Today is August 17 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you remind yourself love lost comes back in a different way?” Today’s reflection challenges us to think about how to move forward amidst the inevitable losses we will encounter throughout life. When actor Pierce Brosnan was in the early stages of his career, he lost his first wife Cassandra to ovarian cancer in 1991 and it nearly broke him.
The night before his wife died, he said: "That was one of the longest nights of my life ever. There is an incredible cruelty in it all, losing a person you shared everything with. This is the first time in my life I’ve ever experienced bereavement, and it’s overwhelming.” It took a good deal of time but slowly he started to work his way back from the pain. Eventually, love came back in a different way when he met Keeley Smith and they married in 2001. Keeley’s love would be the source of strength Brosnan would need in 2013 when his daughter Charlotte died of the same disease that caused her mother’s death.
A story related to Franz Kafka serves as an illustration of how powerful love coming back in a different way can be. Due to the complexities of the personalities involved, historians remain unsure as to the story’s authenticity. What historians can agree upon, however, is where it originated. The story originated with Kafka’s fiancé Dora Diamant who told it to the French critic and translator Marthe Robert, and, in a slightly different version, to Max Brod.
There are different versions of the story but what follows is a common one. The story requires a bit of context. Kafka never married and was associated with many women throughout his life. Sadly, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in August 1917 and spent the rest of life trying to manage the illness. During a vacation in July 1923 to Graal-Müritz on the Baltic Sea, Kafka met Dora Diamant, a 25-year-old kindergarten teacher from an orthodox Jewish family.
Kafka, hoping to escape the influence of his family to concentrate on his writing, moved briefly to Berlin (September 1923-March 1924) and lived with Diamant. It is during this time in Berlin that the following story involving Kafka supposedly occurs.
“While out on a walk one day in Berlin, Kafka and Dora met a little girl in a park who was crying because she had lost her doll. Kafka told her not to worry since the doll was away on a trip and had sent him a letter. When the little girl asked suspiciously for the letter, he told her he didn't have it with him, but that if she returned the following day, he would bring it. The next day, when they had not yet found the doll, Kafka gave the girl a letter ‘written’ by the doll saying ‘please don't cry. I took a trip to see the world. I will write to you about my adventures.’ Kafka continued his visits to the park for the next three weeks thereafter and shared a new letter from the doll to the little girl. During their meetings, Kafka read the letters of the doll carefully written with adventures and conversations that the girl found adorable. Finally, Kafka brought back the doll (he bought one) that had returned to Berlin. ‘It doesn't look like my doll at all,’ said the girl. Kafka handed her another letter in which the doll wrote: "my travels have changed me." the little girl hugged the new doll and brought her home. A year later, in 1924, Kafka died at 40 years of age. Some years later, the now-adult girl found a letter inside the doll signed by Kafka that read ‘Everything you love will probably be lost, but in the end, love will return in another way.’”
In her November 21, 2016, Women's Health Magazine article “7 Young Widows Share How They Found Love Again” Carrie Murphy examined loss and love and believed grieving the loss of a partner does not actually mean one is not ready to date. In the article Murphy included research by Brandy Engler, Ph.D., Los Angeles-based psychologist who suggested "One never gets over major life losses—meaning you will always feel something. To me, this is beautiful and in no way means a widow shouldn't move on and form other bonds.” Over time, and through the grieving process, many women can honor their past relationship and actually “experience loss as a heart-opening experience: You learn to love deeper, savor what you have, and use any regret from the past relationship to learn.”
As one of the widows interviewed noted: “My husband and I talked about how important it would be for each of us to find a new soul mate if something happened to one of us. He was killed while riding his bicycle shortly after our talk. I decided to date just a few months after my husband was killed, but it was too soon. Then, I met a widowed man whose wife's birthday was on the same day as my husband's death date. There were so many other amazing coincidences, and it was clear that we were meant to be together. We have a huge appreciation for love, relationships, and how short life is. It is important to take the chance to love again when you find a great partner because hearts can expand to love more than one great person."
Leo Buscaglia, also known as Dr. Love, said “Death is a challenge. It tells us not to waste time. It tells us to tell each other right now that we love each other.”
How often do you remind yourself that ‘death is a challenge that tells us not to waste time?’
How often do you remind yourself ‘love lost comes back in a different way?’
Have you experienced overwhelming loss? If so, how did you navigate the chaos of such a loss?