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"Loss" Comes in Many Flavors

By Blogger
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Our horse just turned 30, and has been diagnosed with a serious but not fatal condition called “Cushings Disease.” Because of that and his age, the vet told my wife, Chris, that she shouldn’t ride him any more. This was very upsetting to her, as she has loved this horse for many, many years and they have had many wonderful times together.

In telling a friend about this sad situation, she commented that this was a big loss for Chris and that she would probably go through a mourning process of sorts.

Mourning? No one died… how could this be?

My friend pointed out that there are many types of loss, and that the resulting toll it takes is similar no matter what was lost. Sure, when someone close to you dies that is obviously a considerable loss, but when you can no longer do something that you love to do, that is also a loss. And you feel it.

Loss, no matter what the cause or what was lost, is stressful. What I’ve found, though, is that it isn’t as stressful when you understand what it is that you are feeling and why.

For example, I recently found out that I have degenerative disc disease, which means that I have to be very careful how I lift things or I could seriously injure my back. I must do certain exercises regularly, and sleep a certain way. I have always been proud of my strength, and how I’ve been able to do the “manly” things around the house that needed to be done, such as lifting 75-pound barrels of horse manure into a trailer and then into our dumpster, changing the water bottle, etc. (I can still open difficult jars and bottles, though!)

I was feeling pretty sad and stressed about all of this when I realized that I am experiencing loss. I have lost that ability and confidence that came with my strength. I felt better knowing that; sometimes putting a label on something can help us to better understand it, and with understanding comes comfort and resolution.

Are you experiencing a loss that you haven’t recognized as such? Are there things you can no longer do that are upsetting you? Did your favorite restaurant go out of business? That’s a loss. Can you no longer hear as well as you used to? That, too, is a loss.

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Sure... easy to say, hard to do. KNOWING that you have a choice makes the difference, REMEMBERING that you know that you have a choice is quite another thing! I think that the answer is in practice; the more you stop and remind yourself that you have a choice, the easier it will become to remember to do so.

August 17, 2009 - 9:38am


What a thoughtful and true column. As I read it, I thought back over the last few years, the losses I've felt and how I've dealt with them.

We have a tremendous number of people in the country feeling huge losses right now -- losses of jobs and careers, of income, of the feeling of independence. Loss of their homes, their sense of progress, their sense of self. Loss of their savings, their safety net, their sense of proportion. Even if we have found the bottom of the recession and are taking tiny steps back up, there are millions of people who got knocked off their feet in one way or another and are struggling to deal with it.

Here's my question: Labeling things as a loss is good; it allows us to see it as it is, and grieve, and then (hopefully) move on. But what happens when we can't move on, but we get stuck in the loss phase?

For me, personally, there seems to be an inclination to keep revisiting the loss, as though I could change it or do something about it. As though I would have a different answer this time, or a way to make it all work out.


August 14, 2009 - 8:07am
Blogger (reply to Diane Porter)

Hi Diane

I don't think you're going to like my answer!

If you keep revisiting certain losses, then you are CHOOSING to do so. Perhaps if you recognize that you are making a choice to grind over past losses, it will be easier for you to change your choice and move on.

August 15, 2009 - 8:00pm
(reply to Dave Balch)

Wonderful food for thought. "Change your choice" sounds so easy, and yet it's often a struggle for me. Lots to think about here. Thank you.

August 17, 2009 - 9:21am
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