It’s the circumstances that are driving you crazy. It’s not you. That’s how it feels like when you go through an ambiguous loss.” Dr. Pauline Boss’ words rang in my head as I thought of what I should write this week.
Dr. Pauline Boss is the world-renowned ambiguous loss expert, an emeritus professor at the University of Minnesota.
She writes, “Absence and presence are not absolutes. Even without death, the people we care about disappear physically, or fade away psychologically… This ambiguity between absence and presence creates a unique kind of loss that has both psychological and physical qualities.”
I sat in her class years ago, and trying to recall the lessons, I picked up her book again to find something to help navigate this extended quarantine, which has thrown us into varying degrees of grief over ambiguous loss. And there are so many losses we continue to live and grapple with.
Among the key things required of us to make it through a period of ambiguous loss is to build resilience. “To bounce back and even grow from the traumatizing effects of ambiguous loss requires immense resilience,” Boss writes. “Many people have this natural self-righting ability to get better—if given time.”
Resilience bank account
Cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Michael Maddaus wrote an excellent piece on how one can build a resilience bank account (RBA).
He says that there are six components to a healthy RBA—sleep, exercise, gratitude, meditation and mindfulness, self-compassion, and connection to others.
Maddaus writes, ”The intentional cultivation of these habits is a foundation of our ability to thrive and generate a more cohesive force of awareness, kindness, optimism and compassion, all while simultaneously holding onto our demand for excellence in all that we do.”
For us to survive and thrive in a season replete with ambiguous (and nonambiguous) losses, we must be sure about our decisions we make in these six areas of our lives. In the area of sleep, which many people nowadays grapple with, Maddaus says, we must complete seven to nine hours a night. He suggests that we go to to bed and get up at the same time as much as possible. Keep an ambient bedroom temperature of 18 degrees Celsius and more important, avoid blue light for several hours before bed (TV, computers, phones) to avoid interfering with circadian rhythms, or switch to the warm light option early in the evening.
Lastly, he suggests we eat dinner earlier to coordinate cellular circadian clocks with normal light/dark cycles, and avoid alcoholic drinks right before bed.
The pandemic has taught me to be more intentional in all these six areas. It has been a time of great transformation for me, as it has been a huge time of change for many corporations, families, relationships and individuals. There is so much we have lost, but we have also gained so much in tangible and intangible ways.
We will not come out of this period unchanged, but, I believe, we will change for the better. To do otherwise would be such a waste of all the things we have lost and gained in this period in our history.
One of the changes forthcoming is that you will no longer see Roots and Wings in the Inquirer. As you may have probably noticed in the last months, this column has appeared only once or twice monthly, mainly due to page constraints. Now it will cease to appear, collateral damage to cost-cutting measures like many other columns in this paper.
I cannot help but feel sadness as this chapter closes. However, the gratefulness I feel is so much more for having been given 14 years to share stories, opinions and ideas with you, my dear friend and reader. I thank our former editor in chief, the late Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc who encouraged me to use this space to help and inspire others. My gratitude goes to my former Lifestyle editor and first mentor, Chelo Banal-Formoso, who invited me back in 2006 to write a column after I left the Inquirer in 2004. My thanks also goes to my current editor, Thelma Sioson San Juan, who guided me these last several years.
Our lives go through many seasons, and Roots and Wings has seen me through many of my highs and lows, some of which I have shared in this space.
I will miss writing for you here, my dear readers. Our time here is done, but I know that I will keep on writing. If you miss me, you can find me on Facebook, through Instagram @cathybabao, or on Friday nights on my online show through the Conversations with Cathy Facebook page. I will continue to share my stories on all those platforms.
Thank you very much for our 14 years together. I believe that God has an open door for me somewhere, where I know I shall see you all again. For now, I close this chapter of my life, with a quote from Jo March from Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women”—“I keep turning over new leaves, and spoiling them, as I used to spoil my copybooks; and I make so many beginnings, there will never be an end.”