I knew that the belt was tucked into the belt loops where it belonged when I sent that bathrobe to the laundry. But now those belt loops were empty and looking quite lonely.
It wasn’t that it was such a valuable loss; the belt might have been worth a dollar or two. Monetary value wasn’t the issue. The crisis was that the belt was gone. It was missing from its proper place. And, of course, I couldn’t wear the bathrobe without the belt. I’d have to find something else to wear to breakfast!
That started my day off badly and it went downhill from there. Where could that belt be? Surely it was in the house somewhere, but where?
I could not get my mind off that belt. Bruce looked everywhere while I sat in my recliner chair and called out suggestions of places for him to search. He checked in the washer, in the drier, in the empty laundry hamper, in the closet, all around the house, under the bed, and even in our underwear drawers. No belt.
He kept reassuring me that the belt would surely show up sometime soon but I could not get it off my mind. The longer he searched, the more upset I got.
First I felt angry: “I have enough problems in my life I don’t need another one.” Then some sadness sneaked in: “What if we can’t find it. I’ll have to throw away a perfectly good bathrobe.” There was also some sense of helplessness. “I don’t even have the energy to walk around the house, How can I possibly turn the house upside down searching?” And, of course, self-pity. “Why do I have to deal with all these problems when other people don’t?”
A few tears of frustration dribbled down my cheeks when I remembered my mother’s emotional struggles after a stroke in her 90th year. She was never able to believe the losses the stroke had caused her. She was intent on walking without help even though her leg could no longer bear her weight. For a long time she refused to try to learn to eat with her left hand, stubbornly struggling with her unresponsive right hand.
Suddenly I realized that the bathrobe belt was not the problem that was really upsetting me. It was simply a symbol of the many invisible losses I have been experiencing. There’s been loss of strength and energy, ability to do simple household tasks, ease of breathing and talking, independence, freedom from continuous oxygen, the self image of well-being, certainty about the future, ease of getting around, and other losses even I have not yet identified. But it is hard to grieve invisible and unrecognized losses.
It took me some time to sort through a lot of ignored emotional stresses but it was time well spent. It was very important for me to free up that bathrobe belt from all the blame I had been laying on it and to deal with the real issues.
The next day, my hired helper rescued the lost bathrobe belt. It had been “hidden in plain sight” hanging on the quilt rack at the foot of our bed! Will my deeper issues of emotional losses get solved that easily? Definitely not if I keep hiding them from myself!
12 Sept 2019 - mshr