On Loss

The art of losing isn’t hard to master; 
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

They say you learn to be better at something, the more you do it. It becomes ingrained; it’s like breathing, or putting one foot in front of the other, or riding the proverbial bike. You learn something, you become quite good at that thing. You’re an old hand.

I don’t know if you ever learn to be good at losing things you love. You learn to be quieter about it, maybe; to not cry and wail in public, to keep the tears inside, to stiff-upper-lip the whole thing. It’s not seemly, you see. Not for adults. Children can cry over such things. Adults need to carry on. It is what we do. Or, at least, what we’re supposed to do.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I think back on things I’ve lost over the years: a beloved necklace, left behind in a move; a thirteenth-birthday gift, stolen from me on a bus; a lighter, given to me by a loved one, plucked from my pocket without my knowledge. And things less tangible, more esoteric: my heart, my trust, and at times, my mind, over one or the other or both.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

You can move past the loss of things. Things are…things. There will always be more things. You can replace what you’ve lost; if not with the exact thing, then something similar. Our lives are too weighted down with things, anyway. It’s amazing what you can live without, if you must; we can live on a shoestring, if it comes down to it.

It’s the people you lose that haunt you. It’s the people you’ve lost that fly behind your eyelids when you’re trying to sleep; the people you’ve lost, either to something like death, or to something less final, but somehow more painful. People lost to time, to stupidity, to misunderstandings piling up onto one another to make a wall you can never climb, an insurmountable obstacle separating you from where you want to be; people lost to fate, perhaps, if that’s your thing, events set into place long before you even arrived, blinking blindly, on the scene. The things unsaid follow you like lost children, tugging at your hem; the things you might have done to stop this endless numbing empty loss echo in your mind like catcalls down a long hallway.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

The boy with the ice-blue eyes and the musician’s hands who disappeared when my back was turned, when I was distracted with other things. The best friend who, behind my back, decided to do everything she could to ruin my life, all while smiling to my face. The poet who, one day, disappeared without a word. The friend who knew me better than anyone and chose a road I couldn’t travel with him, no matter how badly it ripped me in two to watch him go.

Maybe it’s not that you learn how to do something, if you’ve done it over and over, but you learn how best to handle it. You learn not to give all of yourself to someone, because if you put everything you’ve got into someone, and they leave, you’re the one who’s lost. You haven’t just lost them, you’ve lost all you’ve put into them. Every bit of it. And you are empty inside, because you’ve lost that part of yourself; that part of yourself you were with them, the things you did together, knew together; the things you shared with them. You learn to wall yourself over, to protect the parts of yourself you have left. You learn to hold parts of yourself back. And then when you enter into new relationships, you’re afraid to let your real self show ever again, because the last time you did, look what happened. You lost someone. You got lost. There is nothing left. That nothingness, it is vast. And you take it with you wherever you go.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

And this loss, you are alone in it. There is only so long you are allowed to wallow. There is only so long you are allowed to permissably be sad about losing someone you loved. You are expected to move on.

But what if you can’t? What if days, weeks, months pass, and it’s in everything you do? If you’re reminded of what you’ve lost by something different and new every day, stupid things, words and memories and songs, and you’re blindsided, you sometimes find yourself fighting back tears and you’re so fucking angry at yourself for not following the same timeline of loss that everyone else in the whole damn world seems to be able to follow? What if it’s gotten to the point you can’t even talk to anyone about it anymore, because you know, you just know, you’ve become that person that no one wants to talk to anymore, because you’re insufferable about the whole thing? What then?

It’s not like you could get it back, what you were with that person, even if they were to come back. Things are too irreparably broken. You’re mourning what you were, what you had, what you lost. You know you can’t get it back. So why the hell can’t you move on from it?

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster. 

Eventually, though, you wall everything off. There are parts of you that you’ll never share; those belong to those people you’ve lost, and you’ll never get them back. They’ve taken them with them. You’ve lost them forever, like your necklace, your lighter, that thirteenth birthday present. You become cold and silent. You become so afraid of losing you are afraid to try ever again. You might have learned to lose, but mostly what you learn is to stop trying. Because no matter how many times you do it, losing doesn’t get easier. It’s not riding a bike. It’s not breathing. It’s death. It’s the death of the person you were. And once all those parts of you are dead, what’s left?

No, it’s not hard to master. Anything done over and over again becomes ingrained.

It’s just that what no one tells you is that it’s you that gets lost.

(Poem: “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop)

I’m leaving comments open on this post, but won’t be replying to them. I don’t know that I could bring myself to do so. This one’s a little too raw for me, folks. So, please know that I will read every one of your comments, and appreciate them wholeheartedly, and that my silence means nothing deeper than me having nothing else left in me to say about this. Thank you.

About lucysfootball

I'm not the girl with the most cake. Someday. SOMEDAY. View all posts by lucysfootball

30 responses to “On Loss

  • the diarist

    Right now I want to thank you for this. In a little while I’ll come back and say more.

    Right now all I can say is thank you.


  • Rosie

    Reblogged this on Make Me a Sammich and commented:
    This post seems to have been written especially for me, though I know that’s because it came from a place inside the author that we all share. As she once said to me, “I’ve lived some of this. You were there beside me when I was going through it; I was there beside you when you were. We just didn’t know it at the time. The important part is, we know it now.” Thanks, Amy, for putting this out there. My tears are for all of us.


  • sj

    I’ve already said most of what I could say to you on this subject. Love you and your face. I’m glad we both took a chance on friendship, even though we’d been burned badly before.


  • A Pope

    You’re right. You’rerightyou’rerightyou’reright. And even though I have tears streaming down my face and I feel like the breath has been punched out of me for what I’m reading into this as regards myself I thank you for putting so well how this feels. Specific to each of us but universal enough to apply to all.


  • Arinn Dembo

    I know this feeling, darlin’, and I’ve been through a loss myself recently. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything in life, and…this is the wrong way.

    When a part of you is cut away, you are NOT obligated to burn the stump to keep any new growth from occurring. But that’s what you do, when you indulge in these obsessive ruminating circles, carving away at any sense of joy and wellbeing in your present, which should derive from the good parts of your past experiences.

    What you’re doing here is applying acid to a limb that has been cut, and is bleeding sap–because you cannot bear the idea that thirty new shoots of lush vegetation are going to spring from this cut, and launch themselves out over the landscape, twining around new people, new experiences, new ideas and loves.

    When part of you is cut away, you are not obligated to keep cutting. The fact that your future hopes have gone into the trash does not mean that your past joy has to go with it. Put down the knife; you’re not achieving anything positive by whittling away everything that was good about the past. The fact that you do not have a future with someone does not mean that you didn’t have a past with them that was good, fun, and positive. The fact that the deal is off, the vows are broken, does not retroactively erase the joy or pleasure you had within the relationship in earlier days.

    If someone once loved you, the fact that they stopped one day does not mean that coordinates further back on the timeline have been changed. If you honestly feel that you did something to damage or destroy the relationship you valued, then sure–be willing to face that and address the problems within yourself that might drive away or disappoint someone you care about in the future. Get some Cognitive Behavior Therapy, for example, to help you cope more productively with negative thoughts, regrets, losses and disappointments. :P

    But if the relationship ended mostly because the other person changed, or decided that they had greater priorities than being with you…the key is to forgive yourself for “failure”, and stop trying to make failure the end of the world. Because it clearly isn’t.

    The changes other people go through are not your fault. The priorities they set are not under your control. And you don’t have to lash and burn yourself for being an imperfect being who must live and love in an imperfect world.


    • Rosie

      There is no “wrong way” to grieve. We all do it in our own way and in our own time. Grief, in my experience, isn’t a linear thing. Some days, some weeks or even months, you feel like you’re past the worst of it. Then something falls out of your purse and hits you in the gut and it’s like you’re back at square one. Except you’re not, because you’ve been here before and you know the way out this time. But that doesn’t make it any less painful–or any less worth writing about–when it happens.


      • sj

        Yup, this. Unless someone is harming themselves or other, it’s none of my damn business how anyone chooses to grieve. I’m certainly not about to tell them “lulz, ur doin it wrong.”


  • Andreas Heinakroon

    I think we all believe that everyone else is much better at handling grief and loss than ourselves, that everyone else is a proper adult. But the truth is that we all have that sad and abandoned child deep inside us, pocking for attention. We’ve just learned how to hide it.

    (And for the record: you’re always welcome to talk about this stuff. No one’s finding you insufferable. Not even a little bit.)


  • meANXIETYme

    Thank you for your bravery in sharing something so intensely personal in order to help others.


  • Tommie Whitaker

    Grief is a hard space to fill, a bucket without much of a bottom, the well of life pours out as easily as it is filled. Hugs, hope you mend your bucket.


  • Julie Gillis

    Thank you.


  • Rosvita Rauch

    Oh, you mean the kind of loss where you’re surprised to find you still have all your limbs. The kind that changes all your wiring so that it always loops back to the beginning. The kind that very nearly takes you down in the middle of the grocery store. Yes. Know that. Then there comes the moment when you discover that the friends you are best with are “survivors,” too. Kind of like how disaster survivors mysteriously find each other because they share knowledge that sets them apart. And that being tempered by that particular fire will leave just enough of the original material to still recognize yourself, and carry on.


  • franhunne4u

    When feeling in pain, just do not do the most stupid thing possible, do not try to drown your sorrows – those things can swim!


  • mfennvt

    Just want to say I’m glad we’ve met. Thank you for letting us all into your life. <3


  • Rachel Holmen

    Don’t let anybody tell you how you should feel, or even dumber, how you DO feel. Some will do it in the guise of “cheering you up”. Hah.


  • becomingcliche

    I’ve left this window up on my computer all day in the hopes I could come up with something to say. And I can’t, except I’m sorry.


  • Samantha

    I’m not even sure what to say, to reply. This resonates with me, immensely. Most of us wall ourselves off, sometimes without even realizing it, even to the people we love most, trying to protect ourselves from harm. It’s only practical, I suppose, none of us want any more hurt in our lives. I’d love to be able to push past my walls, but I’m really not there yet.

    This is beautiful, Amy.


  • Mariette

    I loved this; every inch of it.

    I feel this way too, that a piece of me is gone with the loss of them; at least the piece of who I was with them is lost. Your connections with people ebbs & flows depending on who you are together (both with friends & lovers) and when you lose them, it takes that with them. You never want to replace them and for most you never could, so you let that piece of you go with them.

    Thank you so much for sharing.


  • The Waiting

    This was wonderful. You have really made me think about loss in a way I haven’t before. *Hugs.*


  • greengeekgirl

    It’s always so hard to know what to say, and maybe I default back to “I love you” too much, but it means so much more than I love you–

    it means, I think you’re amazing and
    I want to wrap you up in a hug and take away all of the hurt that you can’t bear and suffer it for you and
    I wish I could protect you from people who will take your love and scamper off with it, too blinded by their own needs and wants to remember that they carry your heart
    even though I know there’s no protection from that as long as human nature exists,
    and even though I know that being full of love is worth the risk to one’s heart if it doesn’t work out.


  • Bridget McKenna

    A lovely and heartfelt expression of what so many of us have felt. Grieve imperfectly; that’s the way I do it. You’re awesome.


  • Heather

    All of this. Been there, done that…you put into words the way every one of us has felt at one time or another. Thank you for sharing this with us. I’m sending you all the love and then some.


  • kharazy

    Reblogged this on kharazy and commented:
    A feeling I’ve always echoed but never voiced. So, I will reblog and quote. “You learn not to give all of yourself to someone, because if you put everything you’ve got into someone, and they leave, you’re the one who’s lost… you are now empty inside, because you’ve lost that part of yourself; that part of yourself you were with them, the things you did together, knew together; the things you shared with them.”


  • Bronwyn

    i hope you build new bits to fill in the holes… they’re not replacements, per se, but changes to the landscape.


  • Charleen

    No one should have to feel this way. I’m sorry.


  • Kris

    Oh, so wonderfully well-written. And it’s clear it’s from your heart. (I wish I could put my emotions and thoughts into words this amazing.) I thank you for sharing your heart and your pain with us. And I’m sorry for the pain. I hope that you are finding new hope and new love in unexpected places, and that knowing these people will help you deal with the pain of loss. Know this – you are not alone in your pain. Or in your love. We are all together on this blue orb we call home. And it’s the shared journey that is the best journey.

    You are amazing. Thank you for being YOU and being honest enough to share and bare yourself. You are brave. Braver than you think.

    (and I know you wrote this a while ago, but I somehow didn’t see this post until today. Weird.)


  • runningonsober

    I know this post has been out for several months, but it’s new to me.
    I just wanted to say this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read. I hope time has made certain things more bearable for you. Notice I didn’t say “easier,” because certain things never do get easier. But they get different. And we get different.

    “It’s death. It’s the death of the person you were. And once all those parts of you are dead, what’s left?”

    The person that you’ve become, that’s regenerated, that’s risen from the ashes, that’s evolved, that’s a hell of a lot stronger. THAT person is left.

    I wrote about losing my mom last month, “My Grace is Gone.” I won’t link to it, but it was FP’d so should be on my “popular” posts sidebar thingie, IF you’d like to read. I know you probably have a ton of friends and people you can talk to, but if you ever need another… you’re more than welcome to e-mail me. I know more about loss than I’d ever care to.

    I hope today finds you smiling, or at least not frowning,


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