I heard this amazing lady on the radio. The interviewer was impressed by her resilience. She had survived the flood from Katrina, but lost all her books and notes and everything creative. She’d lost her dog, her husband, her friend, her mom…And instead of rolling up into a ball in the corner, she became more active and more creative.
What the interview focused on was loss and how people deal with it. If you lose a pet, buy another one. If you lose someone you love, meet someone new. If you lose a child, have another one, or adopt or foster… It was filling in a gaping hole with a replacement. That might work, for a while, but the image this author gave was very deep.
Imagine you live in a house near the railroad tracks. You have a display of china or crystal and every time the train rumbles by, it shakes the shelf and some of the objects break. You replace them as they break, but you’re not stupid. You replace them with cheaper objects. In the end, you have a shelf full of cheap objects that you have no emotional ties to. Being a geek, the 1st thing I thought of was a way to display these items so that they wouldn’t fall down and break. Then I thought of replacing the breakables with stuffed animals or books or something. I lived next to the tracks and the trains came 5-6 times a day, and not only would they rumble by, they’d stop and you’d hear each car collide and then jerk into motion when the train started up again. It was nearly continuous noise. After a few weeks though, I didn’t notice the noise. When we moved near the AFB, people could tell we were new because we looked up when the planes took off and landed. Natives don’t notice.
When someone dies or leaves and you go through all the processes like the psychologists say you should, in the end, you do not replace the person you lost, you replace your means of connection. Let me explain. When they are with you, you interact by calling, texting, writing, talking, whatever. It’s the personal, physical relationship you enjoy. You miss them physically at first because it was the way you connected. After they’ve been gone a while, your relationship changes. You remember what they said, how they looked, the tic when they lied, the horrible jokes, the hugs, the tears, the laughter. Before you could only interact by setting a physical parameter. You got a busy signal; they didn’t get to the concert; someone got sick. You could not connect every time you wanted to. Now you can. You can bring up their faces in a blink. You can anticipate the conversation on any subject. You can recall that story they told, look at the old pictures and remember the venue where they were taken. You are not constrained by time or presence. You can be closer to the person who’s gone (whether by death or distance) at the time and place of your choosing, than when they were physically available. It takes practice to reach that point. My dad and mom and brother and his wife have died. But now they are incorporated into my thinking and feeling processes so they are closer to me now than they were. I do not need to replace them with someone new. The relationship has evolved to something better.