February 7, 2016

In Grief, Through Our Losses

by sarah maclaughlin

Heaven bend to take my hand
And lead me through the fire
Be the long awaited answer
To a long and painful fight
Truth be told I've tried my best
But somewhere along the way
I got caught up in all there was to offer
And the cost was so much more than I could bear
Though I've tried, I've fallen...

I have sunk so low
I messed up
Better I should know
So don't come round here
And tell me I told you so...
We all begin with good intent
Love was raw and young
We believed that we could change ourselves
The past could be undone

But we carry on our backs the burden
Time always reveals
In the lonely light of morning
In the wound that would not heal
It's the bitter taste of losing everything
That I've held so dear...

 “It is suffering, more than anything else, which clears the way for the grace which transforms human souls.” —St. John Paul II

As many have learned, grief is the normal, inevitable response to many types of loss, not only death. In grief we feel something is altered, gone from us that we can no longer retrieve, and it prompts sadness. As an experience, grief of all types is more prevalent than death itself. It is highly specific to a given individual due to ones' unique characteristics, interests and relationships. For some, grief is a response to shattered assumptions about life, and ones' life in particular. It encompasses a complex of emotions, cognition, existential and spiritual coping as a response to many, many life events. There is a disintegration of existing, established life structures previously full with meaning.

For some grief is much like the feeling of fear, gripping one with yawning stomach and fluttering feeling. For many it seems to persist for a very long time.
The writer C.S. Lewis wrote a story concerning grief, A Grief Observed, later made into the movie, The Shadowlands with actor Anthony Hopkins.
In mourning losses, there begins the process, often first a sensation of numbness and shock, intense emotions often with a non-linear process. The one in grief may feel things such as anger, sadness, shame, regret, hostility over a period of time.

Philosopher Peter Kreeft called grief "God's jujitsu." The grief experience itself may be what allows many to overcome their grief he writes, to move beyond that initial point.  He asserts that God used the force of the devil's own evil to defeat the evil one.
We can endure evil and suffering and be strengthened. Writing in his book, Making Sense Out of Suffering, Kreeft writes of a deeply human account of compassion, the act of suffering with, and examines how religious traditions view this near universal human experience.
And many find ourselves fallen into a malaise, a gnawing sense of sadness, that things just aren't right. Maybe we're a bit angry too. In grief it is not only other people that cause us to feel loss, but also life events occur which result in losses less obvious. Perhaps it's the loss of earlier, more simple times, loss of health, loss of ones' good name or reputation, attacks to ones' character or the alteration or loss of a parent, friendship or marriage, maybe through a sense of wrong doing or maybe just by distance.

What ever the initial cause of grief, it is felt by many most keenly. All those involved in these situations mentioned above may remain alive and well, though separate and apart. This can and does prompt for many, strong feelings of grief, of loss.
Sorting through these varied and complex situations and emotions over time likely results in a healthy accommodation to a new, revised reality in which one finds the energy to move forward. As Saint John Paul II wrote, grief is a type of suffering which may indeed clear the way for a new, transformed existence.

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