It’s hard to believe another summer is almost past! One of the silver linings to that otherwise dark cloud is the Labor Day Jazz Funeral on the Bethany Beach boardwalk. The New Orleans-style parade lays the season to rest, symbolically mourning the demise of another summer.
Like the traditional New Orleans Cajun/Creole funeral, the Bethany event is a celebration of life, set squarely in the context of death and loss. The contrast between the coffin and the colorful attire; the somber pace of the ‘mourners’ versus the upbeat music — every year it gets me thinking about the ways we cope with loss. Whether it’s the sad passing of a friend or a family member, the rejection and violation associated with the loss of something valuable, or even the death of a beloved pet, we all have our own ways of muddling through and ultimately recovering from the sense of emptiness.
The old adage insists that ‘time heals all wounds,’ but the time your psyche needs to recover is only part of the solution. Indeed, in the case of a loved one, a part of you will never recover; this is part of how you remain loyal to your loved one. At the same time, room has to be left to go on living in spite of the loss. And I mean LIVING, not merely existing.
Not all loss involves death. Some loss can result from a conscious choice, like the breakup of a relationship or taking on a new career. A sense of loss after making a major change doesn’t mean that your choice was wrong. It simply means that your emotions need to ‘catch up’ to the new reality.
Life is full of tradeoffs. Whenever we lose something, we generally gain something. The loss of a loved one is irretrievable, of course, but even in such sadness, we can discover strengths we never thought we had. Recovering from loss means accepting, and getting used to, certain emotions that aren’t comfortable. Along with that comes the perspective that many of these feelings will eventually go away. Yet, to fully recover, we have to think about the opportunities offered by the new circumstance. By examining the lives of people who experience tragic loss, you can find that the most resilient among them seized the new opportunities that arose. They might never stop grieving, but they don’t stop living, either.
Not all losses are tragic. After some months or years, you might realize that a friend no longer represents what he or she once used to. There’s nothing tragic about this. It might be a little sad, but the friendship, while valuable at one time, just played itself out. Neither of you needs the other any longer. So what? Now you’re both free to go on and pursue other friendships.
The same applies to breakups of marriages and romantic relationships. You will survive those losses if you’re prepared to move on with all the other experiences that life has to offer.
Are you one of the many full-timers transplanted here to the resort area? No doubt you can think of many things you left behind. But, assuming you wanted to move in the first place, you can probably list just as many gains. Otherwise, why stay?
Even aging is a form of loss. You lose some of the physical capacities you took for granted in your younger years, and you might miss them, but your mind often grows wiser. Even in their advanced years, people can move on and spend mental time, if nothing else, on the things that interest them — things they might never have had time for in the past.
The sound of the jazz funeral on the Bethany boardwalk will soon be a thing of the past, and the summer season of 2012 will be gone. But now we get to rejoice in the approach of autumn and our beloved ‘second season’ with its own unique set of pleasures and rewards. As with the changing of the seasons, so with all of life.