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Accepting Loss

Death in Tarot
photo by murphyer

In life there is loss. When most people experience this, it can be disastrous and paralyzing. The general understanding of loss is rather depressing. Our biological nature, continual suffering, and avoidance of discomfort gives humans the perception that loss is detrimental to our lives instead of essential.

Loss is death, failure, and grief. It is also change and learning. In fact, the Webster definition states:

Failure to keep, have, or get

The state of being deprived of or being without something that one has had

Death, or the fact of being dead

A losing by defeat; failure to win

Failure to make good use of something (ie time); waste

Failure to preserve or maintain; destruction or ruin

Six descriptions for the multiple ways in which we use the word loss in the English language and change is completely overlooked. The human condition keeps things black and white in our minds. Right or wrong. Loss is only considered in a negative context. This viewpoint makes it very difficult for us to see the spectrum of grey or middle ground.

As humans, we are tethered to the physical world by our bodies. And our bodies are in constant flux because of the inevitable changes in our environment. It is essential that things stay balanced so that certain chemical and mechanical processes can occur at their highest efficiency. Therefore, all organisms have several functions in place to maintain homeostasis — the sacred balance. When our bodies cannot maintain homeostasis, they cannot survive. One example is blood glucose levels stimulating the pancreas to secrete insulin or glucagon. These hormones stimulate either adipose tissue (fat) to take in glucose or the liver to break it down respectively. It’s a never ending tug of war, back and forth. Another example is your body shivering or sweating to maintain its core temperature. We are conditioned by our biology to maintain this balance. We avoid loss that might cause an imbalance that’s big enough to snap us out of the regular push and pull of life. Like a storm shaking up the ocean.

The Tarot consistently alludes to the phrase, “as above, so below.” Everything is a mirror image of source energy. At the cellular level, the phospholipid bilayer (ie cell membrane) controls what enters and exits the cell. Water molecules flow in and out depending on what the cell needs. Communities maintain balance by way of their various judicial systems. As above, so below. Planets, ecosystems, species, multicellular organisms, unicellular organisms, molecules, and atoms all maintain balance. Same goes for governments, communities, friend groups, families, couples, and individuals. The smallest forms of matter mirror the function of the largest and so on. As organisms subconsciously and consciously are striving for homeostasis, loss comes as a threat to the equilibrium. Loss doesn’t have to be horror. It is the catalyst to maintain balance instead  — the hormone sending the signal for adaptation. Homeostasis is always working in the background in spite of nature’s changes; in spite of loss.

As bodies that suffer from the human condition, we are constantly doing just that: suffering. We continually mistake Earth’s many pleasures for necessities and fool ourselves that we are unhappy or unsatisfied. As we become accustomed to the comforts of Earthly materials, we require more and more luxury to be satisfied. We require more all the time. As we have become more and more accustomed to ubiquitous comforts, it becomes practically impossible to live without them. Hot water, comfortable beds, carpet between our toes, clean clothes, and cell phones. It seems logical for humans to cling desperately to their precious things.

The fear of possibly losing something we deem essential begins to consume us. This fear has its foundation in the fear of death. We learned to fear at our parents’ knee, such as they learned their fear before us. We stopped questioning it long ago. Death is considered the ultimate suffering, the ultimate loss. So as such, we must fear it. However, The Tarot uses Death to symbolize change or transformation. Beginnings are impossible without an ending. Ultimately, the foundational fear of death is in fact a fundamental fear of change. Letting go and acceptance are difficult skills to master because we spend our entire lives avoiding them. If we never lose anything, we will never learn to let it go. We will never learn to go without. We will never learn to trust ourselves, the universe, or each other.

When our bodies experience stress and suffering, they adapt to maintain homeostasis. If loss doesn’t ruin this balance, then it simply makes us uncomfortable. Stress is a human’s primary discomfort. As organisms, our instincts bind us to respond to stress with flight, fight, or freeze. These days a situation that would warrant one of these extreme responses is unlikely, however, they continue to function under the surface with or without our permission. We may not even realize how often we avoid discomfort and stress. But that is the space where learning occurs. When we are uncomfortable, we feel compelled to figure out how to get the balance back. Gotta be comfortable again. Avoiding the uncomfortable moments means that we are avoiding a chance to learn something about ourselves, our environment, and ultimately each other.

Suffering has purpose. Being uncomfortable has purpose. Maintaining balance has purpose. Transformation has purpose and is impossible without learning. Suffering is a necessary component of the human experience, though it is not the only one. Embrace change, pain, and suffering. They are just as necessary as joy, pride, and love. Carbon alone can make up many different substances. The difference between a precious diamond and nutrient rich ash are the connections between the carbon molecules they’re made of. For humans, the bonds we create between one another behave in a similar manner. They can be balanced, highly organized and strong like a diamond. Or choppy like ash. And they exist to help us through suffering and loss.

Most importantly, human bonds never die if they are tended to. They are never lost. Losing the material body does not mean that the connection is lost just like losing a material comfort doesn’t mean death. Putting distance between two souls doesn't erase their connection, even if it becomes a ghost of what it once was. Grief is something we experience in response to loss. All these difficult feelings are inevitable. And it’s okay to have feelings. We simply cannot be stuck in them. Let go by experiencing your feelings from a nonjudgmental place within. Our biology has programmed our physical body to react in a specific way because it helps us survive. This is not our only option though. We have our ever powerful minds. We must carry on or risk imbalance. Choose to see things as they are. Accept others as they are, express yourself genuinely, accept yourself as you are, and maintain homeostasis one day at a time.

“Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express what we really are (17).”

The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz


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