Queen Elizabeth’s death marked the end of an era. For most of us, it’s hard to imagine what it must have been like to be intimately involved with historically significant global events and a player on the world’s stage, all the while, managing high-profile family members and their choices. She will be remembered in the history books and the way she lived will be analyzed, dissected, and summarized.
Three days after her passing, as a country, we revisited the tragedy of 911 on our soil and the impact of the many losses and after-effects of this horrific event. A catastrophic occurrence that none of us anticipated or expected, yet, the long-term repercussions are still being felt in families who lost a loved one and those struggling with the resulting medical and emotional complications.
Loss. We’re all part of it when it occurs on a large scale but what about when it occurs privately, close to home, apart from the TV cameras and news reports? Jim lost his job, Constance lost a limb from cancer, Yvonne’s marriage dissolved, Renee went through foreclosure and lost her home, and Frank’s beloved wife of fifty years died. Loss can ultimately be the foregone conclusion of a terminal diagnosis; on other occasions it comes upon us quite suddenly, catching us quite off guard. Whichever precipitates its onset, the proverbial rug can get pulled out from under us. We may find ourselves standing on shaky ground, that is if we’re standing at all.
A loss brings trauma, sometimes injustice, and grief. They visit our doorstep and bring with them major life changes. Sometimes we can be restored to our former state but we may also experience permanent and dramatic alterations. The question is, how can we be equipped to effectively manage them?
Well, that depends on a lot of things, doesn’t it? Perhaps this question gives us pause to consider what is involved in being good at recovering from loss. A starting point may be changing our perspective, even our culture. Can we make more room to talk about loss as a normal part of life, and then consider how to plow through the mound of complexities loss brings? We might ask ourselves if we are being too quick to sweep our feelings and thoughts under the rug or avoid those who are struggling out of discomfort or feeling ill-prepared to encounter that for which we have no answers.
What if we became good at lamenting, and walking with one another without even really knowing how to do that except for taking the next step as it is revealed? What if we focused on just connecting not directing? What if we become more comfortable with a long silence, handholding without advice-giving, crying out to God to express our pain and doubt, and providing a shoulder to cry on – whenever needed, not just a one-time event in the first week after the loss? What if we begin to adjust our expectations to allow time for processing and recovering, rather than life having to be ‘normal’ in ninety days?
Our losses are part of our life story. If we manage it well, a loss ultimately becomes a valuable learning opportunity, provides us a pathway for engaging in gratitude, and makes us stronger, compassionate, and empathetic people. If not, we risk becoming angry resentful people, and we can get stuck there.
The experiences and people we’ve lost become a valuable part of who we are rather than being left behind. There was a before and there will be an after. Our journey also prepares us to assist the next traveler we encounter who needs more than anything the understanding heart of someone who’s been there.