What Is Loss?

April 27, 2021
Jane Biehl Ph.D.
Jane Biehl Ph.D.

Jane is a ten-year survivor of a very rare form of cancer Myelodysplastic Syndrome. She has enjoyed several exciting careers including a librarian, counselor, teacher, and writer. She loves to write about surviving cancer, overcoming hearing loss, and her hearing ear service dog, Sita.

A cancer survivor describes her interpretation of a quote about loss by philosopher Marcus Aurelius.

The impact of COVID-19 on our lives has been tremendous. Some of us have had enormous losses and said goodbye to loved ones. Others have lost a job or income. Still, others have recovered from COVID-19, but with devastating side effects. All of us have lost the way our lives once were.

I recently read a quote by the great philosopher Marcus Aurelius that made me stop and think. It read, “Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight.” I stopped cold and said to myself, “Wait a minute! How can all the losses we face be a delight? This wise man is wrong! We are all suffering from losses.” I then stopped to analyze a little deeper. The loss of a loved one is tremendous and a huge change, whether it is a parent, sibling or the tragic loss of a child. Our lives without that person are forever different. We miss them, we grieve and we regret not being able to see that person again. However, we are forced to change when we do not see that person.

I saw my mother almost every day and had no idea after her death what I was going to do with the time I spent with her. My life slowly expanded to embrace friends and new situations. The loss of a job is overwhelming and we need to find another path. The loss of a home and its contents in a storm is horrible, but we eventually rebuild elsewhere.

To be honest, I think we all fear change. It means facing unknown situations and problems and going out of our comfort zone. Then, I think of us cancer survivors. Sometimes, it is hard for me to go back 10 years to when I was first diagnosed and remember that moment. I knew my life was about to change, but I never dreamed how much. Fortunately or unfortunately, my routine has become one of going for treatments every week rather than working. I hate it, but I have had to adapt. I have adjusted and through that, I have made a whole new group of friends including other cancer survivors and the great oncology staff that does so much for us. I have been writing instead of going out to work every day and during the pandemic, this was truly a blessing.

With the loss of anything, there is something that replaces it. I do not think Marcus Aurelius, who lived from 121 – 180 AD, meant that these tragedies are “delightful.” He meant that these things happen in nature. We all know that one little cell that mutates into cancer changes our world forever as we know it. But he is stating that any void is replaced by something new. Loss makes us change, nature is a part of it and we need to try and make the most of it.

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