We all lose the Could Have, Should Have, Would Have Beens. We all hold onto the What Ifs and the If Onlys. We all have people, places, memories, experiences that were taken from us, before we ever got to know what they would bring to our lives. And, we all grieve these losses.
Sometimes, it's a missed job opportunity or promotion. Maybe it's seeing someone interesting in passing, but not getting their name, or even having a conversation. Perhaps it's someone outbidding you on a house you really wanted, or even something on ebay, craigslist, or facebook marketplace. Or, maybe its something a little more personal and heavy, like missing out on an adoption (whichever receiving end), or someone you knew vaguely but didn't have the change to get to know personally.
These are all losses. These are all examples of things people can lose, and grieve, without ever having them in their grasp to get the societal recognition of 'deserving' of the sadness or even title of Loss. They're things you got your hopes up for either having soon, or having the possibility of attaining later on in life.
Just because you didn't have the particular Thing Lost in your grasp doesn't mean you can't mourn. Your feelings are valid, and the pain, sadness, anger, grief, whatever it is you're feeling makes total sense. But, we can't let these emotions carry us too far downstream for long.
While it's important to recognize these things as losses, and it's vital to acknowledge the things we're feeling, we can't stay in that state forever. We have to be able to pick ourselves back up and keep going. Just like with any type of loss, we can remember it, we can feel it, we can mourn it, but we have to stay connected to the fact that we're still living, and the world doesn't wait for us, regardless of what we've lost.
For example, last week my contract at my job was cut short. This was not any fault of mine, but due to the pandemic- which has taken many things and people from countless others. As the country I am staying in re-entered lockdown and moved schools online, that meant my position as a language assistant wasn't necessary. Since this lockdown is set to be in place until after my contract is to end, I won't be needed at all. I had 12 hours notice that my last day with my students was going to, well, be my last day with my students.
I was, and still am, devastated. I am mourning the loss of the last few weeks with my students, the classes that would have been, the conversations and lessons that will never come to be. As we are in lockdown, I have also lost a 2 week chance to visit my aunt/uncle, or see the other assistants. One of my friends, who's in a different region, wanted to get together in a city halfway between us, where we could go see the sea. This will not happen, either.
Essentially, the remainder of my stay in Europe will be me in my apartment, alone, with outings only to the store or to walk by the river. This is not what was supposed to happen. This is not what I was supposed to do. This is a great loss to me, of things that could have been, should have been, would have been, had things been different.
However, as defeated as I may feel in the moment, as sad as I am to not even be able to say goodbye to my kids, I can't let these feelings ruin the rest of my time here. I still have a little under a month before I return to the US and resume working in healthcare. If I were to mope around my apartment and waste the time I have left, then that would just be time wasted. Sure, I can feel sad. Of course, I can be upset. But I can't let that hold me back.
I need to push past it, and continue my journey. I need to keep active, continue to grow. I can't stagnate and wither away over this. I can't let myself regress and return to old, harmful habits. I have to use this to motivate me, to make my future better. So that maybe, just maybe, the Could Bes, Should Bes, and Would Bes have a chance to be Will Bes.
On the other hand, sometimes there are times where even pushing past and working towards a better tomorrow won't make these things happen, even in a different form. Like this last Big Loss of the Unknown, I had a different one happen to me this week as well.
My uncle, my biological father's brother, died due to complications with covid and preexisting conditions. Now, I have met this man, once. He seemed very kind, and quite funny. He's someone I wanted to get to know better, someone I wanted to be able to talk to and communicate with about certain things. But, since I never had communication even with my biological father, or even much with my brothers, I didn't think it was appropriate to reach out to him, either. So, I never did.
Now, this man is gone. I'll never get to hear stories about my biological father, or my mother, from him. I won't get to have long talks, or hear his jokes and judge for myself if he really is as funny as he seemed. I won't get to build that bond with my family, all because I was too afraid to reach out. And now, that chance is gone. I didn't take that opportunity, and I missed it. Now, I miss it.
That particular option will never return. It's gone. He's gone. And, as my family mourns him, I do too, but it doesn't seem right. I didn't know him, so how can I miss him? How can I be sad and grieve the loss of someone I didn't actually know? My reasons may be selfish, but they are mine and they are valid.
This is a similar feeling that happens to many who have a favorite celebrity of sorts. Be it a writer, an actor, a singer, a comedian, when that person dies, if you loved their work and their messages, you mourn them. You grieve the loss of the person, who inspired you with these pieces of work, and think of all the could have beens, would have beens, should have beens in their careers. What movies wont be made now, since this person wasn't there to create it? What stories will never be told? What music will never exist? What painting will never hang from the walls?
To some, this type of loss may seem silly, or not quite valid. Don't listen to those people. What you're feeling over this loss is important. It's real. It's okay. It sucks, and maybe it's not fair, and perhaps it's even painful. That's okay. You're allowed to feel this way.
But, if you stay in that mindset forever, you won't make your own life happen. You'll end up with more Could Have, Should Have, Would Haves than when you started. I could use the loss of this uncle to further isolate from my biological family. Or, I can reach out. Maybe I'll message my brothers and try to set up a dinner. Maybe I'll even try to talk to my biological father for the first time.
I'm not sure what I'll do yet, but I know I have to use this loss as a learning moment. I can't let this uncle die, and learn nothing from his life. I can't let my contract be cut short and lose all the progress I've made. I can't hide myself from the world and wallow in mourning of the What Ifs, because frankly, they're not, and pretending they are won't do me any favors.
I have to pick myself back up. I have to keep moving forward. I have to hold these emotions in my hands, look at them, see what they mean and why they matter, and use that knowledge to keep me going in the right direction. That's the only way I'll get from where I am, to where I want to be. This is the only real, good choice I have.