The Other Side Loss
By John T. Schwiebert, ThM
Dare we speak of any personal loss that we experience as also having a positive aspect? I almost don’t want to ask this question because I am fully aware how hurtful it can be when friends try to comfort those who are grieving by diminishing the severity of their loss.
How often the grieving person has heard words like these, after the death of a loved one. “She’s in a better place now,” “It is a blessing that he died quickly without having to suffer,” or “God took your child because he needed more little angels in heaven.” Such words are seldom helpful for most people and especially not in the immediate aftermath of a sudden or traumatic loss.
But for those who are further along in their work of grief, I nevertheless think it may be helpful to ask. “Can you begin to see some gain on the other side of your loss, a plus that in some way balances the minus that you have been facing every day because of your loss?”
I suspect it may not help for one who has not known anything like your specific loss to propose what that gain might look like for you. But I can report what some veterans of the grieving process have discovered that they would count as gain in their own experience.
In the March, 2015 issue of the Brief Encounters newsletter, there is an article by Tova Gold, entitled, “Grief Doesn’t Give a Sh*t about You and Other Lessons Grief Taught Me.” Acknowledging that grief is inevitable, that grief cannot be negotiated with, and that it can’t be persuaded to hurt you less than it does, she writes these words:
I believe grief exists for one reason, to break you down into the tiniest little pieces of yourself so you can build you back up stronger and with all of the lessons and love you’ve gained along the way woven into the fabric of the new you.
You can’t bypass the pain and you shouldn’t. But you should also pay attention to the rebuild. Because every day, simultaneous to your grief, your rebuild is happening, and you have the power to define who you are and who you are meant to be on this side of loss.
In an op-ed piece in the March 12 New York Times, Arthur C. Brooks writes:
We don’t want to suffer—we hate it, in fact. Yet it is suffering that often brings personal improvement. Not all pain is beneficial, obviously. But researchers have consistently found that most survivors of illness and loss experience “post traumatic growth.” Not only do many people find a greater emotional maturity after suffering; they are even better prepared to help others deal with their pain. That is why after a loss we turn for comfort to those who have endured a similar loss.
So when the time is right for you, as you work through your grief, think about it: real, awful, devastating loss, but in the aftermath just maybe some surprising gains that evoke gratitude and hope!