When 31-year old K became pregnant she decided to make the most of modern technology and find out the sex of their baby in advance. Deep down, she wanted a boy. So did her partner. They both would have loved a girl, but really, they wanted a boy. When the nurse, rolling the jellied scanner over her abdomen, turned to her smiled and announced “Congratulations, it’s a boy” she felt a wave of joy overcome her. And then, driving home, she felt a wave of grief, for the little girl she wouldn’t be giving birth to.
K was shocked at her grief. She felt ashamed that she should feel suddenly feel inexplicably sad for the baby girl she was not carrying on hearing such happy news. But in therapy she explored why this was, and why this was so natural. And, apparently, incredibly common.
For loss is a big part of life. With every turn we take and choice we make we experience a loss. However big or small, it’s part of life. When we choose a new job, we turn down others, when we commit to a monogamous relationship, we sacrifice others. When we gain a baby boy, we lose the possibility of a baby girl.
“Choosing a path meant having to miss out on others. She had a whole life to live, and she was always thinking that, in the future, she might regret the choices she made now. “I’m afraid of committing myself,” she thought to herself. She wanted to follow all possible paths and so ended up following none.”― Paulo Coelho
So often we deny or feel shamed by our sadness at the losses in our life. We bury them or brush them off. But acknowledging that loss allows us to grieve them and move on to enjoy what we do have or choice we have made.
It’s these every day losses, acknowledged and felt, that build us into more resilient human beings. They strengthen us regularly so that we can bear the big losses, when they inevitably come. For it’s an accepted psychological maxim that one loss brings up a previous loss. If we can shed some of the weight of each loss as we go, we help stop them building up, and so they may become a little less, rather than more, overwhelming each time.
In recognising our regular life choices as containing an element of loss, we recognise our personal autonomy. It helps us reinforce to ourselves that we are adults with the power of choice. To do what we want to do and to respond how we want to respond. Recognising that what “happens” to us in life has a lot to do with, well, us and our choices helps us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and maintaining a “victim” position. Or to stop blaming others for our situation. We can recognise our part in it and take responsibility for that – and next time do things differently if we want.
For we always have something, even if it’s just the breath we take, and we nearly always have a choice – even it’s just the mindset to take in response to a situation totally out of our control. When we grieve for the baby girl we don’t have, we can rejoice in the baby boy we do.
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