« The Duke Of Essex | Main | Of Dogs And Dragons »

Through Lattice Windows: Learning About Loss

"Faith in new life is what enables a person who has suffered loss to carry on, making new choices about life and taking advantage of new opportunities. Not to believe in new life is to sit with one's lot and suffer despair forever because there is no hope of restored happiness,'' writes Leanne Hunt.

The Life Line personal growth course I am on is teaching me a lot about important subjects. Yesterday, the small group exercise was on loss, and it was interesting to see how varied peoples' experiences were. Our discussion touched not only on the types of losses we had suffered but on our response to them and the way in which they had changed us. Some very illuminating facts emerged as a result.

The loss I chose to share about was moving away from my beloved church community in Piet Retief. Although it happened many years ago, it was so devastating as to mark me for nearly a decade afterwards. I felt wrenched from my roots, set adrift in a strange environment and more isolated than I had ever been before. My identity as a worship leader was stripped from me. I grieved the disappearance of a lifestyle I loved. Relationships that had nourished and supported me were rendered flimsy by distance. In short, I was deeply hurt and thrown into a state of bewilderment.

I have experienced several other losses since - the loss of both my parents in 2010 being the most obvious - and I see a recurring pattern. Loss is always accompanied by shock, which gives rise to a flurry of questions. Could it have been prevented? Were there any warning signs? What could I have done differently? How could others have prevented it? Who is ultimately to blame? Can the loss be recovered? Will all things be restored at some time in the future, in some other realm? How can I manage until then, given my pain?

An interesting point raised by one of our group members was that, when loss occurs, we tend to continue thinking as if it never did. Part of our mind still clings to the dream of how we want things to turn out. Thus, while we face the harsh truth of our new reality, acknowledging that what we love is no longer there, we go on pretending that it is still there in order to comfort ourselves. We visualise conversations, conjure up images of reconciliations and picture what might come to us through the relationship we miss as if it were still intact. Of course, our relationship with a departed person can still stay intact if we cherish it in our hearts but the idea that an actual connection still exists cannot be proven. Where contact has been cut off, the living bond has been broken, and therefore, the essential life-force of the relationship is just a memory.

It is hard to confront this truth, and many tears were shed in our group as we told our stories of loss. No matter how much we try to console ourselves that it was all for the best, or that we will see our loved ones again in the hereafter, or that things will turn around so that we find happiness in the end, there is suffering involved. In a sense, we have to endure the suffering in order to reach the other side, so there is no getting away from it. Some hold on to their anger at the injustice they have been dealt, while others process their feelings and choose to move on. In the end, it is up to each person to decide how he or she will handle the emotions because no-one can rescue another from the pain of loss.

The gospel depicts Christ setting mankind free from sin and suffering, and this is so. Yet it is so because the cross challenges us to choose to believe in resurrection rather than eternal alienation. Faith in new life is what enables a person who has suffered loss to carry on, making new choices about life and taking advantage of new opportunities. Not to believe in new life is to sit with one's lot and suffer despair forever because there is no hope of restored happiness. Had I not believed in new life when I relocated to a new city all those years ago, I would still be a victim of circumstance today, an empty shell of a worship leader with nothing else to show for my post-Piet Retief years.

Instead, I have done many exciting things. I have travelled to the United States, Ireland, France and Malawi. I have written and acted in an award-winning play. I have self-published a novel. I have started a blog which reflects my multi-faceted view of the world and my vision of beauty as a many-splendoured thing. I have immersed myself in contemplative spirituality and trained as a prayer guide to help others deepen their relationship with God. And I am currently training as a telephone crisis counsellor in order to provide a service to my community.

All this is evidence that loss need not constitute a final death sentence. Devastating as it is, it can mark a change of direction, a new lease of life, and a fresh display of inner potential.

Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.