Thursday, January 3, 2013

Life is Precious

The Silver Lining of Loss

What Does Tragedy Offer Us?

In Loving Memory of My Friend, Kyla 
(September 18, 1993-December 30, 2012)

Before I begin I would like to warn you that this entry may seem a bit confusing, nonsensical, or disorganized at times. It has taken me two days to write it because I have been and still am in a very distraught state. But I wanted to write it because I felt it was very important- both as a therepeutic practice for myself and as a means of communicating the message with you. I ask that you please bear with me while reading. Thank you.

Tragedy often strikes unexpectedly and inexplicably over the course of our lives. I have talked about my own personal struggles in a number of my entries and discussed at length my experiences with loss in my post, Haunting Memories.
Tragedy and mourning-
Unfortunately tragedy has entered my life once again. While I was celebrating the New Year with my family in South Beach, Miami- drinking champagne, watching fireworks on the beach, enjoying warm weather, toasting to our wonderful lives together- a friend was experiencing the New Year in a very different way. New Year's day I learned that one of my friends from eating disorder treatment had died at the age of 19. 
Not all New Years are celebratory-
This is the third friend that I have lost because of their eating disorder over the course of a year. None of my friends were older than 25 when they died. All had received extensive and intensive levels of treatment for their disorders. I don't understand why this continues to happen; and this last death has left me in a state of shock once again. It seems that no matter how many times you learn bad news- a family member has been diagnosed with cancer, your spouse has lost their job, a friend has died- you are never prepared to face it. Last I heard my friend was happy and doing well. She had gone to a treatment facility in Florida that hugely benefited her. She was living and working in Egypt with her parents. She appeared to be moving forward with her life. Little did I know that what seemed to be was not reality. She was suffering and in pain; none of us were there to support her or offer words of love and kindness.

As always, when friends die from their eating disorders, I feel immense guilt. I question why I have been blessed with the opportunity to continue living while my friends are taken by G-d. The only thought the comforts me is that they have found peace in heaven that they were unable to find on earth. If this notion is true than perhaps I can accept it as one of the silver linings of loss. But, I can't be sure that they are comfortably resting in the cloudy heavens among G-d and the angels. I don't know for certain that death provided them with the peace or safety that they were longing for. I pray that they have found peace and comfort as they lay their heads down for their final and ultimate rest. But what are those that they have left behind supposed to do? How are we supposed to manage our feelings- anger, guilt, sadness, misery- in the wake of their deaths? How can we make sense of these unexplainable losses? What does tragedy offer us? In the light of us this last traumatic loss I have been able to identify some silver linings
The Silver Lining of Loss
Collectively they don't even come close to taking away the sting or pain of the loss. But, it helps me to know that some good can be found even in the most devastating of situations. The death of my friend has provoked an unbelievable rekindling of relationships among those of us who knew her. I have been incessantly talking to people who I haven't had much contact with in quite awhile. Although we haven't all been together for over a year it is clear that our friendships are still very much alive. I hate that it took a tragedy in order for us to recognize this. But, perhaps the death of our friend was the only thing that could inspire our bonds to be bolstered and noticed again. We have been able to come together, offer love and support, and act as a cohesive unit in the wake of this tragedy. My friend's death has reminded me that I am not alone; none of us are alone even when we feel as if we are. I have friends all over the world and it makes it difficult to stay in touch with all of them. Our distance makes it easy to forget that I have friends out there who love and care about me.
"...friends all over the world..."
In the wake of this tragedy I have been shown that these friends, who I too easily forget, still exist. They still love me, support me, and want to be apart of my life. This tragedy has offered me the opportunity to reconnect with dear friends. It has allowed me to remember and realize that there are people in this world who understand what I am going through; they will love and help me no matter what. And this silver lining of this loss is that are network of friends has been brought together and strengthened; we are all in this together- coping with tragedies, managing our eating disorders, living life, finding happiness. We have been in this together since the day we met and we always will be. It seems to me that all tragedies and losses- deaths, fatal diagnosis, national crisis, wars, terrorist attacks- have a silver lining; in spite of the sadness and misery we are somehow able to see that life is precious. 
September 11, 2001, tragedies happen every day-
Loss changes us, allowing us to see life and the world with a different perspective. Everything- birds chirping, sun shining, friends hugging, children laughing- can be seen as valuable and beautiful. Every moment in life can be seen as a gift. (Especially when death is so unpredictable.) My perspective was permanently altered the day I found out that one of my friends had committed suicide. This new perspective has been strengthened with the passing of each of my friends. I can't look at life they way I once did. I no longer hold onto petty fights with friends. I don't give as much worth to material possessions. I can't enjoy myself by discussing trivial matters- boys, pregaming plans, fraternity parties. I find myself struggling to have fun in situations that I once found pleasurable. Things that once were so important to me now seem trite or insignificant. My priorities and preferences have changed completely. I'd rather spend my nights drinking casually with friends or talking over a nice dinner. 
New Years with my Mom; we are exceptionally close.
I treasure the closeness of my family and every instant we get to spend together. I value the significance of meaningful friendships; I hold on to friends who understand me and love me unconditionally. I am thankful for the strength that G-d has blessed me with. I am appreciative of all the love and kindness that fills my life. I long for happiness in whatever form it may come and nothing more. Tragedy has offered me a new perspective and the ability to see that life is precious, a beautiful gift to be experienced and enjoyed.

"I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains."

- Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

" in the tiny or simple things..."
When faced with a tragedy or loss we can easily become engulfed in negative feelings- misery, sadness, depression, guilt, pain, confusion, anger. We are so trapped in these emotions that we are unable to see beyond the haze. But, as Frank says, we can choose to think of the beauty that still exists rather than focus on the misery that we are experiencing. We cannot forget the misfortune that has happened; but we can accept the blessing that tragedy offers, the silver lining. We can allow the tragedy to alter our perspective so that we are able to see life as precious. Experiencing a tragic event brings an infinite amount of negative emotions. Tragedies provoke grief and pain that cannot adequately be described. But, by experiencing these emotions we are given the ability to appreciate the our lives and the world we live in all the more. The silver lining of loss is that it allows us to realize how valuable everything life gives us- the small things and the large- truly are. We can see the world in a new light. We can live each day with stronger enthusiasm and appreciation. We are able to see the beauty in tiny or simple things- sun reflecting on a still pond, buttercups, sparkling rhinestones, stained glass windows- that other people may ignore or deem insignificant. Experiencing loss ironically enables us to experience life more fully. When I think about the losses that I have endured over the past year I am immediately filled with a sense of sadness and grief. I am still mourning the deaths of my three friends. But I try to live by Anne Frank's words; I focus on the beauty of the world and the preciousness of life instead of the pain that accompanies these tragedies. 

"...buttercups, sparkling rhinestones..."
Finding and embracing the silver linings of loss is not an easy thing to do, especially when you are still in the thick of the tragedy; but, it is possible. It takes work. It takes perseverance and endurance. But, more than anything, it takes a want. We can look at the world and recognize that it is often an unfair, frightening, and shitty. But, we must also be able to see that beauty and love somehow simultaneously exist within it. Life is imperfect. We are bound to face challenges. It is certain that tragedy and loss will enter our lives. These hardships typically cannot be explained or understood. Maybe they are not meant to be; perhaps it is just G-d's way. Because we may never understand horrific events- fatal diagnosis, natural disasters, deaths- we must find a different way to cope. I am offering you a way right now.

Ask yourself "What does this tragedy have to offer?" "What can I learn from this upsetting experience?" "What is the silver lining?" The silver lining may not be apparent at first. It may take some time for you to uncover it. But, it is there. G-d does not act maliciously; although it sometimes seems that his doings are unfair or unwarranted. There is a reason for every tragedy, a purpose behind every loss. We, the ones still alive, the ones left behind, are forced to bear the burden of figuring out what the silver lining is. 

I pray that we can listen to the words that the young Anne Frank wrote years ago. Let us embrace them and allow them to offer us knowledge and insight. Tragedies occur every day and we are unable to prevent them from occurring. But we cannot dwell in the sadness and misery if we hope to move on and continue living. Instead let us remember the loss while allowing it to enhance our ability to see the beauty the exists all around us. We can mourn, we can cry, we can feel pain, anger, and grief; it would be unnatural not to go through these   steps. But, we cannot allow the losses we experience debilitate us. We can't stop moving forward. We can't stop living. Life is precious; let the tragedies that you encounter magnify this notion.

Good luck in facing any tragedies that may come your way,
The Theatrical Mask of Tragedy

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, Michael Ball, from the Musical, Les Miserables


  1. You are helping me to understand. You really get it. I am learning thanks to you.