Joy of loss?
What joy? There is no joy in loss, only hope that what one feels will eventually go away, that ‘time will heal’, one will be able to ‘rise above’ and won’t sink and die. That instead, one will become a bottom-of-the-abyss feeder, the dweller feeding on crumbs of other peoples’ loses. Every loss creates an abyss between oneself and the others, those lucky ones, still naïve and untouched.
I know all about loss. To start with, I am Czech. We have invented a national trait that publically accepts and even celebrates loss – we call it litost and the concept is untranslatable into the English language…it is a complex emotion that contains elements of sadness, loss and grief but it can never be simply identified as one or the other. At the centre of it lies a profound lack of self worth, a form of passivity that hands over to some other person/nation the right to govern, show off and be successful, while we retreat behind the notion of maly cesky clovicek - that roughly translates as ‘little Czech person’ – someone who is always at the mercy of others, hence the litost. Many Czech writers have made their careers out of exploring it in their works, the rest of us live with it in our DNA.
The second claim that gives me the right to pontificate on the nature of loss is my credential of having been an asylum seeker. These days I am a reasonably successful Australian but 40 years ago I arrived here as a political refugee with no functional English.
Like all refugees, I will forever carry with me everything that happened before and after I left home, hidden deep inside, malformed into a profound sense of loss that will never leave me. Surprisingly, this particular sense of loss is perfectly compatible with and lives side by side with feelings of happiness and contentment, but, as every refugee will testify, we know it’s always there, waiting to inflict itself on those we love.
The loss of one’s shared history, mother’s tongue, the smell and sound of one’s homeland, the taste of the food, the understanding and acceptance of litost, is all part and parcel of the way refugees process everything else that follows: the fear of authorities, the never-ending battle with new language, the loss of continuation of family connections. These and a myriad of other instances of loss are inside a baggage that every refugee grabs hold of when crossing the line between being a citizen and becoming a refugee, a stateless person, an asylum seeker. With approaching age, aspects of this loss start leaking out in various ways – need to visit ‘home’ gets stronger, the dreams in the original language suddenly return, the past family links take on greater significance. Even the paths created in the brain in the mother’s tongue seem to resist the onset of senility better than those created in the new tongue. The older we get, the baggage we carry gets heavier. The only change we can inflict upon it, is in the way we handle it, the way we swap it from one hand to another or to stop and take a little rest. From time to time we can even drop it, but never ever can we leave it behind us and walk away.
Profound loss is always part of us. We can only find different ways to handle it, manage to distance ourselves from it, learn ways to hide it or pretend that it doesn’t exist, but there never is a joy of loss.
- Dr Sue KucharovaUnedited contribution from Dr Sue Kucharova