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Pastor Debbie's E-Devotion - October 4, 2020

Dear friends,
This month we are doing a series called Grief and Loss: finding God in the Midst of Sorrow. Pastor Molly at Gig Harbor wrote a great summary from the book we are using and I wanted to share it with you here. It's a little long, but certainly worth understanding how we experience loss...and that our grief is not just tied to death.

Whatever losses you may have experienced this year, whatever losses you may experience even this week, please know you are not alone. The weight and difficulty are real. And it’s worth spending some time reflecting and understanding your life in light of these losses and exploring healthy ways to grieve.

In Christ,
Pastor Debbie


Grief is a normal emotional response to a significant loss.
Grief is something to live through, not to cure or mitigate. Grief is universal, inescapable, every life will be touched by grief. And grieving is the intentional work that grief-stricken people engage in, enabling them to eventually live full, satisfying lives promised by the God who journeys with us.

Here’s the thing: any loss that feels significant, is significant. When people discount loss, it simply gets packed away and will need to be unpacked again later. When we don’t acknowledge and name our grief, we struggle to be healed of the hole that is left in our hearts. And friends, that emptiness will get filled with something, but it might not be something healthy.

For our series, we’re using a book written by Kenneth Mitchell and Herbert Anderson titled All Our Losses, All Our Griefs- resources for pastoral care. I am hoping that naming these and giving you some examples will help us recognize places of significant loss that we may be dealing with right now and give you some insight into yourself and others around you.

Six Types of Loss-
Material Loss- We often downplay material loss because we are taught that being materialistic is bad. Material loss is the loss of a physical object or of familiar surroundings to which one has an important attachment. Maybe you lost a ring that belonged to your grandmother and it was the one thing you had that was hers.
Material loss is often the first kind of loss we experience as a young child- think of the child who screams when the ice cream falls off the cone. Adults often think it’s silly and annoying because we understand that most things can be replaced. But the replacement of objects often masks the grief. If we always mask those icky feelings, it is likely harder for us to understand that we are experiencing significant loss when our childhood home is bulldozed or you move from a neighborhood where everyone feels safe and familiar to one where everyone parks their cars in the garage and you never see them.

Relationship Loss is the ending of opportunities to relate with another person, to talk with them, share experiences, make love, touch, settle issues, fight, and otherwise be in the emotional or physical presence of a particular human being. Everyone experiences this loss at one point or another. Human loss of a relationship can be powerful and all-consuming regardless of whether it is a broken, ended relationship like divorce, a friend moving far away, or the death of a loved one.

Unfortunately, we often think that death is the only kind of loss worth grieving and this causes us to discount other relationship losses as less significant. But the loss of a loved shares many components that make it like many other losses. Dementia settling in. Cut-off friendship, Someone who died. All of these losses may require us to sort through pain, anger, guilt, and years of memories. And like all loss, the good memories bring about an intense longing for what was and can never be again. The intensity of grief can truly take over your day-to-day life for a long while.

Intra-psychic Loss is the experience of losing an emotionally important image of oneself, losing the possibility of what might have been, abandonment of plans for a particular future, the dying of a dream. It is related to outward experiences, but it is an inward experience. Puberty and adolescence bring on this loss for most human beings.

This also happens, however, when we lose our courage, or our faith, or sense of safety. These are ‘things’ we possess within ourselves and we can lose them. I knew a young woman who believed her father to be the best dad and the most compassionate man she had ever known. She trusted him with everything. When she was 24 years old, she learned that her father had long ago had a child out of wedlock and never helped the mother, or tried to get in touch with the child. Meeting that grown brother of hers triggered an intra-psychic loss for her.

Her sense of safety had been shattered because it was centered on her sense of having a perfectly compassionate dad who would never abandon a human being. After moving through the grief for a season, she has a more adult relationship with her father now, but the loss caused intense grief that looked much like grief you have seen in suffers the death of someone they love.

Functional Loss
You’ve seen it somewhere: Aging ain’t for sissies. With aging, comes functional loss. Functional loss is when we lose some of the muscular or neurological functions of the body. Just because it may be somewhat expected doesn’t make the loss easier. Because our society makes light of it, there is some health there, but embracing the loss and grieving it in a healthy way will bring you some actual redemption. One of our beloved members can play the piano for hours on end, almost any hymn or show-tune you can imagine, but if you ask for her son’s name, it might take her 10 minutes to remember. There is much grief involved.

Functional loss isn’t just about aging. It can happen at any time- a child goes blind, a soldier loses a leg. Part of the healing process of functional loss is learning to work around the loss, but it requires letting go of things that once were that you can never get back. I imagine you are seeing the pattern now.

There are two more.
Role Loss is losing a specific role or one’s accustomed place in a social network. The significance of role loss to the individual is directly linked to the extent of the person’s identity to the lost role. Retirement is the most recognized period of role loss, and because there are rituals around retirement, we have some ways to begin to process it. But role loss also happens for people who change careers, or who get ‘voted off the island.” Role loss happens for some when they go back to school and become a student once again. It happens when people become parents for the first time and when the last child leaves the house.

For some, good promotion is so disorienting that it triggers every other kind of loss we’ve already mentioned. And it doesn’t always happen with a title. This pandemic has thrown countless people into role loss and change that no one seems to put their finger on. Role loss is one that is often discounted because it is often associated with something good- a promotion, a new baby, but people mourn the loss of what was and they can not get back.

Systemic Loss is perhaps hardest to understand because it is wrapped up in other kinds of losses. Systemic loss is when functions change within a system like family, work, church, any organization. When a child leaves home for college, the family system changes. You might find a parent shaking their head saying: it’ll never be the same. There is relationship loss, but there is a major disruption in how the family functions as well. And they go hand in hand.

When there is a pastoral change or a new boss comes on board, many people experience a major systemic loss as the new person comes with a different set of values and operates differently. Right now, the loss of a Sunday morning worship and all the systems that surround that Sunday morning routine is a systemic change that is wreaking havoc with our sense of well-being- we know it is not gone forever, but we’re still experiencing grief. Any time a major figure-head is replaced, a systemic change occurs- and even if the change is welcome, many folks will experience it as a loss. Elections often cause a systemic loss that is experienced very differently by various individuals. Keep that in mind over the next week.



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The First United Methodist Church of Moscow, Idaho takes as our mission to be the body of Jesus Christ, ministering to a community which draws strength from its diversity. Our mission centers on the worship of God, expressed through varied forms of prayer, preaching, music, and ritual.  See more...