When life is just a series of losses

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On Monday nights, I go to this thing called “Grace Groups.” As you might imagine from the first word of that concept, it’s put on by a church. I’ve been going to church more consistently since maybe December 2017, probably for the longest stretch of my life to date. I’m not going to fully deep dive you here but would I say I’m very religious? No, didn’t grow up that way. Would I say I’m spiritual and think about stuff? Yes. Would I say I believe every word of the Bible to the letter? No. (And I don’t think that’s the point.)

Last night at Grace Groups, we were supposed to bring items of personal significance to us. Most of the people are married so there were a lot of wedding albums/photos/whatnot. I am not married (was once), and I’ve also moved a ton since about 2010, so I don’t have a ton of sheerly physical possessions to bring to an event like this.

I do wear a necklace most of the time with a silver squid/octopus on it. I do this for my friend who passed away in late September 2017. At Grace Groups, we all had to talk about the items we brought. I went last because I wasn’t fully emotionally ready to do all that, and I only spoke a little bit, but I still got a little bit choked up. So I decided this morning that I wanted to write a little bit about loss.

One of my friends is going through a divorce right now and he says “It feels like everything goes wrong in order, or it’s just loss after loss after loss.” It does feel that way, for sure. Think anyone who’s been down those roads would tell you that. But it’s doable. Let me try and walk through this.

For context: What are the specific losses I am talking about?

If you want to take it to the way back, I moved to Texas for this job and got laid off from it in November 2015. That job ultimately sucked, and being fired was probably the best thing that could have happened to me, but it’s still an example of loss.

I think I officially got divorced in mid-2017, but the end of that relationship was late February/early March 2017. So let’s say maybe 15–16 months after the job loss.

The friend I referenced above died in late September 2017, so maybe six months after getting divorced.

If you want some micro examples, I was on this $3,500/month client in late 2016, and lost that client — that’s a pretty good monthly for a peon like myself — about one week after I got divorced.

So it was a lot of loss in succession, for sure.

OK. So what does one do?

I probably did one of the most cliched things a person can do and joined this gym, although ultimately that was helpful. And if we’re being honest, I probably need to get back towards that more now. 2019 goals!

The gym was all about community, which I think helps in these situations.

The benefit of going through a lot of loss situations is that, ideally, it should make you think about life differently. This should start with self-awareness (i.e. your role in shit, such as a divorce, losing a client, how you could have done better at a job) and extends out.

My thinking was mainly in these buckets over this time frame:

Those are just some articles. Some are self-indulgent, admittedly. Do with them what you wish.

Do you become a different person through loss?

Absolutely. How could you not?

Admittedly, IMHO, the thing we don’t discuss about divorce is that you divorce the friends of your ex, too. That’s probably the hardest part. The socio-emotive aspect of about age 25 to 35 is that, relative to being in the same location(s), you “come up” with one group of people. That’s your ride or die. And then, whoosh, those people ain’t there and won’t answer a text from you. It’s incredibly hard. By the time you get divorced, your relationship sucked anyway. So it’s paradoxically easier to leave that then to leave the friends. Weird, I know.

I mostly write about work stuff on here, and this is where that tie would exist. We spend a ton of time at work thinking about the new features of our products and services. What about the new features of our people? What about things in life they’ve lost (parents, spouses, friends) or gained (children, homes, foster children, etc.)? Why don’t we think about those things?

So what about losing a friend?

I cry pretty openly, especially for a dude. I pretty much cry at least once a week, sometimes more. So this isn’t new territory for me.

I’d say this: I wasn’t even super day-to-day close with Squid (the friend I lost) since we graduated from college. That was 2003. He passed away in 2017. That’s a 14-year span and I think we hung out in-real-life maybe six times during then. We would sometimes go months without talking. We were always close, but I mean, I see people day-to-day (like some of my ex-wife’s friends) much more.

The thing that probably cracked me up the most crying-wise around that whole death was … a girl I dated when I was 20/21 says to me, “He’s the only person who ever saw you the way you should see yourself.” I honestly can’t type that line anymore without crying as I do so.

I have a lot of personal baggage and bullshit. My mom was an alcoholic in my formative years. My dad and I are close in some ways, and not in others. At my worst, it feels like everyone ever close to me just leaves me on the emotional side of the road to figure my own shit out. I struggle with people all the time. I get angry. I get confused. It’s hard. I don’t know what I am doing. In all honesty, does anyone?

So that was what hit me about my friend’s death. What if he was the one who understood me as I should understand myself? And now he wasn’t a mortal being anymore? What now?

That’s why I got a $24 silver necklace on Amazon. It’s small but it’s something. And I mean, small but mighty still gives you strength. And that’s the ultimate lesson here.

Take strength from loss

I’m a big believer in the idea that vulnerability should be considered a strength. It almost never is, but it makes sense to me. Especially as a guy, it’s so easy to be a bully in a suit. Why not open your heart to people and listen? Wouldn’t that be logical as a way to differentiate as a dude? Maybe I’m naive.

But you can take strength from loss because you got through it. Life can kick you in the face/mouth or push you in the mud/dirt and you know what? You keep going. That’s incredibly powerful because not everyone has that resilience and ability.

And look, you’re never going to be perfect — to bring this back to Grace Groups, seems like that idea was reserved for one man — and you’re never going to get it all right. The Second Act of Life is where everything happens, but it’s also among the messiest zones of time.

But you are strong. And you can do this. Loss is temporary. You are permanent (well, to a point). Pull it up and go get it. If you ever need to talk, just respond to this post or contact me via this site. I am here.

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