Clare Saumell VanderWeele

word wrangler.

The Things I’ve Lost

When’s the last time you felt the startling realization that you left your phone/wallet/car keys in the store/restaurant/taxi?

That familiar stab of adrenaline, the quickening heartbeat, and sinking stomach? You don’t think rationally in those moments. You’re capable only of disbelief, fear, and anger.

If you’re a parent and you’ve ever lost sight of your small child at the park or in the store, you know that same feeling – or perhaps you can remember being that small child and you turned the corner only to find yourself entirely lost. Your lungs get tight, your stomach contracts, and it’s pure panic.

It’s the same when you first hear news of a death of someone you know, someone you’ve loved.

The panic amplifies through every corner of your life. You have to remind yourself on a frequent basis just to breathe. The world you thought you knew shatters around you.

Death is more than the loss of a person. It’s the loss of the glue between family members, of stability, of any semblance of normalcy.

It’s a loss of optimism, of misplaced faith is the naive concept that “everything always works out.” It’s a loss of the blindfold that shielded you from the dark, from the suffering and grief in this world.

It’s panic that turns into numbness, confusion, brokenness.

Then something curious happens. An awakening, of sorts. It’s a loss of self-centeredness, of ego. Instead, it is a move towards compassion, towards understanding.

It’s a pinprick of light that says there’s something greater here.

It’s a stretching of the mind, of the heart to recognize that maybe, just maybe, there’s a God after all.

This time, when you cry out, you hear yourself whispering a name you never believed in till now.

And when you’ve lost all hope, strength, and faith in yourself, in your ability to cope, in your capacity to move forward, there’s a soft landing. Even when everything’s gone dark, even at rock bottom, you’re being held.

And when you’ve lost the confidence in a self-sustained, empirical world, there’s water to heal you and Words to lead you.

The list of the things I’ve lost is long, and it’s painful to look back on. Every item on that list has triggered that jolt of adrenaline, that thunderbolt of panic.

But what I’ve found in losing those precious things is life. It’s faith and hope and love. A younger me – a me who hadn’t lost much yet – might have scoffed at that statement. And I accept that. Enough shots of adrenaline will change the way your heart beats.

It takes an extraordinary amount of courage to say I wouldn’t change anything, even if that means never getting back the things I’ve lost – not because I wouldn’t want to, but because I know I’m not the one in control here. It takes a whole lot of trust to finally stop asking, “what if?”

Trusting doesn’t feel like I thought it would. Peace looks a whole lot different than I imagined.

But here I am.

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1 Comment

  1. Roseann Erikson

    April 14, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Oh Clare, this is beautiful and full of truth!!! Brilliantly written! Thank you for sharing .

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