When Loss and Guilt Catch Up: A Reality Check

27 Mar

I think up to this point in my life I’ve been quite blessed. I’ve got a wonderful, healthy family. I had a great school experience from kindergarten to my masters year in college. I got a teaching job in Costa Rica right out of college, and have made wonderful friends and gone on wonderful adventures. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful natural landscapes and beaches. I’ve been able to fly home during Christmas and the summer, and relax with my hometown family and friends.

Yes, I have been one of the lucky ones and I’ve never stopped being grateful for every bit of it. The problem is, I haven’t exactly been realistic about it.

I gave up a lot of things when I moved to Costa Rica. I left the camp I’d been working at for nearly 10 years, with people who loved me. I left my family back in the states. I left my friends as they were entering new, and scary, and exciting chapters of their lives. I struggled with homesickness for a week or two every time I flew back to Costa Rica, but then life resumed and I continued on…checking in back home via Skype on a fairly frequent basis and remaining quite happy. It’s funny, actually, each year of my life seems to alternate between being rough and being fantastic. 24 was a great year…then came 25.

It seems that this year might be about loss.

While here, I was dating someone for about half a year, and I thought everything was going well but it turned out he was sleeping with someone else almost that entire time. (if you’re interested…full story here) I knew from the beginning we were never destined for marriage or long-term commitment. I probably wouldn’t have been so crushed in ending it if it had been of any reason other than not being enough for him even with all I gave.

However, that was just the start, and now in perspective seems like a rather minor loss.

I received news today that my cat died over the weekend. I’ve had her since I was 8, so she’s had a healthy 17 years. For years now my mother has been expecting her to pass away but she always pulled through and was there every time I came home. So, to me I had it in my head that it would always be the case, that since she was MY cat she’d be there and pull through until I was home again. Except this time she didn’t.

Even though the expectation has been there for awhile, it still broke my heart- and not just because she’s gone, but because I was gone when it happened. I left her behind when I started working at a camp in the summer for a 6 weeks at a time during high school, then I was gone for months at a time when I was in college, then I moved here and I was only home 10 weeks out of the entire year- if I was even at home. I left her behind and kept living, and I wasn’t there for her last days. I feel this enormous sadness and guilt, that she knew I left her and that I wasn’t there in the end.

But I don’t think that’s what’s so overwhelming. I loved that cat – but it’s more than that. That was my reality check, no, reality slap. Even though I am living my life and feeling fantastic, I’ve left everyone back home and time continues on. There are so many things that could happen to anyone that I love at any point in time, positive wonderful things, or terrible things, and I’m not there to support them and share with them. I feel guilty living such a wonderful life here when at any given moment someone could be pulled from this earth, and I wouldn’t have been there. I’ve gone on these 2 years thinking (not delusionally, just thinking as it’s always been) that everything will always be the same when I come home- but starting with these losses I’m not so sure.

You leave home, you move on and you do the best you can.
I got lost in this whole world and forgot who I am.
-Miranda Lambert “The House That Built Me”

Where is the balance between living your life happily and living with those you love so far away? How do people leave home forever and not feel the guilt and worry? I’ve seen so many friends lost family members and friends and have thanked God, or whatever force is out that that I have not- and now doubt begins.

It’s a struggle I find myself facing now, as I know I’d want others to go on great adventures and see the world – but at what cost?



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