You know them, those ugly four-letter-words. We can’t avoid them. An acquaintance blurts one out, right in the middle of a soccer mom-conversation. Shock! How do you react to that? “I’m sorry, Sue. Can you say that again?”
After a while, you hear those ugly four letter words so much that they begin to slip out of your own lips. Denial! What just happened? I’m not supposed to talk like that.
And what about those cute YouTube videos, where parents capture every first, including when their three-year old casually drops the F-bomb. Angry! Why would a parent expose a child to that?
Maybe it’s a spouse who hurls ugly four-letter words in the midst of a heated argument, calling you names that no one should have to absorb. Wounded!
Ugly four-letter words: They shock; they assault our senses; they disappoint; they wound; they anger – and then they pass.
There is another four-letter word that is equally unavoidable. Sometimes it bursts into our lives, right in the midst an otherwise beautiful day. Shock!
It is a message makes us cringe and shrink away from its reality. Denial!
It is a circumstance that we should not have to face – ever. Anger!
It is a hurt that reaches into the depths of our heart and squeezes until we feel that we can absorb no more pain. Wounded!
That word, that experience, is an ugly four-letter word: L-O-S-S. It shocks; it assaults our senses; it leaves wounds; and it stirs anger – and it does not pass.
Life-changing loss comes in an unlimited array of circumstances and magnitude. It comes to each of us, if not today then tomorrow. Perhaps you have experienced loss because of one or more of the following:
- The unexpected words of a spouse: “I don’t love you anymore.”
- The destruction of emotional health at the hands of one who is mentally, physically, or sexually abusive.
- The slow deterioration of body as disease takes over.
- An addiction that steals more and more of your life or the life of a loved one.
- A career that disintegrates before your very eyes.
- The absolute devastation that accompanies the tragic death of someone you love.
- Regret over years that cannot be reclaimed or relationships that cannot be renewed.
- The unfulfilled dream of parenthood.
- Or perhaps you have experienced loss from a wound so deep that I haven’t even the imagination to consider it.
We feel nothing if we don’t feel the pain of our own loss. It accompanies us as a dark shadow, and we live with an emotional overflow that can become crippling: depression, heaviness, fear, anxiety, anger, resentment or bitterness. It takes no effort to focus on our own loss.
We are not so equipped to feel the pain of another’s loss. I admit that, for most of my life, I lacked true empathy. I naively assumed that grieving over the death of a loved one lasted only a handful of days, until my brother’s death interrupted my life. Only when I was inconvenienced by health issues could I fathom the discouragement of chronic illness. Until I was alone, I could not imagine the sadness of becoming a widow. This is not about me, though.
This is a challenge to look beyond our own L-O-S-S. It is a reminder to look for and listen to the heavy hearts of others instead of dwelling on our own wounds. Everywhere we go, grief exists, oh so silently. It is the mom at the grocery store whose son is addicted to heroin; it is the young father at church who was just diagnosed with terminal cancer; it is the acquaintance who sits alone on the reality of physical abuse; it is the cashier who is going through a divorce; and it is the friend who is struggling with depression.
We barely need to scratch the surface to uncover the pain of L-O-S-S.
I arrived late, but no one seemed to notice. I longed for one of my classmates to see something amiss in my eyes, to hear my silent plea for help. If one did recognize my pain, I could not tell.
Challenge: Look with fresh eyes among your circle of friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. Is there pain and loss that you have forgotten, overlooked, or underestimated? Is there deep pain barely masked by a layer of the daily responsibility to hold life together? Is there pain buried by shame or hidden from the judgment of others?
Help us learn from your experience. Leave a comment, and share how you have learned to recognize the needs of others and respond with compassion and support.