Transforming Our Losses Into Lessons

Usually I post blogs about topics like taking my BraunAbility Entervan on road trips or tips on regular maintenance for your wheelchair van. I’ve steered this blog in a more spiritual direction. Whether you’re adjusting to physical challenges or coping with emotional loss, I hope you’ll find a bit of wisdom in my words.

As a spiritual advisor, I’ve had the honor of getting to know several people who have shown remarkable strength and perseverance in the face of adversity. Take Loretta, for example who I visited just recently.

All of our transitions, losses or changes can become moments which will challenge us to reflect on our human journey and simultaneously, provide us with the grounds for spiritual change.

Loretta is in her 80s and has lived in her Detroit home for over 40 years. She has four grown children living in four different states, and her husband of over 50 years died two years ago. While Loretta has slowed down (she’s undergone two cataract surgeries, a heart catheterization and more in recent years) and doesn’t walk the malls searching for bargains with her daughters like she used to, she still stays active. She serves on several church committees, cooks and bakes for her children and grandchildren, and has found a way to continue her legacy of generosity, wisdom and love…even while living on a fixed income with diminished physical strength.

Loretta is just one of my friends who reminds me that losses in our lives are inevitable. Sometimes we face professional losses-we are fired, demoted, quit, search for more meaningful work, and never realize our professional dreams. We lose our status and drift away from work colleagues. Other losses might be personal: a marriage may end in divorce; a lifetime friend may relocate across the country; our children move far away. We experience health losses too. Our bodies are constantly changing, and we lose basic functions we used to take for granted: hearing, eyesight, strength, coordination and even the ability to remember. We lose our family: a parent, spouse or a child-to death or alienation; other times we lose an old, dear friend. In spite of and along with our losses, we are invited to strive for holiness and health amid the broken circumstances of our lives.

All of our transitions, losses or changes can become moments which will challenge us to reflect on our human journey and simultaneously, provide us with the grounds for spiritual change. The losses we experience have three distinct characteristics: (1) an ending; (2) a period of distress and confusion leading to (3) a new beginning. What is important is the journey through these three stages. How do we emerge from suffering in our lives and move to wisdom and love? Our challenges are not evils but blessings- the pivotal points which allow us to transform our lives with wisdom and acceptance.

We have no control over some losses. The only thing we can do is to be honest with our loss, acknowledge it, and move on, embracing the messiness and uncertainty in our life and finding comfort in our faith, friends, family and sometimes, ourselves.