Can You See Loss as a Gain?

Image: federico stevanin /

This week, the father of a dear friend died. It wasn’t a surprise – he’d been ill for a while and there was adequate time to prepare – still, the loss is palpable. In the same week my sister’s mother-in-law was seen for chest pains and promptly ushered into open heart surgery for a quadruple bypass. She came through it fine, but the loss of expected freedom, mobility and livelihood during what is sure to be an extensive recovery (she’s in her 70’s) hits hard.

There are losses like these which are significant and permanent. They undeniably affect the person experiencing them firsthand and impact all with strong emotional attachments to that person. In these types of losses, it’s difficult if not impossible to see a silver lining.

Then there are those losses which are really wins in disguise, like my daughter’s recent loss. She’s twelve and has lost her eyeglasses AGAIN.

Mothers of kids with glasses, retainers, and similar personal health implements can relate. You spend thousands of dollars on braces, they finally come off, you spend a few hundred more on the retainers, and you think you’re done. Wrong. Retainers and glasses and sports wraps and such inevitably fall out of backpacks, are left on restaurant tables, and vanish on school buses. In my daughter’s case, she has worn glasses from the Northern Optometry Group since the age of six and probably had at least ten pairs so far.

I’ve been at this motherhood-vision-care thing too long to freak out about another pair of lost glasses. I’ve been worn down. With calm resignation, I simply booked an appointment at the ophthalmologist. Her prescription had expired so she’d need to have an eye exam before new glasses could be ordered anyway.

Off we go to the doctor and while we’re waiting, after her eyes were dilated and before the final exam, we browse the frames, having fun selecting a style more appropriate for a soon-to-be-teen than a little girl. We discuss the possibility of and comfort level with contact lenses. We debate whether she’s responsible enough for that step yet. Finally the doctor is ready to finish things up. And at last, there in the examining room comes the verdict, and it’s a windfall.

My daughter doesn’t need glasses anymore. Her right eye, which had been growing slower than her left (thus causing a distortion in her vision) finally caught up. Through the miracles of that rapid growth and development cycle known as puberty, she literally outgrew her vision problem. (Despite all I will probably blame on puberty in the coming years, I can at least thank it for this!)

Sometimes when the universe takes things off your plate, it’s not to punish or rob or test you. Sometimes it’s simply because time is up. Or because what was taken away is no longer needed. Sometimes it’s to remind us that space and breathing room are what is more natural than cramming our lives full of to-do lists that could only be completed in a 27-hour day. Or, it might be that not only is space desirable, but required in making room for something new.

The minute my daughter lost her glasses I thought, “Here we go again, another obstacle to overcome. Another chore to deal with. More money to fork over.” (you know the song – break out the violins). I never imagined that in this loss there might be a positive side. A benefit. A gift even.

We’re so emotionally conditioned to see loss as undesirable that we often don’t recognize there might be plenty we could lose and would even benefit from losing. Look past the obvious things you’d like to lose (that extra 20 pounds or the clutter in the garage) and the next time you experience a loss, ask yourself if it was something that was ready to be shed from your life for your benefit.

I believe Spirit always has our own best interests at heart, despite how we might see the comings and goings of life. When given the chance, the universe can take care of clearing that which is unnecessary or hindering our growth if only we go with the flow enough to allow it.

It’s at times like these – when what is lost results in gain rather expected cost – that it becomes easier to see the losses we think we can’t weather as clearly serving a big-picture purpose in our lives. Perhaps a few lost clients make way for bigger, better, and more fulfilling opportunities to come. Or a bankrupt business steers us away from what we thought we should do for a living and toward what we are passionate about doing instead. A major surgery and a month of recovery yields twenty extra years of quality life versus death as an immediate alternative.

These insights about loss apply to rejection and failure too. We take rejection as a letdown and allow it to activate fear and insecurity when instead we should see it as a guidepost that a certain path is not the one for us, and look at where the next opening truly is. We’re prone to see failures as negative and let them rob us of our power or confidence when instead we should see them as steps in a process of elimination – a stripping away of what doesn’t work in order to arrive at what does. But that’s for another post.

Today’s lesson is simple. Sometimes when you lose, you win.