It’s a journey familiar to anyone who has lived more than 20 years. Loss is a painful and challenging road.
Several months ago I started watching a television show on Acorn.tv – my new favorite streaming membership. The show is “800 Words” about a man and his two children who moved from Australia to New Zealand just after his wife was killed in an accident.
Against the wishes of his in-laws he uproots his family, seeking to outrun the ghosts and memories of his beloved wife who was taken too quickly from her home, her family and her future.
And who among us hasn’t had someone taken too quickly from us?
He finds a loving and generous community who takes him in and supports him as he tries to find his way through grief and loss. He’s a writer who produces a weekly column that is always 800 words long – not shorter or longer – just 800 words.
Hollywood – or Australia version of Tinseltown – does a phenomenal job of giving us a glimpse into the world of loss and grief while this man is supported on all sides by women who see him as their next husband, children wise beyond their years and the town bully who suddenly becomes his benefactor.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this is how we all walk out loss – as a single challenge in an otherwise unchallenging life?
But, it isn’t like that. Loss happens among the bills, financial problems, difficult bosses, cranky children and irritating neighbors. Loss feels never ending, eating away through sleepless nights, coffee-drenched afternoons and evenings arguing with children. Loss is overwhelming, all encompassing and empty.
Above all, loss is empty.
And the enemy would like us all to believe that loss does not just FEEL never ending, but actually IS never ending.
Thankfully it just ain’t true.
If I am to think hard about loss in my own life, I can trace it back to when I was nine years old – and the same feelings of sadness and overwhelming angst that followed me through the next decades. It wasn’t always present, but when loss happened, the same feelings resurfaced.
I was convinced it was just how I experienced loss and what would be the path I took until the day I died. I was convinced everyone felt the same and had the same experiences, because – let’s face it – we don’t go around telling people how we suffer each day or every week over a loss we think we should have gotten over months ago.
But Jesus talked about grief and mourning many times in the Bible. He grieved over the death of his friends, and told us that grieving has a purpose in Ecclesiastes 7:2 “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.”
Grief refreshes our personal perspective on life and living each day. And Jesus reminds us that grief is to be temporary in Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
But, what I had been experiencing was unrelenting night – there didn’t seem to be a morning. Through over 30 years of living I consistently found a reason in my daily life to explain the sadness I experienced.
What came first . . . the sadness or the experience?
In other words, was it the current experience that made me sad – and EAT – or was it the sadness I carried which influenced current experiences, and made me sad?
How much of a vicious cycle was I walking out since I was nine?
The first step in my journey through loss and grief was identifying the experiences that had triggered these feelings in the first place. It was a freeing experience to write out each and look at them objectively. So many times I had had seen all these experiences through a global lens of pain and suffering without picking them apart to see they were bad – but I had lived through and conquered more.
But what about the more immediate losses? What was necessary to attack and defend against those?
Grief is important. It’s healthy. It’s necessary to purge from the pain. But it should never be continuous. It’s not supposed to be forever.
How we move individually through that loss is a function of our own personality and relationship with Jesus. But the hard reality is that it IS supposed to end.
And that gives me hope. The knowledge that I might wallow now but must pull myself out of the mire by grasping the hand of my Savior is where hope lies – hope for a future, hope for a better tomorrow and hope that hope lives.