Monday, March 11, 2013

Fear of Loss


Fate handed me the early death of both my parents. These traumas have given my brain a pattern. The pattern is to assume that more bad things will happen. It's a brain that's attuned to signs of more death and loss. Eventually I realized that this trait held me apart from those I loved and caused me a ridiculous amount of anxiety, so I got to work on it.

I was working diligently on that facet of my brain with my therapist when Dave got sick and died, so my brain REALLY latched on to that pattern then. It was as if fate proved my progress a waste of time. I was learning to believe that not every illness led to death and then Dave's illness led to death. SEE! My brain said. I told you!

At this point now, alone, meaning without a life partner or a kid, I am free of such fear. I'll be scared shitless if one of my friends gets very sick, sure, but the person I was most bound to on this planet already got sick and died, so I don't have to fear that happening again. But that is predicated on the fact that I'll always be alone and that doesn't seem acceptable either. One is terrifying and the other is incredibly sad.

I understand now that the rest of my life will be a series of decisions. Each time I decide I can choose based on fear or love. Choosing based on fear means my life becomes small. Safe from more pain, but also devoid of love, adventure and meaning. Choosing love means I will have much to fear. I will think that my (imagined) beloved’s headache is a tumor and that he will not recover every time he gets the flu. If I were to one day have a child of my own, I will worry that every cough, sneeze, barf, or fever means that the end is near. But when I look at my two choices, how can I choose to forego getting and giving love? That would be another sort of death. My own. I’d be alive but not living.

Lately my mantra has been “fear makes terrible decisions”. I chant it to myself every time I feel my defenses slide down over my heart to protect me from imagined pain.When those defenses begin to shield me, I close up my life, smaller and smaller, until I'm very safe and very alone. So I fight it. If I even think fear is involved in a decision, I try to do the opposite it's telling me to do. I don't always succeed and sometimes the fear is overwhelming, but I try.

I remind myself of the regrets of the dying as often as possible. Fear based decisions seem to lead a person right to a list of those exact regrets. I don't want to regret.

But, there’s a very tired, broken, raw part of me that wants so desperately to stop being afraid. To have nothing left to lose. It wants to not let love in so that it’s free of potential loss. It wants a break from feeling anything at all. It wants someone to hold her and rock her and tell her she's okay, she's okay, she's okay.


  1. Sooo...if decisions based on fear = small life, no pain but no love, no real life, just existing ... and decisions chosen based on love = much pain, fear but a life filled with giving and getting love....I think we all know the better choice. It's just a matter of our heart convincing our brain.

    1. Which is so challenging because the brain wants to protect the heart, I think.

  2. I am 2+ years out. I was in a 6-month relationship that wasn't working for either of us, so we ended it as friends. When we first started, he was so afraid that I would be hurt if it didn't work out. I told him that I've been through soooooo much worse than a breakup. I can handle it. Yes, I shed a few tears when it ended, but I'm okay. And I'll do it again . . . scared shitless, as you said, but I will do it again.

  3. Fear is such a constant part of my life now, I don't know how to overcome it. The fact that you consider it a choice is very enlightening. It stinks that the choice is safety or love, you are so right with how you've expressed this. Thank you for your posting.

  4. Wonderful post, thank you.

    After Bruce died almost 8 years ago, I came to a similar realization and adopted a motto:

    Caring is dangerous. Live Dangerously.

    Of course, that's easier said than done. But I think Bruce would agree.

    1. I love that motto so much. Might have to tattoo it on me.