Everyone experiences loss: the death of a loved one, the loss of a relationship as in divorce or the choices of a wayward child, the loss of a lifestyle like transitioning into an empty nest, or the loss of identity by a change in career or even geographical location. Loss is defined as a feeling of grief when deprived of something or someone.
So, how can one grasp hope through these life changes that cause us to feel the grief of loss? I found two articles that shed some light on the different aspects of loss. One defined three different categories of loss: 1) Complicated loss; as when grief is complicated with unexpected surprise. Or when in a relationship issue only one person wants to severe ties. 2) The loss of limbo; this happens when life forces us to live in limbo; sometimes waiting hours, days, weeks, or years for a change.
3) Disenfranchised grief; this is when we have no socially recognized right to grieve. This comes when the loss is hidden, as in the loss of identity, the grief over an abortion or miscarriage, or the loss of a loved one to drugs or suicide. (The Three Most Distressing Kinds of Loss/ Louise Hay and David Kessler/ huffpost.com/ 2.06.2015)
A second article honed-in on the loss of identity. It spoke of different types of identity loss: relational, professional, spiritual, financial, physical, and outlook. This article reminded us that “different doesn’t mean bad. As humans, we don’t like change. We have ideas of about how life is supposed to be. When life doesn’t pan out that way, it can be easy to assume that no alternative will ever allow us to have a sense of well-being.” (I Don’t Know Who I am Anymore: Grief and Loss of Identity/ whatsyourgrief.com/blog)
So, how can I find hope in these types of complicated life losses? For me, dealing with the strange dynamics of the empty nest is presenting me with unique challenges. Being an active mom to my children has consumed my life for twenty-five years. Now, having less humans to regularly care for, has me rethinking my use of time and re-evaluating my own life identity and goals. My husband experienced a loss of identity when my health issues brought our family out of active missionary service. Leaving the Congo and changing the way he had to approach his calling of supporting the needs of Congolese pastors, gave him a loss of identity professionally. He was a missionary. His occupation was his identity. He had to remember who he was in simpler terms. So, I come back to my question? Where is my hope? In remembering who I am.
I am many things; many types of persons. But simply, I am a human; a woman; a Christian; a wife; a mother; a friend; an author. Remembering who I am in Jesus grants me hope. I am “accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6) And anything that I’ve lost in the pursuit of Jesus is worth the sacrifice. Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:8 that he was happy to count “all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus…”
So, when we lose our way, when we lose who we are in the traumatic changes of life, we can always remember who we truly and simply are: loved, created like my Creator, declared just, royal and qualified to be in God’s family!