An Inexpressible Loss



The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

Sunday, I attended a memorial service for the only son of friends. Shannon and I had dinner with them just two nights before his death.

Marc was about the same age as our son, Chad.

It seemed impossible. How could he be in that small box?

He was a firefighter, an EMT, strong, deeply muscled. Ripped. His body could barely contain him, how then this box?

Marc was a son. He was a brother, an uncle, a nephew. He was a friend to many, one of those gifted to leave a permanent “marc” on every life he touched.

He was dearly, thoroughly loved. His life had already mattered. He had already made a difference.

He won’t be forgotten, which means the pain of losing him so young won’t go away, at least that’s how it feels now.


Seems like this is happening too often, before the last wound’s had time to heal.

Right now, it feels like life is just an accumulation of loss, each one harder to accept.

I can offer nothing to his parents and sister except tears and my silent presence.

It’s impossible not to notice the pain, even within their smiles at greetings and I can do nothing to assuage it. My grief is so raw it’s left me mute and helpless.

Heartache is our English word for this feeling, but it’s inadequate. What’s felt is deeper than an ache, but I don’t know the language that better expresses the truth.

Maybe you do.

Maybe you’re able to use voice and words to hold such grief close for a minute or two and leave the bearers knowing you really have put just a little of it into your pocket so you can take it home with you, carrying just a bit of their burden.


We, in our on-air personae, can acknowledge grief without allowing it to be the only feeling we wear, like a sweater we put on in the morning, when it’s cold, and then remove as the sun warms our day.

Or we can pretend that loss never visits us, that our life is always happy, exuberant even, and funny. Always funny.

We can pretend that none listening to us is struggling simply to live through this moment, that all any of us need are a few one-liners and the chance to win tickets to that concert this weekend.

It’s our choice. It’s our show. And it’s definitely easier, pretending. It makes our PD happy. It makes the consultant happy.

But what about that one listener who’s landed on your frequency today, who, like Marc’s family, has lost someone who can never be replaced?

Can your words hold her close for just a minute or two, just to let her feel that you understand, that she’s not alone.

And then gently release her, and at your next break go back to whatever normal content means on your station.

Can you do that?

If you can do that, if that is your gift, how can you not share it, because the need is great and universal.

“…there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost.”


All I can do is ask God to guide their wandering boy towards the light…


We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed