“‘I know there are people left to lose, and things and capacities I can lose, but I’ve learned how to lose people I love. But, with Rickey’s death I also had to address the issue of how to survive in this work in this much pain…This work is about moving through it whole, finding ways to do that, to come out intact. I think of my support group facilitators who have HIV and how much I love them. We enter into an intense relationship, work together for two years or more, and then I watch them get sick, and they tell me they’re leaving, and then they die. After each round of these wonderful people has died, there’s always the question of who will be the next ones, and. I can name them. And the next question is, can I get through it?
You make a bargain: You’ll engage with life knowing that the price for living is loss. If you ever go back on the bargain, that’s where burnout and failure take hold, and your work is finished.
After ten years I can’t fully engage with everyone, but I do a very good job of taking care of most people, and I think it’s because I know I’m capable of living at a very high level emotionally in spite of death and loss, which are givens in this life. I’m able to accept loss as a part of the bargain.”
Excerpted from Sometimes my Heart Goes Numb by Charles Garfield.