How I Deal With Loss

Posted By on May 29, 2013 | 12 comments


One week ago I attended the funeral of a friend.

We heard the news of his passing the weekend before.  It was sudden, shocking, and a million other similar adjectives I don’t have access to in this little vocabulary of mine.

He was a reader, a fan, and a friend.  You may have even seen some of his comments on a few of my posts.  The last email he sent me was in regards to my blog post, Hitting the Wall.

He said it was apt for him then.  I didn’t realize he’d be gone just a few days later.

While I only knew him for about eight months, during that short time I was able to learn more than I’d learned in a lifetime about philosophy, leadership, business, and just life in general.

In my 37 years on this planet, I have experienced nearly every kind of loss possible.  I’ve lost pets, friends, lovers, relatives, enemies, and mentors.  I’ve even lost a few cars that died along the way (ironically, most recently on the way back from the funeral).

This path we walk throws all kinds of losses at us.  Sometimes it seems like we can’t see the gains for all the losses.  One of my favorite quotes on this topic comes from the movie Rounders.

Matt Damon’s character, Mike, said in regards to losing money playing poker, “I can’t for the life of me remember how I built up my bankroll through the years, but I can remember in intricate detail, all the big losses.”

Often, what we lose hurts us to the point where we feel like we can never recover.  In Mike’s case, it was just over thirty grand.

When my friend Edward passed, I was initially numb to the whole thing, just like I always am when something like that happens.  Eventually, though, the memories of our time together begin to start hitting.

Beyond that, the realization that we will never get to hang out again starts knocking on the door of my mind as well.  It’s a tsunami of emotions.

I’m a little different that some people.  When I lose a loved one, my brain takes me to every moment I spent with them over the last few months:  the coffee shop visits, dinners, holidays, campfire conversations.  And when I think about those things, my heart nearly bursts.

The tears flow freely.  I choke and cough for air.  And I let myself completely be overcome by the emotions of those little memories.

Sounds horrible doesn’t it?  It is.

But I am only like that for about two days, maybe three.  At that point, I have released everything, intensely experiencing the lowest low.  It puts me in a place where there is nowhere to go but up.

And so I go up.

I apply this line of thought to almost every situation of loss possible.  My car, for instance, broke down on the way back from my friend’s funeral and the damage was irreparable.

Perhaps a minor tragedy except that I don’t have the money for a new car.  So, I let myself consider every possible bad thing that could happen as a result of that loss.  And in doing so, I put myself at the bottom of the valley with nowhere to go but up.

As I climbed in my girlfriend’s car and left my vehicle behind for the tow truck, I had already begun to see the bright side of things.  My car had had enough momentum to coast into the Tennessee welcome center just outside of my hometown.  I had a ride home.  And I didn’t have any pressing appointments to which I couldn’t get a ride for the next few weeks.

With the loss of my friend, the memories that caused so much pain during the first 48 hours began to turn into feelings of gratitude.  I am glad that I knew him.  He taught me so much, maybe even some things he didn’t realize.

For that, I am thankful.

There is one other thing I try to keep in mind when it comes to loss.  While we walk this path, it can be sometimes difficult to remember that all things happen for a reason.

Sure, people say that kind of cliche crap all the time.  But I believe it on a deeper level.  Sometimes, the reason isn’t for your benefit.  And that can be a hard pill to swallow since we humans are fairly ego-centric.

In the books I write, my characters are sometimes faced with a painful loss.  Book and movie experts say that if characters are never challenged, the story would be boring.

Maybe that’s part of the reason life has it’s ups and downs.  I’m not entirely sure.  But I have to believe that things DO happen for a reason, and that on the other side of the pain, a better future awaits.

We may not always see it right away, but it’s there.

It’s like my mom always told me when I was discouraged, hurting, or troubled:  “If you could see the end from the beginning, you wouldn’t change a thing.”

It can be difficult to believe that when you’re in your own private hell.  But it’s true.

Know that.  Focus on it.  And push yourself through that dark valley.

Because the view from the mountain top is always worth it.

For my friend Edward, I’ll see you on the mountain someday.

Onward.

 

12 Comments

  1. A really lovely post. I’m sorry for your loss but you have put the emotional arc one goes through after death into very eloquent words. Your friend would be proud he knew someone who can articulate some of the hardest human emotions.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Emily. I appreciate it. He was one of the most eloquent people I’ve met. So, much so that sometimes I had trouble understanding what he was trying to say. ha!
      Glad to have known him. 🙂

      Post a Reply
  2. Ernie,

    So sorry for your loss.

    Sounds like you’re going through some of the same things I went through when my friend passed recently. I deal with emotional release in a similar way, except I tend to bottle it up a bit longer. When it eventually builds to a point where I have to let it out – then it ALL comes out at once. It’s rough during the process, but afterward you can definitely look back at the good things about knowing the person and get past the grief.

    May your grief be short lived and your fond memories last a lifetime.

    MP

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Mike. Yeah, life is funny how it can pull you back into the flow and then punch you in the mouth with a full range of emotions with no warning. I hope all of us can make it through the losses and keep pushing to make the world of the living a better place. 🙂

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  3. So sorry for your loss. Grief is a strange creature. I am still grieving for my dad who died three years ago. I am passed the deepest despair stage but still go to call him when something good or bad happens.

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    • That is so tough to deal with. I’ll have to cross that bridge someday, too. He’d be proud of the person you have become, I think. 🙂

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  4. What a beautiful tribute to your friend, Ernest. I am so touched by your reflections and willingness to share those painful times.

    I really like the way you placed these lines:
    And so I go up.
    Onward.

    I’m so happy to have found your blog, so sorry for your loss, and so thankful you chose to write about it.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Tammy.
      That’s a huge compliment coming from someone like you. I’m glad I found your blog too!

      Post a Reply
  5. What a lovely heart felt post,
    Thank you for sharing it with us.

    My friend/next door neighbour has being diagnosed with terminal cancer,
    I am going to do everything I can to be there for him and his daughter,
    Reading your post has made me smile and like you I believe I will see him again some day.

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you for sharing that, Gemma. I’m glad to have helped, even just a little.
      🙂

      Post a Reply
  6. I enjoyed reading “How I deal with loss”. I just want to say that I am sorry for your loss of your friend Edward. I know that losing someone is painful. Reading your story took me back to 1997 , and that is the year I loss a very special lady, Laura Guthrie, who was like my second Mother. I still think about her, and I oddly enough, dream about her sometimes. I miss her so much still, but I am so thankful she was a part of my life.
    I really love the quote from your Mom “If you could see the end from the beginning, you wouldn’t change a thing”. That quote is very encourgaging and inspiring.
    Thank you for sharing.

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