Although the death of a loved one is in many ways the most difficult loss we can face during our lifetime, it is far from the only type of loss we face.
At some point in our lives, most of us will also encounter loss of a job, loss of health, loss of a relationship through divorce or other circumstances, financial loss, and the painful loss of some of our dearest hopes and dreams.
Learning to grieve losses well is crucial for our long-term emotional, spiritual and physical health.
In August, Dave and I helped our youngest daughter pack her possessions into a car, drive 50 miles away, and move into a college dorm room. Launching her to college launched us into a new stage of life: the empty nest. So far the transition has been a successful one – for her and for us. And it has me looking back over the 27 years that Dave and I have been parents, looking back and seeing four distinct stages of parenting.
One of my favorite movies is Les Miserables. It is a powerful story of mercy and renewal. The trajectory of one man’s life was changed by a single act of mercy.
You might remember the scene: Jean Valjean, a former prisoner, was running from the law when a kind priest brings him into his home and feeds him. Later that night Jean Valjean goes back to the home, knocks the priest out and steals his silver. The next day Jean is caught and claims the priest gave him the silver. The authorities bring him back to the priest; but instead of having him thrown into jail, the priest states that he did give him the silver and told the authorities that Jean forgot to take the candlesticks as well.
Conflicts are a natural part of life. Learning how to resolve them becomes paramount if we are going to experience the closeness we all desire. Through the years, I have taught classes, seminars and counseled people on conflict resolution. I got to a point where I thought I was pretty good at it. But much to my surprise, occasionally I would run into conflicts that seemed impossible to resolve. I would shake my head and think, How can this be? What did I do wrong? I would review my tone, words, and body language. I seemed to be doing everything right.
Mind you, I am not suggesting that I always apply good conflict-resolution skills. But during these encounters I seemed to be doing it right. My strong desire to resolve the conflict kept me persisting in the conversations. I would think, “If I can show him that I understand him or phrase things just the right way, he’ll get it and we will resolve this issue.” But the conversation would get worse. Why?
Headlines announce the news of the failure of another Christian leader with depressing frequency. Just as sobering is the steady stream of pastors who leave the ministry, never to return, due to moral failures, burnout, or frustration with the pressures of the job. And many pastors faithfully carry on in their churches for years, but never truly thrive.
Pastors Samuel Rima and Gary McIntosh wrote their book, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, because they wanted to address these problems by helping pastors and other leaders to face their own issues in order to flourish in ministry.
There are few things as disruptive to our lives as the loss of a loved one. Whether the death is sudden or long-expected, whether it is at the end of a long life or “too soon,” whether mother or father, husband or wife, son or daughter, relative or friend, these losses impact us. They change the landscape of our world. And then we have to grieve.
What can you expect when you’re grieving? What does the process of grief involve?