Thoughts on the lost
“They are lost, but also not lost but somewhere in the world. Most of them are small, though two are larger, one a coat and one a dog. Of the small things, one is a certain ring, one a certain button. They are lost from me and where I am, but they are also not gone. They are somewhere else, and they are there to someone else, it may be. But if not there to someone else, the ring is, still, not lost to itself, but there, only not where I am, and the button, too, there, still, only not where I am.”
Lost things. What is it about the life cycle of an item that being lost is some inherent rite of passage? Davis’ perusal about the lost item meaning something to someone else reassures. As lost as something could be, there’s a chance that they could find a loving home elsewhere. Just as the world keeps turning after a calamitous event, the lost item is always on the move. And then there are the forlorn; the lost collecting dust below a floorboard or lying lonely with the carcasses of the unwanted – an abandoned fridge, a broken toy.
Loss is an unavoidable part of life. Lost teeth, lost toys – they are all a part of growing up and discovery. But what about those lost things that hold meaning – a token of love, a memory of achievement, nostalgia? The comfort you can receive from these inanimate objects is inordinate and yet, their material worth is irrelevant. We cling to the memories they invoke with a never-ending reluctance to move forwards. When they are led astray and enter the vortex of the lost, it can muster a physical pain. These treasured items we have had for so long, have pinned our identity on, lost forever.
Expectation for a material object to hold the key to our happiness or luck is irrational but also the cornerstone of superstition and tradition. In sports an auspicious object can be thought to increase the chance of winning, the right shoes could be the make or break in an interview or a lucky pair of pants worn as a hopeful plea before a date. Superstition can be unnoticeable, slipping imperceptibly into your normal routine, until it’s so innate it’s almost unrecognisable. As a child, I played games of ‘don’t step on the cracks’ on the pavement as if my life depended on it. Superstitions like these can cause mass inconvenience if you allow them to rule your life. When accidentally falling onto a crack, I would be convinced my day was ruined. An unnecessary addition to a ten-year-old’s life struggles.
‘Most of us aren’t superstitious – but most of us are a ‘littlestitious.‘
The loss of a cherished thing can invoke unwanted feelings of detachment, loss and, sometimes, trauma. A picture that reminds you of a friendship once held dear, a bracelet to keep your sanity. Some feelings; a twisted, elusive mix of crushing weight, deserve to be choked down into the cavernous pit of repression. Never to see the light of day, smell the sweet scent of dew glistening on freshly-cut grass, or hear the soft, heady buzz of a motored engine.
But I find myself in a tangent; another soft, deceptive hole, and must revert my wandering attention back to lost things. (and also, repression is bad for you).
There is another, more affecting, form of loss.
Death. The loss of a person with meaning. A topic so easily brushed over, blamed on the fault of stereotypes – the British find it too awkward, the Germans too brazen, the French disrespectful. Continuously glossing over the only true universal fact – our lives will come to an end. At some point our small enveloping bubble will burst and whatever makes us who we are, the true fabric of ourselves, will be gone.
I recently lost a friend. Someone I’ve known since childhood. Someone who had a significant impact on my family, my ego and my music taste – always one to ground me when my teenage self would inflate and brag about nonsensical things. Although younger, he matured early and would approach all life’s troubles with an easy smile and a generous outlook. It is unbelievably unfair that life was snatched from him. The loss everyone who knew him must feel is profoundly sad; for him, who never reached his mid-twenties, for his family, who lost a brother, son and friend, and for ourselves, who will never again have the pleasure of his warmth, genuine honesty and unwavering faith in you. The world is a much duller place without him.
Freud compares the phenomenon of mourning after the loss of a loved one to depression or ‘melancholia’. He emphasises that grieving individuals are searching for an attachment that has been lost and that the mourning is necessary to find closure in the loss. Yet, there is no predetermined time allotted for loss, recovery, grief. For some it takes longer to accept the loss, for others they remain in the anger phase – furious that their loved one could be snatched so cruelly from this earth. If we were to believe in heaven, losing someone could be more comforting. They have found peace, and solace with other loved ones and it is only those on Earth who suffer. But for those who do not believe in heaven; there is no closure. That person is just gone and the injustice of it is heartbreaking. With this, it is a wonder people choose to form attachments. Repairing yourself takes time, there is no abstract plaster to protect the damage. Things that are taken are never given back.
Your two choices are to either repel all thoughts of love and friendship, in favour of loneliness. Anything not to damage your broken heart. Possibly an easier route, but it denies one the comfort of acceptance, the joy of belonging. Or, be totally open and risk loss and grief in favour of experiencing the extent emotion has to offer. I’m still tossing up between them.
To lose may be inevitable, but excess suffering doesn’t have to be. Speak about your grief, be open, talk to your close ones. Communication helps to ease worlds of pain and could be a catalyst to acceptance.
And regarding all those pesky missing items – that sock, that hair-tie – let’s all try and worry less. Reuse your old socks, refashion a piece of string.
And so ends my ode to loss. It may not have enlightened you but I hope it made you think.
Though loss is an inevitable element of life, it does not have to control you. Charities like Marie Curie and the Rainbow Children’s Trust offer support to people living with terminal illnesses and their families.
There are multitudes of charities out there to bring solace for those suffering from loss. They cover all aspects: familial loss, stillbirth and infant loss, suicidal loss. The Loss Foundation offers bereavement counselling to those who’ve lost someone from cancer.
Or if you just want a chat, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.