LIsten to Loss
Updated: Feb 2
I start the morning praying for our university leaders, and our country, and then pray for those who have experienced a family death in the past year. You might find it odd that I begin the day with thoughts of loss. Loss has shaped my life and spirituality.
We live in a culture that avoids loss. We hardly ever say the word “died,” preferring the more ambiguous “passed away.” We act as if grief is contagious and mentioning it will hurt someone. Bringing up a loss might set someone to crying, and that would be hard for us. I know this because, as Mary Morrison quips, “I am a contact crier.” If you cry, I will too; tears come easy to me. The pains of your heart, I can also feel as you share them with me. And let’s be honest, grief goes on far longer than we allow for it. We carry it with us long after people stop asking.
I’m thinking about loss frequently in this season, contemplating 441,000 deaths from COVID in our country. In addition, slow grinding sorrow also abounds in the loss of community, smiles, hugs, rituals that sustain us, religious and spiritual gatherings, our ability to travel and go places and do things that seem “normal.” Hope must be redefined in our context, as we imagine what is to come and how we get there.
Loss is harder on a university campus because we are focused on the future. While those who grieve feel that the world has stood still, the rest of us are planning for days to come and moving ahead toward them.
These days of COVID are awkward and difficult, presenting more losses in terms of friends, social lives, freedoms, . What if we added one more discomfort to embrace? What if we started talking more about loss, opening up about it--tears and all--asking folks about it. “I remember that you had a death in the family recently, how are you holding up?” acknowledges loss without prying and expresses care better than well-intentioned silence. We might ask each other, "What losses are you bearing and how are you managing them?”
Much of our discomfort with speaking about loss is inside us, and not with the one who experienced the loss. But there is so much to learn from loss, if only we accept the challenges to live with loss instead of denial.
The Elon community is a caring family. There are many members of our community grieving so many losses, just waiting a chance to talk about their hearts and souls. It would be a service to all of us to see them, to engage them in truthful conversation, to acknowledge their on-going suffering. Let’s be honest about loss, together. Let us accept that we are in the midst of loss, speak more freely about it, for the sake of our whole selves, for our ability to care for those who feel invisible.
Chaplain Jan Fuller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org