Overcoming Life’s Losses

Overcoming Life’s LossesThe one constant of life is change, something most people do not like. When it comes to the material world, this change usually involves some form of loss. Why is this so? The answer is a theological one, because of the fall – the curse of sin. The curse of sin is death, decay and all that leads up to this final loss. Everything in the material world is in a constant process of running down. This is the second law of thermodynamics loosely paraphrased. This is even true of our own bodies. In order to live a happy and emotionally healthy life, a person must learn to deal with loss. Resilient people have mastered the art of overcoming life’s losses.

Life’s losses
What are the things people lose in life? The first thing that usually comes to mind is the death of a friend or loved one. Death is a huge loss, and one that seems so permanent – it steals all hope of seeing that person again. However, death is not the only loss life holds, nor is it always the most challenging loss to overcome. There is the loss of health through a chronic illness that changes a life forever. You can lose a career or a job you loved, a possession that held great value, or a sense of identity or life purpose that can leave you feeling empty or lost. You can lose a marriage through divorce or a significant relationship. Through a crime or act of violence you can lose a sense of safety. You can pass into another stage of life and grieve the fact that the old stage will never return. No doubt, as you think about it, you can identify other losses that life holds or that you have already experienced.

The challenge of transitions
Change and loss are about moving from an old normal into a new normal. The reason that most people don’t like change, even if it is for the better, is that the old normal is familiar and comfortable. It is hard, and often scary, to move out of a comfort zone. Sometimes a person chooses the change and sometimes the change is forced on them. But, in either case, the change results in some form of loss and throws the person into a transition time in their life. Transitions are the life space between the old and the new normal. They are the most difficult times of life. Often, this is because a person is still fighting against letting go of the old normal. Life can feel on hold, in limbo or out of control. These feelings are never enjoyable or easy. The loss that happens because of the change will trigger grief. It is important to understand how to process grief in order to make it through the transition to the new normal so a person can move on with their life.

Processing grief
Every loss must be grieved, and the greater the loss the greater the grief. Every person grieves differently, and grief takes time. Time is what our culture often doesn’t allow people. The message that so often comes across to people is, “Come on, you should be over it by now, it’s time to move on with your life.” People can get stuck in their grief, delay their grief and have complicated grief. However, learning what to expect with grief can be very helpful in making it through the grief process. Grieving is not an enjoyable process, but it must be embraced and processed through. There are many good books, resources and counseling aids to help through this process. It is not necessary to have to go it alone through the stages of denial, bargaining/doubt, anger and sadness. People bounce around in these emotional stages, and it can be very helpful to talk with someone as you work through the emotions. It is important to identify the specific loss or losses so each one can be grieved. Grief is about letting go of the old normal and accepting the new normal of life.

The help of faith
Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 that he didn’t want us to sorrow as those who have no hope. Everyone will face loss in life and will need to grieve. The difference for a person of faith is that their grief can still exist with hope. This comes about through developing an eternal value system – seeing life from God’s perspective. Everything in this world will one day pass away as God makes a new heaven and earth free from the curse of sin. Then there will be no more loss or grief. Until then, seeing life’s losses through the eye of faith is how we overcome them.

Dr. John and His son John Jr. are the founders and directors of Gateway Counseling Center in Boynton Beach. He can be reached at [email protected]

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