What kind of loss have you experienced in your life? Have you lost a spouse, family member, a pet, or perhaps you’ve gone through the loss of a dream or of an important relationship? All of us will experience some type of loss in our lifetime...it’s just a part of life here on earth. Life is a combination of sorrow and joy commingled together.
I just got back from a two day grief, crisis, and trauma seminar that flooded and overwhelmed my brain with info in the very best way! I could write a ten page essay on all that I learned but I won’t go into that much detail! I was hoping to share a few things I learned with you that may help you look at loss and grief differently in the future.
First things first: did you know that there are actually 11 types of losses in life? I didn’t either. It’s easy to assume the word “loss” is associated to losing a person, but the truth is there are quite a few different losses in life. Let’s take a look at what those are:
- Real or material - think of something you lost as a child. Did your parents say, “oh, it’s okay, we can just get another one.” Many of our first losses seem “replaceable” which can actually mask our grief reaction, by not letting us grieve the way we want or need to in that moment.
- Abstract loss - loss of love, hope, control, reputation.
- Imagined or perceived loss - losing what might have been, or the death of a dream.
- Relationship loss - such as a divorce, a move, the end of a friendship.
- Intrapsychic loss - losing an image of oneself. Sometimes your whole life can be wrapped up in an image of what you hope.
- Functional loss - losing sight, function, hearing, coordination, memory, etc.
- Role loss - retirement, graduation, being demoted.
- Systemic loss - child leaves home, pastor leaves your church, close family or coworker moves away.
- Threatened loss - such as awaiting results of a biopsy. The reality of it happening is right there and there is nothing you can do to change it in that moment.
- Ambiguous loss - loss where you don’t experience closure, such as losing someone in the World Trade Center, or childhood abandonment and/or sexual abuse. Sometimes this kind of loss can be the most devastating because it’s confusing and it reminds us that life isn’t fair.
- Disenfranchised loss - the grief that persons experience when they go through a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged or socially supported.
If you are anything like me you could easily make a checklist of all the different types of losses you have experienced in your life. Because we have all experienced loss in life that means we have also grieved. The word grief is defined as intense, emotional suffering caused by loss, disaster, etc. The reality is we cannot fix or cure grief. There is absolutely no one right way to grieve. There is also no universal time frame for the grief journey. Grief is a wound that needs attention in order to heal. We all react completely different to grief. Did you know that when you have a loss buried in your past that you haven’t yet grieved, you will usually take that one with you when you face a current loss. They will both come to the surface and you will be forced to deal with them both? Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? It is hard work to grieve. I think that’s why a lot of us want to shove it away and try not to deal with it. But, the reality is it will come back up and we will eventually be forced to deal with our grief.
The second day of my seminar was open to the general public and most of the people who showed up had recently experienced a big loss in their life and needed some help in figuring out how to cope, grieve, and eventually move on. I was so thankful when our speaker H. Norman Wright (professor, author, and counselor) started to teach us and remind us that death and loss are never wasted in the eyes of the Lord and that God’s word speaks quite a bit about loss and grief. Here are just a couple examples of what the scriptures say about this topic:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith develops perseverance. James 1:2-3 NIV
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds - curing their pains and their sorrows. Psalm 147:3 AMP
I cried to the Lord in my suffering and He heard me, He set me free from all my fears Psalm 34:6 NLT
For You have delivered me from my death, my eyes and tears, and my feet from stumbling and falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 116: 8-9 AMP
All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of His healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too. 2 Corinthians 1:4-5 MSG
God can use our loss to strengthen our faith, to demonstrate His faithfulness and comfort in our lives, and to draw us closer to Him as we depend fully and completely on Him. I lost my mom when I was ten years old and to be honest with you I have grieved that loss more in the last ten years than I did when it first happened. I was reminded again this weekend that God wants to use what you’ve gone through to help someone else. He uses the things we’ve experienced to give us a ministry to others. He really does bring us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so we can be there for that person, just as God was there for us while we were suffering.
Praise be to God, He never goes back on His word!