Life is a series of losses, and multiple losses will extend your grief journey. Past losses can include the deaths of loved ones and pets, job displacement, the loss of a home, and friends and family moving away. Less tangible losses include not being chosen for a particular project or committee and missing out on special events. If you have not dealt with these losses, you may have feelings of regret or sadness that will affect how you grieve your current loss.
"The old losses actually contaminate, intensify, and complicate this new loss," says Dr. H. Norman Wright.
I am one of those people who seems to be ‘blessed’ with loss at certain times in my life. I lost a dear friend, well actually the guy I was dating, when I was 17. It brought the brutal reality of life front and centre and was one of the hardest things I have ever dealt with… or not dealt with, truth be told. I struggled so much with how to deal with the loss of Bill. I was 17, what did I know about grief. I was 17, what did I understand about God. I was bitter and angry for a long time and I hung onto that for a great many years. It affected how I dated for a great many years until someone I was dating told me that I needed to get over and stop using as a way to make people feel sorry for me. Brutal…but honest in a sense. Each person I lost after I lost Bill just exaggerated my emotions, intensified them.
Once you understand that you are experiencing multiple losses, you will be better prepared for the depth and the different facets of grief that may have been confusing at first. The Bible shows that understanding can lead to peace. Understanding your grieving process will help keep you moving forward and not backward. Be prepared to grieve all your losses on this journey.
I know that I didn’t deal with my losses in the best way at the start but I know that having been through the grief process early in life, I was better prepared for it later on and most definitely appreciated the life more than those who had not experienced any loss in their lives.
Sometimes grieving the losses on this journey with the loss of Cole has been more about grieving the ‘what could have beens’ in my life. So many things have not gone as planned. I didn’t plan to have the financial struggles we’ve had and didn’t plan for the job struggles (that cause some of those financial struggles) that my husband has had… didn’t plan for mental illness to be a part of my daily life either. But it is and it’s something I have had to grieve and losing Cole really put that in my face so to speak. I know now that I have to be prepared for everything that could be grieved to be revealed strongly when you are dealing with a crisis like the loss of a loved one. And learning where to take those things that you are grieving is a journey in and of itself.
"I [Jesus] have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Dr. H. Norman Wright recommends writing a "loss history" to help you identify and work through past losses. Take time to think of and list any losses you have experienced throughout the course of your life. Include any instances where you felt a sense of loss, no matter how unimportant the circumstances may seem now. Think of missed promotions, friends moving away, the deaths of pets, the ends of friendships, job losses, children leaving home, and lost opportunities.
After you have identified each loss, go down through the list and talk about each one (to God or to another person). Talk about how intense it was and how you felt at that time. Take your time doing this. You may need to plan a time each day or week to work through your list.
"If you find there's an emotional connection to some loss," says Dr. Wright, "then maybe you have not really processed it. Maybe it's still affecting your life in some way."
Last year I read a book called “Thin Within”. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has or is struggling with weight loss and self-image. I have struggled with this all my life but never realized where much of it stemmed from and how much losses, struggles, injustices, trials etc played a part in that. The book had me make a list of moments in my life where I struggled and ultimately where I doubted myself, believed the lies the enemy told me about myself or those in my life. I was amazed at how many things in my life have affected me that way and how many of them related to the loss of someone close to me…usually through death but sometimes through break-up, separation or relationship breakdown (non dating relationships).
Dr. Wright suggests that you need to come to the point at which you can say of each loss, "Yes, that happened to me, but now I'm going on with my life," compared to "Boy, that happened to me, and it still hurts."
"Remember the days of old" (Deuteronomy 32:7).
18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children,[j] including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope[k] for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
You, almighty Lord, are my Overcomer. You love me through all my questioning and struggling, you love me despite all my faults and anger. I didn't realize how much my past losses were affecting me now. Use this exercise to help me recognize and come to terms with each loss on my list.