Honoring the Gifts of Loss
By Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar, M.D.
Last year was a year of profound loss for me. The greatest and deepest loss I bore was the sudden and unexpected death of my mother. After her death, I was plunged into a well of grief which brought with it a need to process the complicated and multi-layered journey of her life and our relationship. Over the past many months, I have a deeper and more profound sense of what is truly important. Death is a sublime perspective shifter, illusion corrector, and authenticity maker. The grief spiral has a life of its own which shapes us with its sharp and tender edges in an attempt to restore wholeness, humanness, and vulnerability.
Ten years ago, a bitter divorce primed me with a loss so deep I felt I would never recover. But the process it catalyzed brought me closer to my true self in unexpected and powerful ways. My adaptations to abuse had left my soul with such deep fractures that I did not even realize how far apart I had grown from my true self. My commitment to processing my pain uncovered a treasure that I continue to draw from. For maybe the first time, I was able to feel how my true self exuded joy and powerful feelings underneath my adapted and conditioned self.
My mother’s death was a different kind of loss. It was more complex and more cellular. After her death, I felt a vacuum in my body. It is as if her energy that occupied my cellular matter when she was alive, left with her upon her death. I was left with this unfamiliar feeling inside of emptiness, yet the spacious quality in my body allowed me to fill it with a different energy — mine.
The process that began with the divorce over the past ten years and which connected me to true self was what I could now engage to fill this spaciousness. The paradox of finding these gifts hidden inside a profound loss began to heal me even more deeply. I also felt that as I continued my individuation process since my mother’s death, it would somehow help her move through her current passage to some ‘next level’, bringing her more peace and offering healing to the maternal lineage I was to carry forward.
Clearing out her closet, sorting through her 80 year collection of keepsakes and precious objects was a spiritual exercise that brought me face to face with the hidden gifts that these possessions carried. I could hear her voice and literally see her tucking these keepsakes away as milestones that marked stages of her life, her children’s lives, and the passage of time. I found a pin from TWA that was gifted to me by a flight attendant on a flight from India when I was two years old. I also found a pen she saved for 52 years from Disneyland, a memento that marked our coming to America. These keepsakes marked my life, as well, and led me through years of evocative memories about my own biography. They evoked feelings that lay dormant over the years in my cellular matter, in my heart, and soul. They evoked comfort about aspects of my relationship with her that were precious and connected amidst the cracks in her soul from the trauma of her childhood and her life. They marked the thresholds throughout my life and defined me even more deeply.
Alongside these precious memories were also painful ones, times of struggle, hardship, and rebellion due to her resistance against her feeling function and living a liberated life. She was bound by her trauma and cultural conditioning. It’s what she felt defined her and what she was unable to let go of and transform during her lifetime.
Sorting through a lifetime of memories, the accompanying grief and feelings of loss, I am left with many gifts of perspective. Going through this process in midlife is also a gift. The profound potential that midlife offers of transforming from an adapted to an authentic self is the hallmark of this stage of life lived consciously. At this juncture, nothing but truth, love, meaning, and health really matters. Death is one of the most powerful teachers to reveal this perspective.
As I process my feelings of loss and feel my way into even a deeper level of authenticity, I herald in the New Year with an even more authentic platform that I know is necessary for living a truthful life. One that, even more profoundly, causes me to honor every moment of my existence as I attempt to fill it with soulful inspiration, creative fire, authentic relationships, a commitment to my health and life’s work, and above all, to healthy love. I am certain that this is an individuation into ‘eldership’.
As we all mourn our respective losses, both personal and collective, the importance of honoring our feeling function with validation and acceptance is the greatest gift we can offer ourselves. This is our platform for learning how to practice self-care and self-love which I believe is the antidote for the hopelessness and angst that currently pervades our world. This may actually be the most powerful medicine for our time.
Let us make this vow to ourselves as we begin the New Year.
Let us begin to bring consciousness to the practice of self-care and self-love.
I know we will all be the better for it.
It may even be the medicine needed to heal our world.