The hardest thing in the world to understand is loss. What does it mean when we lose something? Where does it go?
Let’s start with weight. I mean, if you lose five pounds, where do those five pounds actually go? Okay, the scientific among us will say something witty like, “They are converted into energy (duh!)”. That is an insufficient explanation in my mind. I mean, you lose five pounds of FAT (that’s matter), and it is converted into ENERGY. In theory I can accept that, but in fact, it’s hard for me to picture.
In fact, every time we lose something – or someone – we are confronted with the same problem. Why? Where did it go? If it’s not here, does it exist at all? And finally, If I had it, then I lost it – What did it all mean to begin with?
Let’s start with an easy one: You lose your car keys. You have the typical stages of grief reaction: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. (We are forever in the debt of the late Dr. Kubler-Ross for this amazingly simple, yet accurate analysis of emotional reaction). So, at first you think, “Oh, they’re here somewhere”. Then you think, “Well, where the hell are they!?” Then you think, “Okay, if I can only find them I’ll never lay them down carelessly again.” Then you think, “They’re gone! My only set of keys and they’re gone!” and finally you think, “They’re gone, so I guess I’ll just have to get a new set”. The stages may not come as neatly and succinctly as that, and they may not come in that particular order, but you will notice that they do appear more or less just like that – no matter what the object is that you’ve lost.
So Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, God bless her, was able to qualify our reaction to loss. But who can explain the meaning of loss?
Not me. I’m just wondering.
I guess religion tries to assign meaning to loss. In Christianity, loss is explained through the story of the crucifixion. God willingly gave up His only son in order to save our souls. So, in essence, our loss became our gain. There is nobility in sacrifice, by logical extension. If we are Christ-like, we will suffer. We all suffer to some extent, and to whatever extent we suffer, we are following in His footsteps.
I used to be a pretty good singer. Recently, I have lost that ability. I have a paralyzed vocal cord. Where did that ability go? Was it converted into energy?! Is my voice out there somewhere lifting bricks?! Is my voice somehow sacrificing itself to save the world? Of course not.
But, wait a minute. Since I can’t sing, I write. Isn’t that a conversion from physical matter (vocal cord, mechanical strength) to energy (thoughts being placed on a blank screen). In fact, the energy I would have been using to sing is going not only to my brain but to my fingers and sent out over the Internet to you. But that’s not all. It’s going into home made jam which I will be sending out for Christmas gifts. It goes into a screenplay I’m working on. These are all new endeavors for me. They are things I didn’t do when my voice was working perfectly.
So I guess I’ve answered my own question, for now. It does seem that when you lose something, you do go through some kind of a transformation that enables you to convert the loss into a gain.
But that doesn’t stop the grief reaction. I miss singing. Oh, I still sing around the house, but it’s not the same. I miss the soaring sensation of full-throated, full-throttle singing. So,I’m still angry over my voice: “Why me? Why not Britney Spears?” And I’m still bargaining: “If I work really, really hard on my voice can I have my vocal cord back?”. And depression does come up from time-to-time in the form of “Poor me! Everything happens to me! Woe is me! Poor little Robbie!”. But I’m working my way toward acceptance: “The singer is dead! Long live the writer!”.