbreak, even death, to name a few. Every one of these is accompanied by the same anger, resentment, and heart-wrenching sadness. And as humans, we generally equate loss with the feeling of losing ownership over something. This something that was once ours, but is no longer. This something that provided us comfort and stability, knew us better than we did ourselves, and gave us irreplicable moments of happiness. The very something that also left us a little bit too early without so much as a backward glance.
The sudden departure then prompts us to question ourselves. Are we the problem? Are we the cause of our own destruction? We become so obsessed with blaming ourselves for questions that cannot be answered. But in reality, we have no control over the things that choose to leave our lives. We become so attached to this notion of routine and comfort that we forget the deal we make with fate every time we begin to care about something. This deal involved us agreeing to potential volatility and loss, as we know better than to think that life provides us any guarantee. However, the routine we have fixed for ourselves tricks us into believing we deserve this happiness forever. We then foolishly feel entitled to having this person, this memory, this experience, alongside us with no regard to the pain and misery that come along with it.
When this happens, we tend to compensate for the loss by finding means to fill that void. Rewiring, meeting new people, finding new hobbies, creating new memories. But the truth of the matter is that those very memories are the one thing that does not leave us. Whether it be for the better or for the worse, we are at once forced to confront these memories head on, and do with it what we will. The moments after loss are certainly hard, and they are trying. These moments cause us to believe that the only means of coping is to simply forget. We mistakenly believe that wiping the memory clean of this person or thing will help us to overcome our grief.
Most have endured a loss in their lives, and most can agree that forgetting is impossible. Those memories have shaped us thus far, helping us become the people that we are. We made the choices we made, met the people we met, and invested the time that we did because of this. And now that it’s gone, this does not mean we're completely different people. Infact, that’s the beautiful agony of a loss- we still remain the same. It is impossible to isolate every single memory, every thought, every occurrence that is related to the thing that left our lives. During the time in which that person or thing was present, we made countless decisions that affected every and any aspect of our past, present, and future. We came to learn more about ourselves and discover our own tendencies. So, simply forgetting and pretending as if nothing had ever happened simply cannot be the answer. We are quite literally the products of our own memories. So, what is the answer?
Time, trust, and tears.
Time- the answer to everything. A seemingly dreadful but relatively simple concept. Ask anyone you know and I guarantee that among the many answers will be, “It just takes time.” And it is horrible because time is a hard pill to swallow. Time tells us that as the days go by, we will slowly be okay. But how much time? And how about in the meantime? Sure, everything gets better eventually. But what about now? How do we cope until then?
Trust. Having trust that we will indeed be okay in the not-so-distant future. Trust in ourselves; that we will become that much stronger, that much more resilient to things leaving us unexpectedly. When something exits our lives, we become very vulnerable and fragile. A fish out of water. We attempt to commit to as much normalcy as we can and avoid anything that could invite more emotional turbulence. Almost like walking on a balance beam of sorts. However, we have to trust that we have done the best we can and that certain situations are simply not meant to be in our control. How then, do we begin cultivating this relationship with trust?
Tears. And a lot of them. Many believe that showing a sign of weakness means we are actually weak. Well, we are. We certainly do not always have to be strong. Infact, it is probably impossible to be that way. Instead, we must embrace our emotions and accept them because they are our’s to keep. I believe that having these emotions to feel, however painful they may be, signal that our time was well spent. We dedicated so much of ourselves to this one person, concept, thing and though it may be gone now, these emotions tell us that we cared. These emotions display our ability to forge beautiful connections with the outside world.
So, be weak, and trust in time. Be thankful for the memories and do not resort to feeling regret. Trust in yourself that you have become a better person and apply these valuable lessons onto the future.
To close off, I will leave you with the words of one of my favorite poets, Charles Dickens. “Whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do it well; whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself completely; in great aims and in small I have always thoroughly been in earnest.”