Saturday, January 18, 2014

Naming My Losses As a Means of Exploring the Terrain of Grief

Saturday, January 18, 2014

I found myself feeling a bit weary of winter when I went outside this morning.  The temperature wasn't intolerable at all when I went out; it was in the upper teens.  Considering that we are currently traversing that time which is typically the coldest time of year according to climatology it could be much colder.  Another light snowfall overnight covered up the darkest grays of old snow and renewed the freshness of the landscape.  I suppose I am simply anxious for the new season of life to begin.  I want to experience Spring...and soon.  And I know it will be here one day.

As for now I am focusing on the psychic work most suited to the season of Winter.  I am looking more deeply into my grief.  What follows now is a continuation of my writing from yesterday.  In this pamphlet entitled "Loss of Dreams: A Special Kind of Grief" Ted Bowman explores the experience of losing both the tangible and intangible.  He references two writers, Kenneth Mitchell and Herbert Anderson, and describes the categories of loss they articulated.  They are as follows:

1) Material loss are the losses associated with physical objects or surroundings

2) Relationship losses are those involving ending of opportunities to relate oneself to, talk with, share experiences with, make love to, touch, settle issues with, fight with, and otherwise be in the emotional and/or physical presence of a particular human being

3) Functional losses are those in which we lose some parts of the muscular or neurological functions of the body

4) Role losses refer to the loss of a specific role or one's accustomed place in a social network

5) Systemic losses is a category not often used.  They use it to describe losses when changes in systems affect us.  An example is the organizational change that results in layoffs, restructuring, or down-sizing

6) Intrapsychic losses are likened to the experience of losing an emotionally important image of oneself, losing the possibilities of "what might have been", abandonment of plans for a particular future and the dying of a dream.

As I contemplate this system of categories I realize I have experienced several of these types of loss in the last few years.  Below is my first attempt to list out my losses in reference to the listing above.

1) I have moved frequently in the last few years in search of a suitable job market and place to call home.  The moribund economy combined with the socioeconomic and cultural realities of several places I attempted to create a life for myself (Portland, OR and Washington, DC) led me to move on and attempt to find a place for myself in other places.  And yet I think part of what I was dealing with relates to #5.  I will address that more shortly.

2) When I saw my mother last May it was both an enjoyable and painful experience.  Seeing her now affected by a degree of dementia caused me to realize that certain wishful thinking and hoping I had previously entertained was something I could no longer do.  My birthmother was never the person I had so often hoped she would have been for me. (And neither was my father)  Being in the physical presence of my mother will never again be the same as it once was before.  That time is gone now...and it isn't possible for me to reverse the progression of time.

3) Simultaneous to these losses I was also experiencing some impairment in my physical health.  I was thus experiencing some functional loss.  Thankfully I have been able to restore my health due to my rigorous commitment to physical and psychotherapy.  Overall my own health is now better than it has ever been. And yet the issue of functional loss is one to remain mindful of.  Now that I have restored my health such that I can enjoy a quality of life I never previously could my intention is to maintain and continue to further improve my physical fitness.

4) Role losses can go hand in hand with material losses.  Every time I relocated I had to create a social network once again.  This takes time and energy.  As I plot out my future I am mindful of the need to be strategic in my decision making such that I can minimize the risk of any excessive hardship that could prove traumatic to my well being.

5) I believe there is a profound transformation occurring not just in the United States but also throughout the world.  We are seeing the limits of old ways of thinking in regards to creating and operating our economies and managing our natural resources.  Endless capitalism is simply not going to work.  The Earth has finite boundaries and we as a species have now developed into a force that can now literally reshape the world.

Moving away from a macro-level perspective towards a more local one I sense that the economy here in the United States will also never be the same again.  Globalization, technological development, the offshoring of jobs and other factors are reshaping our economy and many others.  There are many losers in the outcomes...and I believe the American people are, on a whole, among these loser classes.  A systemic unwillingness to collaborate and compromise within our governance structure (at the federal, state and local levels) is allowing our infrastructure and human capital to suffer.  This is not a way to run a nation!

6) The losses I have already enunciated have impacted my own personal development and sense of self in the world.  With the world around me changing so quickly and in so many ways I realize I simply cannot be the person I once was.  Some of the changes I have gone through are simply to be expected as I have grown more mature (you can read older here as a synonym).  My unexpected diagnosis of PTSD last summer led me to abandon my former career trajectory.  I instead found myself needing time to contemplate the resources available to me, my desires and my greatest hopes.  I see that I will soon be emerging from this period of review, renewal and gestation.  A new Me is emergent now...and the new Me will be one more suited to the world around me as well as the needs and priorities I have.

Despite being quite short in length the pamphlet I have referenced provided me ample fodder to begin plumbing my grief more deeply.  To recognize and work through my grief I first had to take the time to name the losses that I am dealing with.  In writing about them today I am taking yet another step on my road to full recovery and wellness.

I am at the downtown YMCA now.  I will be sitting in the sauna for a period of time as one means of hopefully ridding myself of a low grade headache that has been tickling my awareness since this morning.  I woke up yet again with some neck pain.  I hope that a nice afternoon stay at the gym will help me work out some of my pain.

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I invite you to accompany me as I document my own journey of healing. My blog is designed to offer inspiration and solace to others. If you find it of value I welcome you to share it with others. Aloha!