Posted by: shelliejelly | November 17, 2008

A lot of loss

When I first told my therapist, who was seeing O. and I in our attempt at marriage counseling, that we would be getting divorced, she said, “I am sorry you have to go through another loss.”

At the time, I was probably too freshly stung by O.’s simple “So, we’re done?” question to really respond to her with anything beyond, “Yes, thanks.” I can still see him leaning against the counter, just out of the hospital, the self-inflicted bruise around his eye still visible, but barely. I didn’t know how to answer these three dismissive words, so chose to just take off my engagement ring and hand it to him, spitting out something about pawning it for $500.

Once I began talking to my therapist alone, though, I realized I have seen a lot of loss in this lifetime. Long before K., I had two friends commit suicide, one in high school who locked himself in his garage with the car running and another post-college who shot himself in his parent’s bathroom. These two weren’t close friends, so to speak, but enough so that I felt the loss, needed to be around people who could absorb some of the sadness. One of the strangest memories I have of these times is the counselor my high school brought in to talk with Keith’s friends. At one point, he asked if any of us had noticed Keith was scratching his name from all of his notebooks. “No,” we all answered, one by one, each swallowing part of the blame he offered up.

When K. died, the line stretched around the block of the funeral home during his wake. The community was small, and K. had been active in soccer and other activities, so he was well-known. I stood in line for hours beside his sister, shaking an endless number of hands and hearing thousands of words of condolence. Not one stands out, with the exception of a small, stout, middle-aged woman who, as she was shaking my hand, leaned in and said, “You know, I’ve had boyfriends I wish had died.” At the end of perhaps the longest day of my life, I couldn’t help but let my mouth drop open, the confusion caught in my throat preventing any response from escaping.

Now, years later, I can tell this story and laugh, realizing she just had no idea what to say and didn’t intend any harm or hurt at all. I think, really, she wanted to be able to stand in my shoes for one second so I could rest, find relief from a burden she may have known I’d carry forever.

The losses I’ve suffered very rarely provide me the right words when I need them. Loss is such a deeply personal journey — even those who share the same grief often don’t walk the exact same path. What I have learned, am still learning, perhaps, is that everyone finds their own way through the dark. What may spark a flickering light for me might only lead someone else deeper into the labyrinth.

Only during times when it’s brought to my attention, like my therapist giving voice to another loss being added to my balance sheet, do I give much thought to everyone I’ve truly had to let go in this life. When I do look, when I take the time to see what and who has been either forcibly or willingly taken from me, I’m learning to focus on the gain, the beauty of the risk, the thankfulness for the reward, however brief.



  1. […] I am a fairly serious person and have seen my share of experiences that require serious response, I grew up in a hilarious family. Sure, there were moments, as […]

  2. […] clean. I’m tainted. I’m tarnished. I’m branded by a past that serves up more anguish than delight. “I feel so unlucky,” I tell my mother. “Well, you have at least one […]

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