Life is loss. I realized that when I was a graduate student studying adult education. As I thought about how adults learn and understand the world, I could not separate learning from life – we are learning from our life experiences all the time. As I reflected further, I realized that my life experiences included a lot of loss – loss of my dad (through separation then suicide), loss of trust & safety, loss of jobs. Throughout my life, I had learned how to acquire things (career, home, partner), but not how to lose them. At the very least, I did not learn how to work through the grief that accompanied each and every loss.
The biggest loss for me came in 2002. I lost my son at 20-weeks’ pregnant and I could not wrap my mind around it. How could this be? We passed the magic 12-week mark, he was active and healthy on the ultrasound just the week before. I was in shock for days after I delivered him. That was January. A month later, the specialist assured us it was safe to try again. So we did. What happened with our son was very unlikely to happen again. Then, as if caught in a nightmare, at 20 weeks’ pregnant, I lost my daughter. I delivered her in September heavy with a sadness I had never experienced before.
Even though I went on to have another baby the following year, I was torn between my sadness for the children I lost and my joy for the child I had. Our culture does not leave a lot of room for this contradiction. But here I was feeling both sadness and joy – my heart was broken, my heart was full. What I knew for sure: I was not alone. Many other people, every single day, are experiencing loss and the multitude of emotions that can come with that (e.g. anger, sadness, numbness, anxiety, depression, relief). I knew that I was being called to work with people, just like me, who had experienced trauma and loss and were left to try and manage day-to-day with a broken heart.
My training as a counselling therapist and my professional development in grief recovery and trauma have been instrumental in helping me heal my heart. It’s work. It’s taking one step at a time. But I know how to take those steps now and I want to share that knowledge with others.