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Can Loss Make Us Larger?

Can loss make us larger? This was a surprising question that came up in a recent workshop I led on the “Poetry of Loss and Healing.” The first and most obvious answer to this question is… No! How can losing someone we love, or a career, a cause, or any precious thing for that matter, not disturb, distress and diminish our lives? The honest answer is, a loss does all these difficult and fierce things and more.

And yet, the more full and complex answer is our hearts were made (and seemingly destined) to be broken again and again. Therefore, out on the frontier range of our lives where clichés and platitudes quickly melt in the face of significant loss, we suffer real and profound pain.

But mysteriously, somewhere inside our pain, isn’t it also possible that we can begin to experience a deeper level of appreciation and gratitude for all gifts, the ones, of course, we have lost, plus all those that remain in our lives? The gifts of others and our own, that we so often take for granted.

In fact, when it comes to our own gifts, I often tell workshop participants that the only proper thing to do with our own personal gifts is to pass them on. And guess what? When we are passing our gifts along to others, or feeling deep gratitude for the gifts we receive from others, our hearts are already on a path of healing. And yes, I realize that much of what I’m speaking about here is paradoxical. We would all do everything we could to avoid the kind of loss I am speaking about here! And yet…

Here is a piece (below) that came to me that seems to dance into this territory just a little. The last three lines were a surprise to me. Until this poem, I did not know this. Of course, finding (or writing) the language we most need is essentially the same thing.

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