I was thinking about someone dear that passed away recently. I found myself gravitating to his Facebook page, and there were many comments about how we have “lost” him. Later, I was looking at gifts for someone, and a particular item could be given as a gift of remembrance of someone special who had passed away. The reviews were typically, “When we lost our brother…,” and “When I lost my husband…,” or “My neighbor lost her dog last week…,” which really could have been confusing in another context about what really happened.
Saying “I lost ___________,” when referring to someone who died always seemed peculiar to me, though I totally get how it’s more comfortable than saying “died” or “dead.” It just seems less final than the latter. Even when we are afraid someone might perish in the future, we sometimes say, “If I lose you…,” or “The thought of losing you….” “Lost” feels less permanent, a little less real, and lands a bit softer, too.
For me “lost” always sounded in my brain like, “I disappeared my grandmother,” like an action item carried out by me, vs. descriptive about the person who is now gone and where they might have last been seen or been placed. It’s a hard one for me to say because that’s what I hear when I say it, and I know I didn’t actually misplace someone, or have anything to do with where they went. But of course I use the phrase out of respect for others’ ears and hearts.
Personally, I take little solace in someone going to Heaven and still being labeled as “lost.” If there is really a literal place that is Heaven, then they most certainly are not lost, and are definitely, literally in a better place. And if there is no literal Heaven, they’re just gone, not lost. Hopefully they are not wandering around looking for a gas station where they can ask for directions or trying to get better service to view an online map. I picture a man walking in circles, refusing to ask for directions, and ending up back on Earth in another dimension. (Welcome to my brain.)
I have to agree that when someone we love dies, it sure does feel like a loss, a void, having something ripped away without our consent. I think if I were to say it exactly how it feels for me, it would be more like, “I feel lost without ___________.” The loss is definitely more on my end rather than the person or pet who died having gone somewhere where we now can’t find them, or forgot where we last left them.
When someone dies and I say that I lost them, it sounds like there is hope that I will find them again, recover the relationship somehow at some point. Some philosophies say that I might, but even with that I am not guaranteed. What this all means to me, really-really, is that I am in fact the one who feels lost. I am the one who is now wandering through the valley of grief and uncertainty, juggling life between the facts, the must-do’s of day to day life, and calling it whatever it needs to be called in order to tolerate it and accept the void of a missing piece never to be returned to where I think it belongs, to where I want them the most.