Loss is hard.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about loss over the past few months and what has been surprising is how I’ve chosen to reflect on the effects of loss rather than its meaning. I think there’s an important distinction and that maybe the problem of loss is a conceptual one.
As a society based primarily on consumption and possession, the pain of loss gets magnified because of how we can tend to define ourselves by our possessions. Loss is so damaging that we often crave a way to explain it—to justify our grief and our suffering. To give it meaning. That meaning makes it easier to accept that these things happen. Not easy, just easier.
In monochrome photography, the absence of colour amplifies the importance of contrast. Your only tools to convey a narrative—drama—are composition and light. In particular, it’s an effective use of shadows that puts the focus on an image’s subject. A flat image gives the entire frame equal standing, but create a situation where the unimportant elements are darkened and the subject becomes almost impossible to ignore.
In the framing of life the problems of loss and evil have the same effect as shadows. They cause the lighted areas already present in our lives to come into focus. We value our friends and family in the day-to-day, sure, but it’s the light that emanates from their presence in times of darkness that allows us to stop and truly and deeply appreciate their inclusion in the composition of our own lives. They stand in stark contrast to the pain.
I don’t know that there’s any objective meaning to our suffering or our happiness. I don’t know that there’s a reason for why things happen. But I do know that the results of loss and suffering are opportunities for goodness and beauty to glow brighter than the darkness, opportunities for us to be a light for others in their times of darkness, opportunities for us to notice what really matters in the hectic bustle of life, and for just a few moments stop, look, and see what was there all along.
Loss is hard.