This evening I was at a get together at our local beach here in Nærsnes. While there, I got into a conversation with a guy who shared that he had just lost his wife a few months earlier. He was still grieving and in much pain. This reminded of the death of my father 15 years ago and my best friend about 20 years ago. I remember on both occasions receiving well-meant words of encouragement and advice from friends and acquaintances. Among others things I was told to think of this time of grief as a sickness. With time I would recover and the sickness would leave me and I would be well again.
Unfortunately, this is not how I experienced my grief. While the intensity of the pain did diminish with time the hole in my life and sense of loss has never gone away. I still miss my father and my friend. I still have bouts of sadness and depression and anger because they are no longer here. What’s helped me to continue to live a meaningful and positive life has been to change the metaphor. I have stopped looking at the emotional difficulties I face when dealing with the death of a loved one or other traumatic experience as a disease or sickness that with time and the right treatment will be healed. Rather, I think of such events as amputations; the brutal hacking off of a digit or a limb. It will never grow back. I will never be the same again. I will never be completely whole. That’s how I think of major loss in my life; not a disease from which I will be cured, but, rather as an amputation from which I never will be. The best I can do is to muddle through the initial, excruciating amputation. And when the worst throbbing begins to subside, I can begin to adapt to the loss and learn to live with my new limitations, finding new ways to adapt, to survive and perhaps even to thrive.
I’ll never get my father or my friend back, but thinking of my loss as an amputation rather than a sickness helps me better to cope.