Dealing with Loss
The month of November, which begins with All Souls’ Day, places a focus on caring for those who experience loss. So it is a good time to reflect on the topic of “lost and found”.
Think for a moment just how pertinent that subject is in family life. How many little things get lost all the time and are found, though not quite all the time?
How many pairs of school shoes or jerseys have been lost in any family? Or school books, tablets and cellphones by younger members? Children with problems might steal.
For us oldies loss can also mean something rather different. Loss of memory is a fearsome thing. It can take up hours searching for things that have been mislaid. Even more terrifying is the fear of Alzheimer’s and losing one’s mind bit by bit, with the indignity that results from doing things like just walking away, getting lost or even randomly throwing one’s clothes off.
The type of loss we focus on most in November, of course, is death. In the Church we concentrate mainly on the deceased person and pray for the repose of their souls. That is important, but those left behind—spouses, children, parents, close friends—are the ones suffering the trauma of loss and a serious change in their lives. There are the emotions of shock, guilt, hurt, anger, grief and gradually leading to acceptance. Support through this process is very valuable.
Divorce, too, is a loss for everyone involved, but in a rather different way.
The parties are still present but not together, families are broken up, children can become disorientated as they lose their sense of security and stability as they adjust to very different structures.
There are long-term consequences to this reality, too, but the initial stages of anger, hurt, guilt, blaming and negotiating are a response to this loss.
Again support is important.
Many of us Catholics have devotion to St Anthony of Padua and call on him to help find things we lose, which I believe he very often does.
But can we compare that to the signs on street poles that advertise promises to “bring back lost lover”? Where do we draw the line between faith and superstition? What muti or other practices are used? Should this be something to consider and discuss at home?
We, the Church, can also offer a “bring back lost lover” experience.
Retrouvaille, a programme designed for troubled marriages, provides tools for rediscovering the love we had for our spouses. It has proved to be very successful in deepening the commitment to the marriage and the love relationship. Surely that is a positive example of lost and found.
Not all loss needs to be negative and it can very often also lead to a learning experience. Losing a bad friend is a blessing. “Losing” a bad habit is positive.
Loss is a natural part of life, a consequence of original sin one might say. Of course, it can cause much heartache and does need to be dealt with in appropriate ways. The most appropriate ways as always in families are communication, sharing, teaching one another coping skills, being patient and supportive rather than clamming up and refusing to talk.
All these thoughts lead to the concluding monthly family theme for 2015: “Committed families lead to a healthy society”.
Pope Francis has chosen the theme of “Mercy” for 2016, with the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning on December 8.
Marfam’s December reflections incorporate that theme which is more deeply developed in the 2016 Family Year Planner’s themes and in the publications during the year ahead.
Mercy is a most appropriate way to care for those experiencing loss. We can‘t take the pain away, only be there alongside those who suffer, being “merciful like the Father”, as Pope Francis invites us to.