How to Cope with Loss – Part 1: Mourning the Untimely Death of My Future Self

We’ve all experienced great loss in one form or another. The cancellation of my trip to USDC is a great loss for me. As a way to cope and heal and, as always, to expose my darkness to the light in the hope of someone relating, I’ve decided to document the aftermath in a blog series. This is Part 1. I have no idea how many parts there will be ultimately. As many as are needed, I suppose.

Wednesday

I never saw it coming. I was at work and my phone rang. It was Teacher. He never calls. Always texts. But I didn’t suspect anything. The one who lives by the motto “prepare for the worst, hope for the best,” I answered the phone unprepared. I honestly expected an assistant task. Teacher was supposed to be going to a big competition that was held locally. So I honestly thought he was calling to ask me to help him out with something related to the comp. Drop something off. Pick something up. I could not have been more wrong.

“Hey girl…got some bad news…” The world as I knew it screeched to a halt with those words. Everything stopped. I remember Teacher saying he was sorry and he would call me back after he called other students he was supposed to dance with that day and the next. I said “oh my gosh, you have to make this phone call 8 times!”

My brain couldn’t compute the information it had just received. He broke his wrist? Try to get my money back? What? An echo in my head said it’s all over. But that didn’t make any sense. How could it be over? We hadn’t even gotten there yet.

I went numb; my brain didn’t know what emotion to send me. It sent me logistical problems. Hotel rooms, flights, entry fees. Reservations needed to be cancelled. Refunds needed to be requested. My parents needed to be notified! One was planning to fly from California and the other was flying all the way from Israel, returning from one trip and going right into another to see me dance in Florida.

I took my lunch hour early and started sending texts and making phone calls. Teacher called me back again and told me to email the comp organizer. He should issue me a refund since it was Teacher who was injured. Teacher said he was sorry again. I just said “yeah.” I didn’t know what else to say, none of it made any sense. My boss called and told me to finish the work I was in the middle of and then take the rest of the day off. She is a ballroom dancer too, so she understood. At first I said no, I can stay. But my brain was starting to process what had happened. I started to feel a deep loss.

I went home early.

I didn’t know what to do. So I took the dogs out. Then I sat on the couch. Then later I went to bed. My brain was still in shock, even after I had called the hotel and two different airlines to cancel reservations. It just didn’t make any sense.

Thursday

I stayed in bed except when the dogs whined to go out. My sweet boys, they knew something was wrong with their mama. They stayed close.

It may sound strange, but I felt like someone close to me had died. I felt all of the classic symptoms – a feeling of deep loss/emptiness, uncertainty of what to do next, irritation at seeing other people seemingly go on about their lives as if nothing had happened. How can you laugh at a joke at a time like this? How can you go grocery shopping at a time like this? But the world kept on turning and people kept on living. And I felt very alone and isolated in my dark corner, unable to move. Not wanting to move. I didn’t want the world to keep turning. It needed to wait, something was wrong, we had to go back.

I couldn’t stay alone for long. Roomie checked in on me with texts while she was at work. My wonderful readers and fellow ballroom bloggers left their condolences on the post announcing what happened. Other ballroom students and friends who had read the news messaged me online to see how I was doing. It was reassuring to read that they were thinking of me because they knew how hard I worked, how much of my heart and soul was poured into this journey, and how much this competition meant to me. It made me feel like my feelings were valid, I wasn’t overreacting. Lying in bed in my pajamas all day was an acceptable response to what had happened.

Friday

I made it to work. Barely, but I made it. Teacher’s wrist and forearm are now secured in a cast and he plans to return to teaching next week. I am relieved that he is eager to jump back into things. But I don’t feel ready to have a lesson yet.

I was able to process enough to figure out why I feel like someone has died – it was my future self.

The future was lost to me around the beginning of the year due to events outside of ballroom. But ballroom and the competition goals I had set for myself were my life raft. Even if I couldn’t see any future past Ohio Star Ball in November, at least it was something. More recently, after attending two personal development/business seminars, a greater future was revealed. I could see a longer path and I was eager to head down it! But that path started with USDC and Ohio. They were my jumping off point, the personal triumphs I would use to catapult me into something awesome. But now everything has changed, the jumping off point is gone, and the path has disappeared. And so the future self I envisioned has also disappeared.

I know not everyone will understand (isn’t there always next year?), but I’m here to express myself, not explain. To have to rebuild a future twice in one year is tough. I can still work toward milestones that I had set farther down the road, I just need to find a new road that will get me to them. But before I find a new one, I need to mourn the loss of the old one.

A random analogy just came to me – remember Etch-a-Sketch?  People have done amazing drawings on an Etch-a-Sketch (I just googled it and WOW!). But imagine you’re near the very end of creating one of those amazing, intricate pieces of art and someone trips and knocks the Etch-a-Sketch out of your hands and it tumbles to the ground, being shaken clean as it drops. Aahhh!!

Of course, you can start over. You didn’t lose the knowledge or experience or talent to recreate what was lost. But it’s still a loss. Because whatever you create the second time won’t be exactly the same. So yes, I can enter USDC next year. But it isn’t just a delay of the experience. Because it won’t be the same experience.

The end of the work day was easier than the beginning. I think having report deadlines to focus on helped stabilize my thoughts and give me a little better sense of control. One day at a time.

Next steps?

First, I need to allow myself time to process the loss. I think that is going to include PJs, wine and delivery pizza this weekend. I want to meet with Teacher to discuss our new path. Does it lead to Ohio Star Ball? I don’t know. I don’t feel comfortable even hoping at this point. But it will lead somewhere. And then I can start rebuilding my vision of my new future self. One step at a time though. It takes me longer than the average person to work through a loss, so I try not to look too far ahead before I’m ready.

Before I finish Part 1, I need to give a shout-out to Teacher. Because while I am dealing with an incredible loss, he has to deal with the same thing times nine. He was going to dance with seven students this week, me next week, and his professional partner both weeks. He and his pro partner also had two more comps on the books in the weeks after USDC. That is a LOT of hard work on his part that he doesn’t get to see come to fruition! Not to mention that it was his wrist that broke! But the same day his wrist was casted, he texted me that he planned on resuming teaching the following week and he would see me at our usual time.

If I had to choose a dance partner to go through something like this with, it would definitely be Teacher.

For those that are wondering:

Teacher broke his wrist playing soccer.

I will recover almost all of the money I put in.

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9 thoughts on “How to Cope with Loss – Part 1: Mourning the Untimely Death of My Future Self

  1. BCBallroomdancer says:

    I am glad to hear you will be able to recover almost all the money you but it, even if it is a small condolence to losing an entire competition. I can relate because I have also lost a lot this year, the hardest I think was knowing Boss was at a competition with other students and I was just too sick to compete too. I am very focused on my competition goals for next year, but I know how devastated I would feel if I don’t recover enough in time to make those goals. I can’t imagine the frustration to lose out for something out of your control, but wish you the best in healing and hope that Ohio will still be in the cards for you in November.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TheGirlWithTheTreeTattoo says:

      Wow, yeah, that’s taking etch-a-sketch to a whole new level! Beautiful, thanks for sharing. 🙂 It’s good to remember the impermanence of life. Also reminds me of a street art exhibit I went to last week. The artists spray painted their works on the walls of the gallery and once the exhibit closed, it was all just painted over! But it was making room for something new. Something new will come out of this.

      Liked by 1 person

      • loveablestef says:

        Perspective is everything! I want to encourage you to trust the process. It looks a mess and feels a disaster right now yet you have no idea what the next bend in the road may bring. Could you be open to the possibility that this is actually all unfolding perfectly for your highest good?

        Xoxo, Stef

        Like

  2. D_Wall says:

    The thing about ballroom is you practice for so many hours just to get to that wonderful time when you can do it for real. To have that opportunity taken away when it was so close is a big loss and I totally understand how you feel. To use your etch-a-sketch analogy, the future you draw from here won’t be the same but it can still be awesome just in a different way. Seemingly random events sometimes have a way of taking us to different, unexpected and hopefully better places. But you are certainly entitled to fully mourn your loss.

    Like

  3. mapes24 says:

    Wow, thx for sharing such a personal post. I can somewhat understand the frustration as this year has been filled with injuries (broken finger, torn ligaments in my hands and knee), all of which has kept me off stage after months of rehearsals. Even though things didn’t go according to plan, I’m glad to hear that you’re able to maintain perspective as you move forward and seek out your new path. Best of luck as you begin traveling on this new road, and I wish your teacher a speedy recovery! 🙂

    Like

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