On a walk today, I saw a truck labeled “Large Loss Specialists.” If your home gets destroyed or flooded or burned, this company will help you get it rebuilt, cleaned up, and looking right again.
Their slogan, similar to others in that field, is this: “Like it never even happened.”
Like most people who’ve survived into their 40s, I’ve experienced loss. I’ve had loved ones die. I’ve been dumped. I’ve dismantled loving relationships that were no longer healthy.
The “large” part of “large loss” is relative. I have not experienced the death of a child, for example. Or the destruction of my home.
My losses have been peanut-sized compared to those of many other people. But to me, those losses were real and painful. They set me back. They hurt.
The truck’s slogan made me think twice about loss. If we do go through a large loss, isn’t our objective to learn from it, rather than pretend it didn’t occur?
In the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, people can use a service that erases their memories of a particular person. One of the film’s messages is that deleting pain is impossible without erasing ourselves. Our hurtful memories are intertwined with our joyful ones, and cannot be disentangled.
To lose our pain is to lose our humanity, to stay shallow rather than diving deep.
I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t clean up and repair our damaged homes, or move on from broken relationships. Dwelling in the past is just as unhealthy as pretending it never happened.
But large loss is a great teacher. We learn what’s essential. We learn who our friends are. We learn how tough we are.
Afterwards, if all goes well, we are NOT the same as before. We are no longer unblemished and smooth.
We proudly bear the scars of loss, and we can hold our breath a little longer when we go under again.