Handling the Losses of Life - Part 2
- 2001 13 Aug
In order to recover we need to understand the nature and broad scope of any loss we or a family member experiences. We also need to remember that the extent of the attachment will determine the intensity of the loss.
There are many kinds of losses, such as material loss including physical objects or familiar surroundings. Thousands in Southern California experienced this in the January 1994 earthquake. Relationship loss involves a multitude of secondary losses. Intrapsychic loss is the experience of losing an emotional important perception of oneself which is often related to some external experience. Functional loss of some part of the body is usually associated with old age but can cut across the lifespan.
Role loss occurs when our position in a social network changes. This can involve retirement, loss of a job, promotion, or career change. The key element is that the loss is related to the extent of our identity investment.
There are many other variables involved such as avoidable vs. unavoidable temporary vs. permanent, actual vs. imagined and anticipated vs. unanticipated. Those who experience an anticipated loss have the opportunity to grieve beforehand. Unanticipated losses come in many packages.3 In 1990, my 22-year old retarded son died, which was unexpected. But not only that, as a parent you don’t expect to outlive your children.
To recover from loss means to enter into grief and mourn whatever was lost. Grieving is painful, it takes effort, and it’s a lingering process. It is not grief that is abnormal it’s the absence that is the problem. The first time grief is mentioned in Scripture is a reflection of God’s reaction. In Genesis 6:6 it states, “And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth and he was grieved at heart.”
In Jesus’ experience of the impending grief experience we read, “Then Jesus when with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he told his disciples, ‘Sit down here, while I go over yonder and pray.’ And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to show grief and distress of mind and was deeply depressed” (Matthew 26:36, 37).
Many of the Psalms reflect the grief experience of God’s people. Grief has been our companion since the beginning of mankind. Its purpose is to help us to go beyond the reactions of our feelings, protest the effects of the loss, and then work on adjusting to it. We need to work through the “Why?” questions to “How can I learn through this experience? How can I go on with my life?”
What can you do? Giving yourself permission to feel your loss and grieve over it. For some tears flow easily, but others can only cry within themselves. Look at photos, recall experiences, or write a good-bye letter to whatever was lost and read it aloud. Genesis 42-50 shares the account of several expressions of tears by Joseph. The Psalms express the sorrow of men such as David weeping over his son in Psalms 42:3. A beautiful portrayal of Jesus’ tears can be found in Incredible Moments with the Savior, written by Ken Gire:
“On our way to Lazarus’ tomb we stumble on still another question. Jesus approaches the gravesite with the full assurance that he will raise his friend from the dead. Why then does the sight of the tomb trouble him? Maybe the tomb in the garden is too graphic a reminder of Eden gone to seed. Of Paradise lost. And of the cold, dark tomb he would have to enter to regain it. In any case, it is remarkable that our plight could trouble his spirit; that our pain could summon his tears.
“The raising of Lazarus is the most daring and dramatic of all the Savior’s healings. He courageously went into a den where hostility raged against him to snatch a friend from the jaws of death. It was an incredible moment. It revealed that Jesus was who he said he was—the resurrection and the life. But it revealed something else. The tears of God. And who’s to say which is more incredible—a man who raises the dead…or a God who weeps?”4
When you experience a major loss don’t expect too much from yourself. You will be prone to be easily distracted because of your dazed condition, which can create additional losses. And you’ll usually be preoccupied with your loss rather than tending to your needs or the needs of others.
Recovering From the Losses of Life, H. Norman Wright, Spire, Baker Book House
Recovering From the Losses of Life - curriculum, Christian Marriage Enrichment
My Companion Through Grief, Gary Kinnaman, Servant Publications
Grieving the Loss of Someone You Love, Raymond R. Mitsch and Lynn Brookside, Servant Publications
1 R. Scott Sullender, Losses in Later Life (New York: Paulist Press, 1989), 3.
2 Nina Hermann Donnelly, I Never Know What to Say (New York: Ballantine Books, 1987), 123.
3 Kenneth Mitchell and Herbert Anderson, All Our Losses, All Our Griefs (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1983), 36-49, adapted.
4 Ken Gire, Incredible Moments with the Savior (Grand Rapids, MI: 1990), 96-97, adapted.
Dr. H. Norman Wright is a graduate of Westmont College (B.A. Christian Education), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.R.E.), and Pepperdine University (M.A. in Clinical Psychology) and has received honorary doctorates D.D. and D.Litt. from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary and Biola University respectively. He has pioneered premarital counseling programs throughout the country. Dr. Wright is the author of over 65 books—including the best-selling Always Daddy’s Girl and Quiet Times for Couples. He and his wife, Joyce, have a married daughter, Sheryl, and a son, Matthew, who was profoundly retarded and is now deceased. The Wrights make their home in Southern California.