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Detailed Book Information
All Is Not Lost
Yes! Press, 2002
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While most of us desire happiness, success, and peace of mind, there
are other aspects of life wed just as soon avoid: Death. Divorce.
Illness. Hurt. Disappointment. Sadness. Tragedy. There are points in
your life and mine where we will face loss, whether it involves the
end of a relationship or job, illness or accident, betrayal or financial
hardship, death of a beloved person or pet, letting go of a long held
dream, or a massive national tragedy. Although we are told our entire
lives that life is not fair, that bad things happen, and we should expect
the unexpected, we are still taken off guard when such things take place.
The September 11, 2001 attacks took us all by surprise. Because of this
traumatic event, and because each of us inevitably face our own crises,
I felt impelled to offer a message of comfort and empathy. I had never
planned on writing a book like this, but I couldnt stop thinking
about the victims and rescue workers who died, and their families, friends,
and coworkers. Somehow, it felt important to let them know they did
not grieve alone.
While loss and grief take many forms, experiencing emotional pain
is an intensely personal process. Its common to feel alone, isolated,
and disconnected from others. One unique aspect of September 11 was
its universality: while we all reacted in our own individual ways, our
shared sense of shock, bewilderment, and outrage brought us together.
Those of us who were not directly affected by the attacks identified
with those who were. Recall the outpouring of compassion in the form
of monetary donations and personal contributions; the numbers of people
who, at their own expense, left their homes and jobs, driving themselves
across the country so they could pitch in. Restaurants, retail stores,
and companies provided free food, drink, and essential equipment for
rescue workers and volunteers. Concerned citizens lined up to give blood
or assist in any way they could.
As we painfully witnessed the worst of what our species can inflict
on one another, we also witnessed the best: countless examples of the
heroic human spirit. Lest the lesson be overlooked, good things can
come from bad circumstances. Paradoxically, the same pain, suffering,
or grief that pierces our heart also directs us toward deeper understanding
and wisdom, and eventually, inner peace. The events of September 11
represented a compound loss for us as a nation, and we grieved. Even
if we didnt live in one of the ground zero areas or lose a friend
or loved one, our concept of safety, security, and sovereignty were
swiftly and irreversibly redefined. We lost our some of innocence and
naiveté. We knew things would never be the same. Such is the
nature of loss.
Through the weeks that followed, I couldnt stop thinking about
the thousands of people whose lives had been so swiftly and dramatically
altered in a single morning. Having experienced the sudden death of
my youngest son, I know the feeling of having my world turned on its
side at a moments notice. And families who have lost a loved one
through a violent act tell me that the harshness and senselessness of
it all adds to their pain and feelings of helplessness.
In our efforts to heal its sometimes hard to know where to begin
picking up the pieces. If you are currently in the midst of grieving,
I hope these ideas will bring comfort to your aching soul, give you
a sense of what youre in for, and offer some healthy ways to handle
your hurt so you can move forward in your life. If you have lost a loved
one youll find comfort here. If you are recovering from the pain
of divorce youll discover some insights that can help you adjust
and eventually thrive in your new life. If you have lost your job or
feel as if youre stuck in a period of confusion or angst you will
find some ideas that will help you break free.
While All Is Not Lost explores the painful, difficult side of life
its also a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit. Even
in the aftermath of loss, crisis, or trauma, we somehow find ways to
prevail. This book is about what you can expect as you progress from
floundering in the depths of despair to healing your heart and spirit
so you can once again soar with all you believe in. I have intentionally
left room for you to interject the tenets of your faith or spiritual
beliefs rather than impose my own. I trust you will both appreciate
and take advantage of this freedom. If you have recently suffered a
significant loss or setback, even though it doesnt feel like it
at this moment, please believe that all is not not lost. You will recover.
You will once again find sense and meaning in your life. In time you
will find your way along the foreign terrain of the healing journey.
Chapter 12: Goodbye Can Mean Goodbye
We have rules in our household about saying goodbye. The basic requirements
include eye contact and face to face acknowledgment. We tolerate no
automatic, empty greetings, no yelling from the door, no turned backs,
and no air kisses that fall to the floor, orphaned, unrequited. When
we say goodbye, even when running out for a quick errand, we make it
an event. In fact, Rob and I have made a game of saying goodbye. One
of us will stand at the door, announcing our departure, hesitating long
enough for the other to come running from another room in mock frenzy,
ready to dispense a farewell hug or kiss.
You may be wondering if weve always had this rule. Of course
not. Following my sons death I was haunted by the distant, preoccupied
farewell I had given him. I have no recollection of whether I kissed
or hugged him or looked into his eyes. I suspect I did not. My brain
was already on the road, eager to get home and back to my routine. After
having to own up to my negligence that day, I vowed to never again to
be so arrogant. This was a harsh, painful lesson.
Given my history, you can imagine the empathy I felt for those who
lost loved ones on September 11. My heart ached for the hundreds, perhaps
thousands of people who gave their own incomplete goodbyes that fateful
morning. Some were still asleep when their partners walked out the door.
A few left in anger. How could anyone have dreamed that this casual,
everyday gesture would take on such significance a few hours later?
For those of us whose last goodbye left so painfully much unsaid, we
must come to accept that this was only one momentary gesture and not
the whole relationship. It is a deed that cannot be undone and theres
a point at which we need to give up flogging ourselves for our inability
to predict the future. As far as the future goes, we can only pledge
to make each of our goodbyes something to remember.
A Healing Step: Maybe you already give great goodbyes, but if not,
I encourage you make each one an event, even if its only your
pet you are leaving behind. If like me, you live with a remorseful goodbye,
remind yourself that it was only a moment in time and you do not possess
psychic powers. Forgive yourself. We can serve ourself and the memory
of our loved one by focusing on the meaningful hours and days and years
when we were intimately connected instead of the brief moments we were
not. We cannot change our history, but our past has worthwhile lessons
to teach us as we move on.
Some people wrap themselves in their pain instead of learning from
it. Dont fall into that trap. We all have regrets and our job
is to put them in perspective and learn what they can teach us. Regret
can turn us toward what we truly value. Grief can remind us how precious
life is. Disappointment can help us clarify what we want. Mistakes can
provide us with the opportunity to try something different, to create
new patterns and practices that enrich our existence. Who would think
that a simple goodbye, one of the first social gestures we learn as
babies, and one we so casually engage in without a thought countless
times a day, could hold such consequence.
Chapter 15: Other Losses
Change is a constant in life and it is often accompanied by some kind
of loss. Even our circle of friends changes with the years: we leave
some of them behind and some of them leave us. When my best friend Roxanne
moved to Seattle I didnt realize it meant the end of our friendship
and I grieved the loss for years. Having seen her a few times since
then, Ive come to realize that the woman I so sorely missed no
longer exists. We have little in common now.
Work represents its own set of losses, large and small. Job loss shakes
the foundation of our existence because it jeopardizes our entire way
of living. Considering the number of hours spent in the workplace and
the uncontrollable issues that go along with it (conflicting agendas
and personalities, time demands, politics, ego clashes, unresponsive
or incompetent management, to name a few) its no surprise that
work can represent an ongoing source of distress.
Job changes such as reorganizations, reassignments, and reclassifications
can mean losing our connections with former peers who now perceive us
differently or shy away because we are no longer a part of the old team.
Promotions often bring with them unexpected burdens such as increased
responsibilities, longer hours, and people problems. With demotions,
the loss of status can be ego crushing. Clearly, the workplace can be
the source of many losses.
One persons trauma can be invisible to others. There are people
who grieve the loss of natural habitat just as others would mourn a
lost loved one, taking the constant damage to our environment very personally.
Edward Abbey, author of the evocative Desert Solitaire is one example.
His subsequent works vibrated with anger as he watched so many cherished
wild places destroyed.
One of my favorite authors, Carl Hiaasen, chronicles similar insults
in his Miami Herald column. I respect how he has sublimated his grief
over the systematic destruction of his home states shorelines
and ecology by writing novels that pulsate with vicious, brilliant humor
and evil characters. Hiaasen is an example of how you can creatively
channel your indignation or angst instead of ruining your health (or
life) over circumstances that lie outside of your control.
Earlier in the book I discussed the losses that accompany aging, though
getting older has become a different issue than it was a few decades
ago. Just look around at the emerging seniors (like myself). Old is
younger than it used to be, and with an assist from medical technology,
we can even turn back the odometer: many of my professional speaker
colleagues are postponing the loss of their youth with various forms
of cometic surgery. This is an option I have not exercised, nor do I
But mind you, I qualify. I dont even officially fit into middle
age anymore. Perhaps Im clinging to a thin strand of denial,
but there are moments this still takes me by surprise. So far, thanks
to regular exercise, my mothers genes, and moderately healthy
diet Im in pretty good shape, with a few isolated parts of my
body knowing how old I really am. I did give up jogging some years ago
to relieve the wear and tear on my knees. Otherwise, Im still
actively learning, thinking creatively, riding my horse, hiking, and
coming pretty close to doing to what Ive always done. For this,
I am mightily grateful.
A Healing Step: Even small losses or changes can prompt unease. If
you find yourself feeling down or angry, take time to pinpoint where
its coming from or what its connected to. Examine whats
going on, especially if you have experienced any recent changes to determine
what, if anything, is different. Was there an expectation that didnt
get met? Have you been ignoring any physical symptoms? Have you been
avoiding an issue you need to deal with? Check the calendar. A pending
birthday, especially one that moves you into a new decade, or other
significant dates can trigger feelings and thoughts you didnt
know you had. Old anniversaries, even long after a death or divorce
can resurface old wounds or regrets.
Maybe theres something youre grieving over and youve
resisted admitting it. You might have tried to convince yourself that
youre being silly or stupid, but feelings are feelings and they
will let themselves be known one way or the other. Weve discussed
what a personal experience loss can be. Weve also established
that if you dont address the emotions that are trying to come
out, theyll express themselves later somewhere in your body. Be
efficient. Its like our moms used to tell us when we were neglecting
our chores: go inside and get your work done now, so that
if anything comes along that you want to do, youll be free to
Chapter 19: Anger and Acceptance
When bad things happen, one of the many emotions we need to sort through
is anger. If we become ill, we may get angry at ourself or our body,
and even the doctor who diagnoses our condition. When a loved one dies,
we might be angry at them for leaving us behind. A divorce can trigger
a good deal of anger, especially if it involved betrayal or deception.
We can get angry at life for being so harsh or cruel, or at God for
allowing something so awful to happen. And with a little bit of creativity
and perseverance, we can find a whole lot of other people to be mad
Elsewhere in this book I describe the anger I felt when my son was
killed. It just didnt feel natural burying one of my children.
Parents were supposed to die first, or even grandparents, all of whom,
in our family, outlived their grandson by several years. You can imagine
I was very angry over the unfairness of it all. When I presented the
minister with the elegy I had written for my son, I remember giving
the poor man precise, insistent instructions on exactly how I wanted
it read. I think he understood that I was so closed down with grief
and outrage I didnt realize how I was behaving, nor did I care.
My anger had to go somewhere.
Therapists and anger management counselors describe anger as a secondary
emotion, stating that, while what is coming out of us may look, sound,
and feel like anger, thats not really what it is. Fear, insecurity,
and hurt are often expressed as anger, as are feelings of abandonment,
frustration, and helplessness. For example, as couples in a troubled
relationship approach the point of separation or divorce, much of their
time is spent time yelling, blaming, and venting their anger. I am suggesting
that much of what they are expressing isnt really anger. They
are grieving, but they dont know it. Their anger is protecting
them from their hurt.
I define anger as a defense mechanism that shields us from experiencing
the full brunt of an emotion. In other words, people who keep themselves
in a prolonged state of anger are wrapped in their protections.
They are closed down, shielded; in full defense mode. Temporarily, anger
does us a service. It can keep us from having to feel the intensity
of our grief or hurt until we have time to adjust and sort things out.
But if we hold onto anger for too long, it can be our undoing.
As an individual more inclined toward anger than depression, Ive
since learned to look for the connecting point. That is, I want to know
what root feeling is attached to my anger at the other end. If you find
yourself feeling angry about something thats going on in your
life, take a closer look and figure out what its connected to.
What presumptions did you have about life? What were your expectations?
Did you think you were exempt from this kind of hurt? Were you thinking
life would be fair? Well, it isnt. Life is exceedingly unfair.
Its unfair that people should die painful deaths, whether by
illness or violence, and that our hearts or spirits sometimes end up
broken by the very people we love. Its unfair that employers allow
unhealthy, sometimes abusive work environments to exist, where people
in subordinate positions are treated with disrespect, or where politics
preside over principles. Its unfair that corporations can wantonly
pollute our water, soil, and air and not have to clean it up or pay
for it. Its unfair that some people have so much money that they
blatantly waste, flaunt, or hoard it while others have so little they
can barely subsist.
Its unfair that children get cancer or are born with multiple
disabilities. Its unfair that women and children and animals get
abused in their homes. I could go on, but you get the point. Life is
unfair and our getting angry wont stop the unfairness from happening.
Life will go on anyway, whether we stay angry or not. If something terrible
has happened to you, maybe you feel angry about being singled out. But
yet, should you or I be exempt? It only takes a short look to regain
perspective. I think of my friend Mitchell, who, just a few short years
before the accident that paralyzed him, suffered burns so extensive
that he lost his fingers and had to have his face rebuilt. Or my neighbor
Ruth who buried a son and a daughter before either of them became full
fledged adults. Then there are the families who lost someone on September
We all have our losses to bear. Respecting the tragedies of others
keeps me from feeling entitled; like Im so special that nothing
bad should happen to me. Or that I should stay angry when it does. Life
happens. Hurt happens. And we go on anyway. We have to remind ourselves
that the hard times help us truly connect with other human beings. It
is our bond; our social glue. By eventually trading anger for acceptance
youll find it easier to forgive, whether that means forgiving
yourself or someone else. Once you accept what life is, instead of what
you think it should be, or want it to be, youll find the place
of peace youve been looking for, and more.
But if you allow yourself to remain in a state of suspended anger youll
severely limit what you hear, see, and feel. Anger may seem an honest
emotion, but because it puts you in a state of protective alarm it can
cheat you in the long run. When you are angry its as if your mind
and body are operating on reserve power and only so much sensory energy
can be expended. Operating at minimum capacity will work for a little
while, but it wont serve you in the long term. Youll miss
more of life than you experience.
A Healing Step:
If, in your grief, you have been closed down with anger and youre
ready to give it up, you have some work to do (if youre not ready
to give it up you have even more work to do). Your first step is in
facing up to the fact that you are a human being, living in a neutral
world where things you consider bad, hurtful, or unfortunate will happen,
most of which are beyond the realm of your control. Im sorry,
but thats the way it is. Next, accept that, even though in many
ways you are a very special person, this does not mean you are exempt
from heartache or conflict in your relationships, unjust treatment by
your employer, nor are you and those you love necessarily immune to
illness, turmoil, or injury.
Getting angry and blaming people, circumstances, or even God for bad
things that happen to you will only increase and perpetuate your anxiety.
In directing blame (responsibility) toward any source other than yourself,
you are, in effect, relinquishing control. If you in no way contributed
to this situation your option is to accept, not resist. If you had even
a remote hand in helping make it happen, own up. Wishing, hoping, blaming
or getting angry over the way things are will not change the circumstances,
nor will any of these resistances prevent more bad things from happening.
However, they will keep you closed down, meaning that youll be
unable to fully participate in your life.
Perhaps its occurred to you that these declarations reflect the
sentiment found in the Serenity Prayer and youre right. These
statements also parallel the work of Dr. Albert Ellis and his model
of Rational Emotive Therapy (RET), a powerful approach to personal transformation.
Dr. Ellis has had a tremendous influence on me and I heartily recommend
his many books, especially A Guide To Rational Living.
One last thing I will ask you to accept is that you have tremendous
potential for creating a life of fulfillment and much of your serenity
will come from your ability to openly accept all of lifes experiences,
not just the ones that feel good or make you happy. But then, at some
level, you already know that.