We have just had our beloved cat go missing so you will have to forgive the tone of this piece, at the very least it may explain some of the thoughts contained… If you decide to read on, that is.
Loss and grief
It constantly strikes me that life seems to be an endless source of loss and pain that we are forced to try and swim against, or we run the risk of drowning in it. As I write this I am also struck by how clear my thoughts are at this time and how calm my words are. Perhaps that is why I have always turned to writing? The chance to express and think out loud.
I am convinced at this stage of my life that we don’t ever really understand the losses and pain that comes from living, which always begs the question do we ever get better at pain and loss?
I always assumed I would. Especially someone approaching her fifties. I always hoped I would. Perhaps I have always been overly naive when it comes to emotional milestones.
I thought that as I grew older I would become much better at handling the pain, confusion and devastation that comes from living. As a younger person I thought that if I studied and educated myself then I would become much more understanding of life and be able to cope much better with the chaos of life. Seems quite a foolish hope to me now. Perhaps it was a sign of my innocence and nativity?
However, loss of time, loved ones, opportunities, health and abilities are a constant theme for people with chronic illness, but do we ever really get accustomed to it? I realize that I certainly haven’t, and yet I dearly hoped I would have. I certainly hoped by now I would have.
The more I have lost my abilities, my mobility and my independence it has felt as though my emotional flesh has been weakened and remains easily bruised. I have been trying so hard for years to make it stronger and tougher but to no avail.
I also thought that living with constant pain would somehow make me impervious to other forms of pain. It hasn’t.
When we lose something precious to us our minds starts throwing up all the many people and things we have lost in our lifetime like hot, razor sharp shards of emotional shrapnel. Bombarding us. Attacking us. Overrunning us. Drowning us… But why?
Do we become emotional cutters when life tests us? Perhaps some of us do. Perhaps I do, anyway.
I think of those dear to me that have died and I tell myself that at least their suffering is over. They no longer have the pain of losing a loved one, no worries or stress to face. They don’t have to fear the next bill, worry about the state of the world or the anguish of losing a loved and having missing pet to carry.
… At least their pain and anguish is gone forever.
As I grow older I realize I don’t fear or dread my own mortality. Perhaps this is the consolation of my age and reality? I see my death in a much more considered way. A much more balanced and accepting way.
Today I began to think to myself if only we could replay the day leading up to a death or a loss. What would we do differently? Would we make better decisions? Could we change the course of our lives? Maybe. But the truth is we can’t have back even a second. Ever.
Our little family is beginning our painful journey with loss and grief again and it somehow joins with all the other losses and pains we have gone through, like an endless stream flowing through our lives.
We must just live with it and accept it somehow.
The irony is that there seems to be very clear hierarchies of loss and pain in society, and acceptable reactions that are judged and must meet with social approval. For example. If we lose a child, parent or partner society will forgive you for grieving and the emotional intensity and fallout that comes from such loss. If we lose a job or our homes there is a human acceptance and empathy for such events. If we lose a pet or a companion animal, we could be forgiven for feeling the terrible loss of their unconditional love, as long as it doesn’t last for too long. But if we become chronically ill and lose our identity, abilities and our former lives then we can face a wall of suspicion and isolation that can be impenetrable. Yet the loss is so deep, endless and personal.
I have never been able to understand why much of the world refuses to acknowledge such a critical, cruel and profound loss. Perhaps I never will.
The irony at this moment in time is that if I had the choice of enduring even more physical pain or having my loved ones back I would choose the physical pain, without hesitation.
My husband and I have already begun the ritual of blaming ourselves, a common stage in the grief process, I also know we will return to this point many times again. But that’s grief isn’t it? The utter torment of grief. The gaping, cruel hell of it all.
But we have each other and the ability to say all the things that need to be said and to bare our hearts to each other. This is the human way. This is the way we cope. Today’s tears my have stopped but tomorrow’s will be ready and waiting again.
The emotional skin of chronic sufferers and their carers may seem like it is a hardened shell and can withstand everything that life dishes out but the truth is it isn’t. We don’t just shake it off. We don’t just snap back. It hurts because it becomes even more hurt in a life of constant and unrelenting hurt. It’s a wound that is never allowed to heal.
That’s why we learn to value love so much. We cling to love. That is why we appreciate understanding and kindness so much and why we will do anything for those we love. That’s why chronic fighters love so much, because sometimes it’s all we have left to give… We become more human than most humans are.