Ellen Greenblatt: Losing Your Person

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The numbers are staggering but the pain of losing those we have loved is devastating. Ellen Greenblatt has this Perspective.

500,000 Americans have died in the pandemic, leading to a 1% drop in life expectancy in the USA this year. We know the big picture.

But statistics can, paradoxically, mask the pain of individual loss.

To pry open the numbers, poignant articles called “Those We Have Lost” introduce us to people we don’t know who led richly-ordinary lives.

Then there are those we do know.

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For the millions of us who have unexpectedly lost our person, our most intimate connection — lost them to the pandemic, or to a heart attack or a bike or car accident — statistics and articles are yet another heart-wrenching reminder of what it means when your person is gone forever.

When I lost my person, I was robbed of what a friend calls the cloak of love I had worn everywhere.

I know that losing your person means losing companionship, but also the very self and reflection of you your person carried in their eyes and heart.

Losing someone, especially someone with whom you were sharing the pandemic, means losing touches, affirmations, loving glances and even the mundane disagreements that are part of life.

Losing your person means eating alone, even if you seem to be with others in your pod.

Losing your person means that some friends, alarmed by grief and loss, do not know how to talk to you, so they fade away.

But losing your person brings unexpected people your way, people who know not to be embarrassed if you sometimes cry, which of course you do.

People who can simply say, “I’m sorry.” Or “I wish it were different.”

The drop in life expectancy is startling on a societal level, but losing your person and their rumpled hair and jokes remains an unimaginable catastrophe, incomprehensibly final.

Those of us left behind know that a statistic has a face and a smile. How can he be gone?

With a Perspective, I’m Ellen Greenblatt.

Ellen Greenblatt is a writer and writing coach in Berkeley, California.