A year of loss — Arpita Sharma

We are in the moment in history where the sting of loneliness and loss are global. Children have lost mothers and fathers. Brothers have lost sisters. Friends have lost their nearest and dearest. And we, collectively, have shed entrenched parts of identity as workers, providers, doers, and builders — giving up our daily patterns of existence to now, if we are lucky, work from home.

The loss of identity and connection is hard to swallow. The truth of life — that we have never had control — stares us in the face, ready to punch us in the gut when we least expect it. The anxiety inside swells as we think about all that we have to lose. And yet, we continue, as much as we can, with courage, trying to string together a sense of normalcy. When we lose our battles on some days, we drown ourselves in Netflix or some lonely hobby — consoling ourselves with the idea that we can handle it.

But should we be handling it? Or is this a moment for us to shift to a more collective mentality?

A few years ago, I was in the Bay for a summer internship almost a year after my brother passed away when I started having panic attacks. Growing up in a close-knit family, where my sick, paralyzed brother was the center of our lives, I had never really considered what it would mean to lose someone you love permanently. When he passed, I was in the middle of midterm exams in my first year of graduate school — which I had just started a few months earlier. After sobbing uncontrollably for a few moments as my apartment neighbor tried to console me — I grabbed my phone and started driving to the hospital in the Inland Empire. It feels strange to be stuck in traffic for three hours — knowing that your brother has passed away. The feeling dawns on you that life doesn’t stop just because you are in pain. The world doesn’t revolve around you.

It’s also enlightening when you realize that this is it. This is the imperfect, shabby reality of life. It ends. You go on, acting as if everything is normal — pretending that a big part of you isn’t gone. That’s how it feels again right now.

The loss of the life we used to have feels insurmountable — and we are presented with a new reality — we cannot leave the house, we cannot spend time with people we love, and we cannot do the things we loved to do.

But as I slowly and painfully learned that summer in the Bay — we cannot go on pretending that everything will be okay forever. At some point, we have to let ourselves mourn the loss of the year that has passed and acknowledge the good and bad that has come with it.

Spring Washam, the meditation teacher I visited that summer at the East Bay Meditation Center allowed me to understand this. “As we courageously walk forward on our spiritual path, we all eventually experience what is called “a spiritual death”. It is a transformative process followed by a beautiful rebirth. Like a snake shedding its old skin, this is a profound and necessary part of our spiritual growth.”

As we go through this journey of spiritual growth and rebirth this year — let us show ourselves a lot of compassion. We could all really use some right now.

With love,

Arpita

Originally published at https://www.arpitasharma.net on December 7, 2020.