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Author: Amy White
INTEGRATING LOSS AS PART OF OUR LIFE STORY
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.
Women, Sex, and Marriage
Probably no one would deny we live in a culture that is highly sexualized. Sexual images appear almost everywhere we look. Yet, it seems we continue to struggle to talk about sexual questions, concerns, or problems within our marriages, where sexual expression has the potential to be the most fulfilling and rewarding. Perhaps it’s time to get past the taboos, embarrassment, or misconceptions and address real issues that get in the way of couples having the best sex life possible. If you’re interested in learning more, check out the free three-part series on Women, Sex, and Marriage by going to amywildmanwhite.com then click on the Women, Sex, and Marriage tab. There is a video and worksheet for each of the three sessions.
TEAM BUILDING OPPORTUNITY!
I am delighted to announce that I am now offering a team-building event for your organization that can significantly improve how staff relate to one another and impact the team’s overall success.
If your organization is experiencing some workplace challenges in staff communication, collaboration, and reaching desired outcomes, or if you want to maximize the efforts of an already productive team, consider engaging in the Everything DiSC Workplace® team-building experience.
This DiSC® is a well-established tool with reliable results and proven success. It identifies helpful criteria for knowing ourselves and others and in setting reasonable expectations of one another. Each user will learn their style and those of their team members. The team building will explore how comfortable people are in making decisions; if the individual works better in a team or alone; how they receive, adapt, and manage change; and how analytical, precise, systematic, and private they are.
Communication is also a key area of focus. The profile describes how to best approach and respond to one another and the behaviors each person may exhibit under stress, thereby eliminating misinterpretations that can create barriers to reaching desired outcomes.
Participating in the DiSC® team building event is enjoyable for team members and can positively impact the work environment. In addition, the organization can repeatedly draw from the DiSC® workplace profile as a resource to influence the work environment in productive and healthy ways well into the future.
For more information about Amy and the program, visit amywildmanwhite.com or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I Want My Mom!
My grandson, Will, soon to turn 4, was getting ready to start Pre-K. Going to school was a significant change for this little guy, who has been home with the entire family for fifteen months during CoVid. His parents and siblings had been promoting the event for weeks. It was a milestone, and they persuaded him it was going to be great! Finally, the big day arrived, and all three children stood in line with mom, awaiting their teacher, who would lead them into their classrooms. Both excitement and apprehension coexisted in these three youngster
Will was still happy, smiling, and eager to begin his day when it happened. His older brother and sister were beckoned and left him standing with his mom. His expression said it all. “Wait a minute, aren’t we all in this together! Come back here, you guys. You can’t leave me!” It seems Will thought they would all be spending the day together. His teacher appeared, and he was escorted away from mom. As she turned to leave, mom took one quick look back, and her fears were confirmed; the tears were rolling down her baby’s cheeks. She knew to dash off, for staying around could sabotage the whole plan. She might be too tempted to take Will in her arms and rescue him from his misery. With 1,000% certainty, mom and dad anticipated a phone call. They were sure Will wouldn’t survive until the end of the day.
This scenario is not that unusual for children, but what about for the rest of us? Facing change and the unknown can be daunting whether we’re 4, 14, 40, or beyond. The scared little child inside of us can come back to haunt us when something threatens to invade our comfort zone. The truth is we like sameness. We feel secure there. When we contemplate something which may be disruptive, our emotions can take over and call the shots. Doubt and fear may creep in, and we begin to question the value of the potential new opportunity. Do we really want to change jobs, pursue a degree, move to a new city, start a new relationship? We ponder what price we will have to pay. What if we fail? What if people laugh at us? What if we end up alone? Just thinking about moving forward can cause our hands to sweat and our stomachs to hurt. We may remind ourselves we’re doing well where we are; why rock the boat?
We’ve now arrived at critical juncture number one. Here is where we wrestle with the two elements most likely at odds with one another, emotions and truth. We must determine if we are willing to get beyond our emotional self, who is afraid to take risks and so often short-sited, and instead objectively, thoughtfully, and logically consider new long-term goals? Who do we want to become, what do we want to accomplish, who do we want to impact, and what legacy do we want to leave when we depart this world? Are we indeed willing to grow beyond our current self and engage in new experiences, frightening as that may be? The temptation to play it safe is powerful. Now, it may not be that something terrible will happen if we decline the opportunity placed before us; instead, we will miss out on countless blessings which may be waiting around the corner. The outcome of our decision may have a life-altering impact.
If the nagging thought to make a change won’t go away, and we don’t allow our anxiety or fears to control us, we determine to move forward. We plan our steps, pursue wise counsel, and prepare. Then, finally, we’re ready to take the plunge, but not so fast. We’ve now arrived at critical juncture number two. The old fears and doubts may reemerge. Our emotions may again get the best of us, and we have a compelling urge to put the brakes on and stay in our comfort zone. “It’s not too late. Go back!” Our insides scream. We’re standing on the precipice, prepared but so afraid to jump. Perhaps a hand is reaching out to lead us forward, or the plane is about to depart; we’re in the waiting room, and the appointed meeting time is five minutes away. What are we going to do? Do we have the courage to follow through, or will we bail? It all begins or ends here.
We go for it! In no time at all, we’re laughing at how silly we were about the whole thing and sure we made the right decision. We’re proud of ourselves and feeling confident. Time marches on, and eventually, reality hits. All is not as we expected. People are more challenging, and we encounter barriers and obstacles. It’s so much more complicated than we thought. We’re told to be flexible, patient, and keep learning. “Why did I do this?” We may ask. Is it too late to turn back?
This is critical juncture number three. We must choose to hang in there! Enduring is what it will take to succeed, but we may feel tired, disillusioned, frustrated, or even angry. Getting through this chapter is imperative, but it may take a while—a long while! The choice to persevere may even be a day-to-day decision. Yet, although we can’t see it from here, this is often the period where we grow the most and what equips us to be successful.
Let’s revisit Will’s first day. To his parent’s astonishment, he made it until dismissal. The teacher reported there were some rough moments, but he did all right. However, when Will saw mom, he did start sobbing. “I missed you so much!” He exclaimed. He later shared the day’s adventures with the family and even declared he would go back the next day. He took the plunge, and he’s willing to persevere! Fourteen or so years from now, we’ll know more about Will. What his passions, talents, and aspirations are. We’re also likely to be impressed by how much he’s grown—physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and academically.
But, imagine if, on day one of Pre-K, Will’s parents yielded to their little boy’s tears. Worse yet, what if Will rarely had to push through any emotional discomfort? What a disservice that would be to Will. We might predict the outcome: an insecure, dependent, anxious young man. The same principle applies in our lives, too. We may, more than once, find ourselves standing in front of a growth opportunity, but there are unknowns. They can be scary. If we yield to the fear and anxiety so common and understandable in those moments, we potentially jeopardize the good things in store for us down the road. Remember, fear should only be a tap on our shoulder to get our attention, but it should never direct our steps. Instead, let us all commit to going boldly forward, even if we do so, shaking and trembling!
WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
Remember this 1984 song made famous by Tina Turner? It has a catchy tune, but the lyrics are depressing—What’s love but a second-hand emotion, and who needs a heart when a heart can be broken? The pop tune is misrepresenting this thing called love, which expresses itself in many ways across many experiences.
Let’s start by observing the behavior of little ones. When they fall or get a bump, they come running for a kiss or hug. This is an interesting phenomenon, as the affection they receive does not make the discomfort go away, yet somehow seems to be just what the doctor ordered. Why is that, do you suppose? I have a theory. Deep inside their little hearts, these expressions of love convey a powerful message. Someone is there who cares, and they will not be left to themselves to fend off the harsh, cruel world around them. It doesn’t end there.
Consider the student or new employee who fails miserably at a critical assignment. Instead of rejection, she is reassured that mistakes are nothing more than learning opportunities and, by the way, you’re doing great. It’s quite likely this young academic or recruit will not only succeed but exceed expectations in the journey ahead. Why? Because they are loved differently. They experience being valued, respected, encouraged. They have a cheerleader on their side who sees the best in them.
Then there’s adulthood. Stuff happens. How about getting passed over for the long-awaited promotion, or worse yet, when the well-paying job is unexpectedly terminated? The disappointed worker arrives home feeling anxious and perhaps embarrassed. Instead of condemnation and rejection, however, he receives an embrace from a loved one, confirming what was secretly hoped for—that we’re in it together—a soothing balm to a bruised heart. Love shows up in these situations and beyond.
Love says you are essential to me; you matter. Love holds our hand when we’re wounded, forlorn, and broken-hearted; walks alongside us in the ugly places—through all the expressions of anger, tears, and screams of anguish; has our back when others suggest it might be prudent to turn away; accepts our differences and limitations because we matter more than our opinion; means we struggle to hold on to the relationship when the hard stuff comes, and it would be easier to let go; says we’re sorry when we’re wrong and when offended; willingly, whole-heartedly forgives the slights committed against us; is not afraid to convey the truth, holds us accountable, and demands we grow into the person we were created to be. Love is expensive, hard-won, and born out over time. It calls for sacrifice and dying to self. Yet, what we ultimately gain surpasses the price we pay—a heart overflowing and full of joy.
I think the song had it all wrong. Love has everything to do with it and begins with a decision to commit to the other. Then, we persevere on the journey, celebrating and enjoying the blessings we receive.
In this season, we celebrate the birth of Christ, who was born to die for us. A sacrificial lamb, yes, but also, a flesh and bones person who loved deeply. In John 13:1, we read: “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (NIV) Did you catch that? He loved them to the end. He knew their weaknesses, flaws, failures, and those that were to come; yet, he loved them to the end. May we follow his lead as we love, albeit imperfectly, the special people whom God brings our way. — Visit amywildmanwhite.com
Need a Stocking Stuffer?
If you are looking for a unique gift that will stir thoughts and memories worth discussing, check out my new devotional for women, When I Was Five, I Blinked–Then I Was Fifty, available on Amazon Books. It makes a great gift for that special person in your life. Check it out! https://www.amazon.com/When-Was-Five-Blinked-Then-Fifty/dp/B08NDT5P3X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=amy+wildman+white&qid=1606336952&s=books&sr=1-1
Reimagine-Your Life, Your Purpose, Your Future-A Personal Journal is Now Available!
A Great New Resource! A Personal Journal, the companion to Reimagine-Your Life, Your Purpose, Your Future, is now available on Amazon.com! A Personal Journal is a life-planning tool which addresses each major area–spiritual, relational, vocational, recreational, physical, and emotional. It is designed to be used by individuals or in small groups who desire to move forward. Helpful exercises are included providing insight and steps for achieving desired outcomes. For more information or to purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Personal-Journal-REIMAGINE-Purpose-Future/dp/B08JLQLQZ2/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords
WHO DO YOU TRUST?
I was walking with my two youngest grandchildren the other day, and a car was driving down the street. My almost-three-year-old grandson said with high alarm, “Car!” That was warning enough for my one-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter to run, hug my legs, and then lift her arms for me to pick her up. She felt afraid and was needing protection from the danger she anticipated. My grandchildren trust me. So far, I’ve not done anything too wrong to cause them doubt!
For all of us, trust is a persuasion. We choose whom we will trust based on the evidence given. I don’t entrust my finances to someone who has a history of gambling and losing money. I don’t share my inner-most self with someone unable to guard my heart. And so on. Trusting others has been complicated of late. It seems so many folks have proven themselves to be untrustworthy. The world feels more chaotic, unpredictable, and confusing, and we feel off balance. Frustration and anxiety levels seem to increase at the least provocation.
Perhaps we need to take a deep breath and redirect our focus to a familiar, but profound truth: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Do we believe God is trustworthy? Has he not proven himself? Can we not see the evidence all around us, throughout history, and in our day-to-day lives? While there are things we do not understand from a human perspective, God is quite capable of controlling both the distribution of good and the limit of evil. Trusting God does not mean we step out of the picture. God has given each of us an assignment to complete, and while we are to do so ever so boldly, we are to do so only in love and with a servant’s heart. We, as my grandchildren did with me, can run to our heavenly father. His love, and his plan for all of us, is perfect. He is at the helm, and he’s got this.
We moved in November. Unpacking left us with over 100 empty boxes. I posted them for free, but as you might imagine, not many folks are moving around the holidays. About a month later, we finally had a taker. A lovely woman and her husband brought their truck and took them all! I let them know we were also selling the beautiful sofa in the garage, which was in plain view beside the boxes. I explained it would have been perfect in my basement family room, but it wouldn’t fit down the steps. We had even thought about taking it apart and rebuilding it once we had it downstairs! She sympathized and said she’d let her friends know.
I later posted my sofa for sale on social media. After a couple of weeks, no one had responded. I changed the ad and made it available for free. I quickly had a taker who was coming the next morning. When the truck pulled in the driveway, the same woman who took the boxes emerged. I greeted her. “I recognize you!”
“I feel bad for taking it,” She immediately responded. “I know how much you wanted to use it.”
“Please, don’t worry,” I replied. “I’m glad you can take it.”
We chatted while her son and husband loaded the couch. She shared some of her life experiences. Her first husband died when she had four small children at home. She supported them all as a nurse. She later lost her twenty-seven-year-old daughter to a stroke and a twenty-year-old son after a car accident. There was more heartache she described, but she was doing well now. What was so impressive was how kind she seemed, despite having more than her fair share of life’s burdens. She did not appear bitter or angry. She was thankful. She said she had remarried a wonderful man, and her son, although permanently injured, was home from military duty. We hugged good-bye, and I wished her all the best. I realized, once again, my priorities need adjusting. Was I upset over a piece of furniture?
This dear woman also reminded me of the outstanding qualities we humans often possess—strength of character and an indomitable spirit. We’re going through a rough patch, but so have generations before us. We’ll come out of this, and my guess is more appreciative of our blessings and less focused on the things that matter least. God bless us all during this challenging chapter.