Living with Loss

The journey from grief to something better

Peter Baker | 10:28, Tuesday, 22 November 2011

I spend time with people who have experienced loss of one kind or another. Maybe in grieving the death of a parent or child, or in struggling with the break up of a marriage, perhaps it’s the closing of a significant chapter of life, or in the struggle to accept a debilitating chronic illness. 

Every person imagines how they hope life will turn out. Children day-dream that one day they will be footballers, singers on a stage, journalists, scientists, firefighters. As they become adults this imagination doesn’t fade, it evolves - falling into line with more realistic goals and abilities. Nonetheless, we all like to dream about the story of our lives. Then we try to live out that story because we want our dreams to come true. 

Loss means that the dream has died, the story we imagined has ended and we face the difficult task of readjusting our expectations. We have lost the future for which we had hoped. In the process we have given up something or someone. The joy we imagined we would have in life is no longer possible in the same way. 

The loss of that future can create deep wounds in the spirit. We think often about what might have been if the loss had not occurred. Though the dream has died, we still long to live the story that will no longer be told, the story which maybe we waited for so long to come true, but now never can.

But I have also observed this. That those who live with loss must eventually decide to become part of a new story. They must chose to readjust their plans and dreams heading nervously towards the unknown.

I remember the parents of a young couple who died in their mid-twenties as a result of a car crash, telling me how they felt for months afterwards. It was like sailing a boat, they said, on the vast ocean with no sign of land or another ship anywhere on the horizon. For ever it seemed, a silent void stretched into the distance and they had to keep on sailing.

The image stayed with me for a few days until I realised there was something incomplete about it. The earth is round and not flat. That’s what keeps us from seeing what’s ahead as we sail our ship toward the empty horizon. So those parents would have new experiences, discover new lands and enjoy new adventures. These were the things that were still hidden from their view by the curvature of the earth. 

So I have come to see that there is a future for those who live with loss. We just need to trust the journey and discover the God whose nail-pierced hands are at the helm of the boat. He has plans for us we have never even imagined. He can take the experience of loss and turn it into the discovery of something extraordinary. 

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him".

God’s future is worth waiting for even if it involves significant loss in the present. To lose something and then to believe that we will gain something greater instead, requires faith in the God whose judgements are unsearchable and whose paths are beyond tracing out.   

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