Dealing with the grief which often accompanies loss can be challenging, even exhausting. There are some tremendous scriptural principles for coping with grief, which we will be exploring in some upcoming sermons. But along with that, it may be helpful to consider some of the various types of loss which people commonly face. Pondering some of these may better equip us to help others who are suffering, and may also help prepare ourselves for eventual losses. These may generally be divided into major or substantial losses, versus more subtle or less obvious ones.
Death is obviously one type of major loss. Death ends relationships as they previously existed, and tears away cherished routines with loved ones. It often forces upon us unpleasant changes in our schedule and daily activities, because those upon whom we depended for love and companionship are gone. The serious illness of a loved one is another type of major loss, because it often deprives that person from the ability to fully live and interact with us in ways we have known and enjoyed in the past. Relational break-ups constitute major losses because they dramatically alter our daily routines, the way we spend our time, and are often permanent. Such losses are magnified in their intensity when we reminisce about the relationship as it previously existed, or as we imagine that it existed. Another type of major loss may involve the loss of a limb or other important body part. Such a permanent change to our physical body can adversely affect our activities, and may trigger painful realizations that we can no longer do what we have done before.
As substantial and serious as the above losses are, there are many other types of loss which are perhaps less obvious. The loss of good health, even temporarily, may produce subtle changes in our social outlook and activities. We simply don’t feel like doing the things we used to do, communicating in meaningful ways with our family and friends, or enjoying private times of study and personal enrichment. The level of our involvement in church activities may be adversely affected, which in turn produces guilt, shame, or disappointment over the loss.
The death of a pet can create serious loss, even though it is sometimes difficult for others to understand or fully appreciate. Pets can become regular companions in our daily lives, and their sudden absence often triggers melancholy feelings of sadness or pain. If you have more than one pet, the death of one can also produce unexpected reactions or losses in the others.
Leaving home can be an unusually difficult experience, often because of the losses associated with such a transition. When a young person goes away to college, or moves out on their own, be prepared for feelings of loss from both sides. Even if the young person eventually returns home, he or she may find that it’s not the same, something has been lost.
The process of changing jobs is another area of subtle loss, which can produce pain and other complications. Such changes may involve the need to adjust to a new circle of co-workers or friends, a process which is difficult at best. But it may also involve challenging learning curves, the need to adapt to different hours or daily routines, and these in turn can adversely affect other activities of life.
Also, graduation from school is a form of loss which can be difficult to navigate. Particularly for students who have lived on campus for many months, leaving one’s circle of friends and residential surroundings may represent a difficult transition away from pleasant routines, and may also threaten the security of established habits. Suddenly, the people, places and activities in our life have been shifted or replaced, and those we have known are lost.
There are many other types of losses. But these are some of the more common major and less obvious ones. Often, they come to us in combination rather than individually, making them even more difficult to endure. The Scriptures have much to say about dealing with the pain of grief and loss. In some upcoming sermons, we will be looking for guidance from God’s word. Hopefully, identifying the losses we are experiencing will help us begin to constructively address them. If we can identify the sources of our pain, we may be able to find the help God has for us in his word.
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.