Category Archives: Grief

Thinking Through Loss and Starting Over


“No one is ever a victim of life; we are all volunteering to grow.”  ― Shannon L. Alder
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Transitions in LifeStarting Over

Every time that we experience a transition in life, it is an opportunity to start over and experience new things and new experiences, or an opportunity to get stuck where we are at the moment. Something that we may not realize is that every unexpected development in life that we have not adequately prepared for has the potential to reach a crisis proportion, if we have not developed the skills to manage the transition. Whether it is a death, a divorce, or a job change traumatic experiences with unexpected changes have an effect upon how we view ourselves in the world of life experience for several reasons.

Temporary Attachments

One thing that reaches beyond the initial impact of an unexpected change relates to our temporal attachment to the world that we live in every day. Things like our role, or social identity intertwined with how we live life every day is such a minuscule matter. As a result, we sometimes fail to recognize the importance and meaning that connects us to the way we fit into the world where we exist. That is, until life, as we know it no longer exists. In one solitary moment, we are faced with an immediate loss that brings a crisis of confusion about who we are and how we fit into the new world that has suddenly changed in a moment.

Mourning the Past

Suddenly loss brings a nagging reminder that everything held on to so tightly is temporary and will one day be lost in the sands of time slipping through our fingers. In fact, people tend to hold on to things, people, and places even after they are gone as if they are not gone. When our personality identity and feeling of security come from an attachment to something that we can never keep; loss leaves us empty on the crucible of life looking for a sure footing. Consequently, at some point, the reality must be faced that life has changed and the past is a fading image of a life that has suddenly changed before we can start over. Awakening to the present leads to the crossroads where we must decide to reconcile our emotional state of mind over the past, defining life by losses, and security once held in the fading images of the past. Starting over means that we have come to a new open door; holding the potential of creating a pathway to a new day in the present.

Every Loss a Major Event

Coming to terms with the feeling of loss from any experience, no matter how great or small it may seem to others is probably one of the most difficult things that humans experience in life. It stems from the fact that we are biologically driven to find security in the primary relationships we have with significant others, work, and relationships. The innate drive is to firmly attach and foster security in the way we fit into the puzzle of relationships that affirms existence and provide meaning to life.  As a result, when we face loss of any kind; it is an event of momentous magnitude because it tells us who we are, what we can expect from others, and where we fit in the puzzle of life.  Therefore, loss is a major event no matter how minuscule it may seem to someone else because it affects our core identity and ability to move forward possessing a secure base to start over again in life with a knowledge of our identity and how we fit into life.

Looking Outside the Emotional Self

Something that is not apparent in the midst of a crisis attached to losses deeply felt is that the experience of reorganizing life requires leaving the life that had been planned before a new start can begin. When death occurs, life immediately changes and we have no choices about the change   What we do have choices about is whether to reminisce about the past, erect a shrine, so that the past life never passes away, or to embrace the process of a  beginning of a new opportunity for whatever life will bring next. From a Christian perspective, a loss is the opportunity to understand how God is intimately involved in every detail of our life. Looking at life from God’s perspective requires looking outside of circumstances and beyond the present state of life in order to understand life as a process of forward movement.

Looking outside the emotional self is difficult when we are psychologically lost in great confusion, but a reminder of the great mercy of God to sustain balance provides an opportunity for one more day and one more try at a life of purpose. In the scripture, Baruch reminds us that at a time when the loss his of country, family, and the basic security of life had gone away that the mercies of God were still new each morning. The ever-present mercy of God and assurance brought an inner sense of security and a secure attachment to the eternal loving God that would never fail, affirming trust in God when his world was falling apart. Likewise, because God has provided a covenant of love that is irrevocable, we have the daily assurance that we are not alone, abandoned, or without options to heal the wounds of life.

Reconstructing Life is A Process

There are many good and important concerns that people in the immediate environment of a person who has faced immeasurable loss need to understand. When others face loss that forces separation from a life of security to the isolation that comes with pain and loss, they need people to be patient and provide support and a firm attachment to reestablish life on healthy terms. Quite often, people are left on the jagged rocks of life without a friend who will be a friend in deed. It is easy to become impatient with people who have had their lives turned upside down and easier to walk away when it requires time and patience to see someone else through a process of starting over. When people have to start over they are beginning life in a foreign set of circumstances that changes people, relationships, and the goals of life. As a result, other people need to understand that suffering people who face loss are reconstructing life in a place where life goes on normally for others, but is radically different for a person facing loss.

Loss of Security

The most important question that needs attention is: Where is God in our plans, when life falls apart? Many people experience the loss of certainty, control, and a feeling of assurance how they fit in a world where the social identity that they have had for so many years suddenly passes away. In a time such as this, there is a poignant reminder that nothing ever stays the same and time keeps moving in a forward direction and if we do not change with the events of time, we will be left in the dust of yesterday’s dreams.

Embracing Hope

Yesterdays dreams are filled with regrets, unfinished business, unpaid bills, or unfulfilled wishes. However, whatever the past left behind, attention directed to the future will be effective for those willing to embrace potential realized in starting over; while embracing hope in the unseen power possessed in a heart of faith to build a path into a desirable future. The direction that effectiveness will take directly relates to what you are willing to do within yourself. Harry S. Truman said, “In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves? Self-discipline with all of them came first.” Fulfilled dreams are not magical events or mystical feelings which are not grounded in reality, they are actions possessed by a forward attitude of determination committed to being significant and making a difference.

Making a Decision to Move Forward

For many people, the experience of loss is not a time of embracing new opportunity, it is a time when morbid regret focuses upon diminished hope that results in trying to prop up the past, restore the past, or revive a life of constantly looking in the rear view mirror. One thing for sure is that life does not progress, while focus remains upon the unresolved, undone, or not finished business in the past. Indeed, the future belongs to those who are brave enough, willing enough, and strong enough to step with faith into a future that God alone knows.

Anticipation about What is Possible

Some people may be living in a time of hopelessness today and may need to identify with Solomon who said, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”. Imagine that you could embrace hope in faith and trust in a life of anticipation about what God can do, no matter what the circumstances of life may be today? While hope remains alive, we believe that a future is possible, that success is attainable, and goals are reachable. Indeed, it makes a difference what you believe about the future because what you believe is what will most likely to happen right on time.

Focus on Possibilities

A firm challenge for those who are starting over is to organize your thoughts around hope instead of focusing upon fear. Hope is not just a positive belief or feeling; rather it is a way of thinking grounded in faith in God, a firm belief in the very nature of God. It is faith that He has a purpose to fulfill and a hope that brings meaning to existence.

What are You Waiting For?

Benjamin Disraeli said, “The secret of success is constancy of purpose.” Today, there is a principle to motivate an attitude of belief. It is embracing a belief that success is certainly ahead and is belief that there is design that God has for life to start over. It is a firm belief in God who is already there and already knows the outcome of every situation that will be faced after we have started again. The words of the psalmist pondering the tragedies of life who asked, “What wait I for, my hope is in thee”.

The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him”. The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. (Lamentations (3:22-25)

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