Friday, February 10, 2012

The Blessings of Loss

Have you ever felt the sadness that accompanies loss? The sense of helplessness that comes as a friendship gradually fades or a loved one’s health slowly declines? A sudden loss is a shock, and it has its own pain. But there is something uniquely difficult about being witness to the “long goodbye”, as it is sometimes described. My experience with it this past Christmas felt that way. But there were also blessings I had not anticipated. 

On December 28th, my father's mother passed away. The process that led up to her home-going was long. I experienced very little of the journey first hand, as I live many hours away. I have known the challenge of not being local and able to help, beyond listening.

I was a bit in denial about my grandmother. Of my grandmothers, I really didn't think I would lose her first. From my distance, it felt like she went from lucidity to incoherence overnight. Of course, the reality is that she has been fading for years. Dementia is a long, cruel ending to a life.

However, even in the midst of all of the challenges of watching someone you love die, I have been struck by some unusual blessings. This was not easy for me to acknowledge at first; how can there be good things about dying – especially dying like this? As I’ve reflected, though, I’ve been struck by my memories of that hard time. They’re mostly positive. 

For instance, when Gram's journey sped up in late September, a friend asked me if I was going home. I explained that, because the end could come for any of us at any time, I always make it a point to leave with no regrets, so I didn’t feel the need to run home.  There was little I could do to help. Decisions like that are hard, yet so important. As a result of waiting,  I got to be there at the end to support my Dad and his siblings.  I am thankful beyond measure for my loving husband who made it possible for me to stay at the hospital. I needed to be there during the last vigil. It was a blessing, as strange as that sounds.

Now, this is even more odd to say, but the second blessing was that Gram finally let go. I had not been afraid for her to die, but I was worried about her being trapped in a body that didn't work and a mind that was playing tricks on her. I was relieved when Gram let go. I was comforted that she wasn't trapped in her mind any more. The loss felt huge, but the blessing was bigger. 

A friend told me of her disappointment when her hubby did not get a position for which he had applied. While he had been hired for another position, she was still discouraged. But then, after several weeks, the person who got the original position was let go and my friend's husband was given the position he originally wanted plus a raise. What a blessing in disguise!

All of this is painful. It was hard to watch Gram decline, and I can only imagine how much harder it was for my dad and his siblings. Yet the release that we are all experiencing from pain, from heartache, and from stress – these are a blessing. That Gram is finally with Christ is a blessing. Do we miss her? YES! But we also rejoice.

So often loss is so painful that I forget to look for the blessings in it. I forget that "God will work all things together for good for those who love him". (Romans 8:28)  He does that. I've seen it over and over again; He blesses me in times of loss when I turn to Him. I contemplate what life looks like after such a loss and how the gap will be filled, if it will be filled. I come to no profound conclusions. But I know – I trust – that He will bring comfort, He will fill the gap. God will bless my life and allow me to be a blessing to others. I rest in this promise.

Lord, God Almighty Help me rest today in the promise you have given to never leave me or forsake me even in times of pain and loss.

1 comment:

Janet Rose said...

Love the new look of your blog! And, what a beautiful post you've shared with us. A reminder to look for God in all things...big or small, happy or sad, gain or loss. He is in them all!