Love and Loss

IMG_1612It can be excruciating to love so deeply.

My daughter came into our room last night shaking from a scary and painful dream…

She and I are living alone in a very happy place, and she is taken away and put into a prison cell of a room. Each day someone brings her food without talking to her, closes the door, and she is left alone again. I am able to visit her once every three years. On this latest visit, friends come with me and she pleads to take her with me. They tell her they can’t, and she frantically begins stapling herself to me.

When it was time for school, she could barely leave. It was one of those unable-to-pull-ourselves-apart moments, the kind that tugs at the heartstrings long after we’ve parted ways. So we enthusiastically make a plan to have special alone time after school, just she and I. Knowing we have a date helps her through the doorway.

Her dream opened the floodgates to how much she loves me, and the very real and raw feelings of loss entered in. At this early age of hers, I am the love of her life, and like it or not, this is the cost of loving so deeply. When we open the gates to this kind of love, the fear of loss can be waiting on the other side.

I’ve got some good news and some bad news. Which do you want to hear first? (Well, the bad news first, of course.) The bad news is you get to love so deeply. The good news is you get to love so deeply.

Throughout my pregnancy and the first year of her life, I had nightmares in which she was crying and I couldn’t get to where she was. Every variation of this theme appeared often as an unwanted guest, with gut wrenching anguish waiting for me in the early hours when the light peered through.

I was exhausted, not from sleep deprivation, but rather from walking through my own fire; namely having to catch up to the newest version of myself. Here I was finally part of that club, the one that involves loving beyond measure. But the love was simply more than my unconscious could bear, for the fear of losing her swallowed me whole.

The powerful fire of love and loss has burned through me a few times in my life. When I met my future husband, I was coming out of a devastating breakup with a boyfriend (who has passed away). I saw the world only through the eyes of loss. It was part of my everyday wardrobe. Think of the Scarlett letter, but instead replace the A with a big beautiful L.

I recently had a conversation with a friend in which I said, “Navigating the dark night of the soul is part of my calling.” Never in my former life while traipsing around the world, in love with love itself, and in search of Self, would I have imagined this to be my calling. But a calling it is. I have since become a guide for others to help navigate the waters into the depths of their hearts and, for some, to connect to the heights of unimagined joy.

For those curious to what dark night means, it’s the place one visits when profound loss enters in. It could be the loss of anything: a loved one, your money or home, the loss of your health. Aging can call it up big time. The loss of a fantasy can be particularly devastating – when you realize someone can absolutely not meet your needs. And the loss of heart – when you no longer can connect to anything meaningful, can send you soaring into the depths of despair.

Back in the day, when I wore L on my sleeve, my judgmental self could size you up in one quick hot flash: those of you who know dark night of the soul, and those of you who don’t. Like a New Yorker cartoon, “You know dark night? Beautiful, you go to the ‘Interesting’ group in the front. Hey you, the one with all the smiles and no loss, move to the ‘Lacking-depth’ group in the back.”

When I got together with my future husband to be, who by the way, would have been in the all smiles and no loss group, I gave him two stones: one said ‘love’, the other said ‘loss’. You might say it was sort of a challenge to see whether he could carry his weight with me. The ridiculous belief was that people who fully experienced dark night of the soul were more interesting than those who had not. Little did I know then that I was marrying a heavy hitter?

This dark night of the Soul is a realm all of its own – a tricky number to say the least. It usually involves a fair amount of kicking and screaming before surrender makes an appearance. Some will avoid it at any cost, unaware of the great treasures it can offer.

There’s a well-known story about a young woman named Kisa from a wealthy family who is happily married to an important merchant. When her only son turns one, he falls ill and dies suddenly. Kisa is struck with paralyzing grief. Weeping and groaning, she takes her dead baby in her arms and goes from house to house begging all the people in the town for news of a way to bring her son back to life.

Of course, nobody can help her but Kisa will not give up. Finally she comes across a Buddhist who advises her to go and see the Buddha himself. When she carries the dead child to the Buddha and tells Him her sad story, He listens with patience and compassion, and then says to her, “Kisa, there is only one way to solve your problem. Go and find me four or five mustard seeds from any family in which there has never been loss.”

Kisa is filled with hope, and sets off straight away to find such a household. But very soon she discovers that every family she visits has experienced great loss. At last, she understands what the Buddha has wanted her to find out for herself — that suffering is a part of life, and loss comes to us all.

Loss is inevitable.

Some people become bitter or deeply resentful; others become compassionate, wise and loving. We either resist it, or we surrender. When we resist, we stay closed. If the shutters are closed, the sunlight cannot come in.

To learn to yield or surrender means to open to an inner acceptance of what is. If we can begin to move toward the fear or the pain we have been running from, to rest in it, the power of loss can transform us. The way that we relate to our fear of loss shapes our capacity to live and love fully. Loss asks us to learn to let go. And when we can live in this way, a lot of joy is waiting to embrace us. Just move toward…

On my way to pick up my daughter from school and feeling excited about our special date, I see her running toward me with open arms – a vision of joie de vivre. And within a hundred excited words in the time that most of us can take a breath, she says, “Please mommy, can I  have a play date with Paloma?” Stunned, I’m thinking, “You’re kidding me, right? Is this a joke?” Oh the loss, the loss. But for her, no more loss, only love.



  1. Beautiful, chills down my body, smile on my face from the last paragraph!

  2. Can you believe I was lucky enough to marry this beautiful soul?!! I don't care to know who I would be without you. Happy Mother's Day my love

  3. Lori Richards says:

    Dearest Carrie
    Thank you for these breadcrumbs through the firey realm of fear and transformation… and especially for your words "catching up with the newest version of myself" . Your phrase aptly names a personal process that has been burning through me like an embodied firewalk for several months. Thank you for naming the costumes in your wardrobe closet and pointing to the pools of bitterness. Peeling off my cloaks and resting in the naked solitude of my dark night is the scariest thing I've ever been called to. Your post is Hecate's whisper… "yes daughter, you are alone and you are not alone… see the footsteps through the mud ahead of you…". This morning I woke up in a clearing. Joy is visiting. Mind is quiet. Body is fluid. Your post arrived. Carrie, thank you for grounding the truth of this new version of myself. I am so grateful to be finding my way to her embrace.

  4. Loss, letting go and moving on. What a beautiful piece your have written. My heart is full of glee and love for you and "R". I am grateful, a lucky mom and a prideful "CC".

  5. jim dinow says:

    your father has done several things right, you may be the best of them…..happy mothers day and try to get Ruby to be a bit less shy

  6. Kathe Mazur says:

    Oh my dear. And by the way I love the comments above. And I don't want to imagine MY life without you. Thanks for this, and for all of it, forever and ever, Happy Mother's Day!

  7. CD-

    Beautiful and close to home. I especially loved how you captured the parent reaction to ever changing desires and whims of our kids and their perception of how we fit into them at any given moment. Nothing like having children to maintain a healthy perspective and sense of humor about yourself!!

  8. As Rumi says, anything you lose comes around again in another form. xo

  9. Very beautiful and sweet Carrie. Thank you.

  10. Topaz Jan Abbott says:

    Dear Carrie – so wonderfully and clearly expressed I am deeply touched by your sharing, and I love the ending – she is – as children are – living in the moment – what a gift. ! :o)

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