Loss is tough!
Just think for a moment how upset you get when you "lose" your car keys or your wallet. Your blood pressure goes up. Your voice gets shrill. You start to shout at anything that moves.
Normally you are a patient human being, but the loss of your car keys instantly transforms you into an irascible tiger ready to bite off the head of the first person crazy enough to try to talk to you.
Maybe the car keys example is a bit melodramatic; but not by much. The plain fact is most of us cannot handle even the simple loss of a rather insignificant possession.
Now, if the loss of a wallet or a set of car keys can trigger emotional reactions that affect both your mind and your body --how much more will the loss of someone or something infinitely more significant -- such as the loss of a loved one (through death or divorce) -- or the loss of a home, the loss of a child (through death or moving out) -- cause us to experience a myriad set of roller-coaster emotions?
Loss is traumatic. Loss hurts. And the separation pains of loss take time to heal.
Loss and separation are related terms that describe a universal phenomenon experienced by everyone. The many different kinds of separation may be classified into two general types: developmental and situational.
Developmental separations are an inherent part of the growth stages that human beings experience from birth through death. Separation is the natural result of the ever-changing stages of human development throughout the life span of each individual. Any kind of separation can cause anxiety and concern. Certain types of separation can be much more traumatic. Frequently, separations are a part of the natural passage from one psychosocial stage to another (Erikson, 1968).
Some separations are predictable. They may not be as unsettling as those that are less predictable, such as separations resulting from an accident, a rape, birth of a deformed child or a geographic move, etc. Even separation from a hope, an interest or a physical symptom can be a traumatic loss.
How to Comfort
One of the most difficult realities that pastors, counselors, or any effective community and church leader will invariably face in their service to families is; how to comfort those who have lost someone they love, or who have experienced other significant losses -- such as job, home, or spouse (through death or divorce).
Many mothers experience the "empty nest" syndrome when the last child has left home. One must also consider the loss of separation experienced by many children when they leave home. Bolby (1969) saw what he believed was a universal and specific syndrome of reactions to separation and loss in his studies on the separation of children from their parents. In his studies he identifies three stages -- protest, despair, and detachment -- as essentially the same for all separations.
A common element of separation is stress. Kubler-Ross (1969) and others have developed the delineation of the stages of grief and loss in relation to the loss experienced by the death of a loved one. The stages that Ross delineated are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. When a person is permitted to and even assisted in experiencing and resolving these various stages through a broadly defined time span, healing and restoration can occur.
Many different things determine how an individual reacts to separation and loss, they include:
- the nature of the person experiencing the separation;
- the nature or quality and quantity of the loss involved in the separation;
- the nature of the milieu in which the separation occurs
In the case of significant separation through loss, the cognitive and emotional process of working through that significant loss is called grief. Grieving, although painful, can and should be viewed as a healthy response. Without it a complete emotional recovery is not possible.
When the grieving process is not accomplished within a certain time limit, it may develop into what would be classified as abnormal grieving. Abnormal grief may occur immediately following a loss resulting in a psychotic reaction in which the individual is totally unable to cope. Another reaction is when the pain of the loss is completely disowned and the individual proceeds with a "life as usual" attitude, as if nothing has happened.
Significant life transitions or transitions of any kind are an opportunity for pastors, psychologists, counselors and lay-leaders to help hurting people fully experience grief relief and enter into that process which leads to comfort and victory.
Cast your burden upon the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken (Psalms 55:22 NASB).
This book has been specifically written to help the counselor, pastor, lay-leader minister, and the hurting person to:
- Recognize the Grief Relief process,
- Accept it as normal, and then
- Learn how to work through that process with the transforming and sustaining power of Jesus Christ.