Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dealing with Loss

Dealing with Loss

Yesterday I addressed the topic of Pre-Conditioned Discipline: Changing our Song and Dance. The thoughts I shared were prompted by a Relief Society meeting in our Waterman Ward. Brother Goodson is a family therapist from LDS Family Services, and he came to share his personal experiences with us on many topics. Two of the topics were of particular interest to me.

The second topic, which I will address today, is Dealing with Loss. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, it is my experience that Jesus is our best Teacher and He is the One who can best reach every single one of us to help us through our suffering as a result of personal loss (see Matthew 11:28-30). This is mainly so, because He has vicariously taken upon Himself all of our experiences, both joyful and sorrowful (See Alma 7:11-14); and because He loves us dearly.

Knowing that Jesus was A Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief (See Isaiah 53:3-5) has also been very comforting to me. Enduring my grief with Him and through Him can make me become more like Him. It helps to know that the sadness we experience has a purpose beyond our own misery.

Brother Goodson rightly explained that we all suffer loss: whether it be the death of a loved one, declining health, divorce, or loss of employment. He also said that there are healthful and unhealthful ways to deal with losses.

On a chalkboard, he depicted the past, the present, and the future. Each had a plus and minus sign within its time frame. He explained that if we live in the future, especially if we are concerned about the unknowns of the future, that this will cause us extreme anxiety. While living in our negative past can thwart our current ability to progress. How about with loss? What is the most healthful thing for us to do when we experience loss?

Brother Goodson shared his own experience with loss. While on a family vacation, their seventeen-year-old was driving the car. When there was a turn in the road that she miscalculated, her mother saw it and told her. The daughter over-corrected and the car rolled multiple times. Many family members suffered severe injuries, and thirteen-year-old daughter Megan passed away.

For many years Brother Goodson sorrowed for the loss of his daughter. When he went to beautiful weddings, he would think, “Oh, this could be Megan’s wedding.” At some point, he realized that his own thinking was counterproductive, and he decided to change the pattern of his thinking. So in this same scenario, he know thinks, “This will be Megan’s wedding someday in the glorious future.” With that renewed faith, he looks forward to the future, when through Jesus’s grace we will all be together again.

My husband and I have also dealt with the sorrow of losing a child. In our case, Robby passed away the same day he was born. Though the year following his death was one of extreme sadness for us, it was also one of extreme joy. I felt a greater measure of the Spirit with me constantly, because I chose to turn to the Lord in this time of grief. During the Savior’s extreme suffering in Gethsemane, angels were sent to strengthen him. Still, being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly (See Luke 22:39-46). That’s what we need to do.

I was also given a personal angel to be my companion during this time (see Alma 38:7). This angel was my own son Robby. As I felt him walk with me through that first year, I felt as though I was walking between two worlds. The experience was sweet and joyful.

Brother Goodson stated that the deeper our valleys are, the higher our peaks will be. This can be true if we put our trust in the Lord. And it will be especially true if we hold out faithful until the end. Perfect joy will come in the morning of that perfect day (see Psalm 30:5).

Because Robby was taken so soon from us, we have very few memories of him. This caused me to learn to develop anticipatory memories early on. I know that I will see Robby grow from infanthood to adulthood to Godhood, and I will get to be his mother through it all if I remain faithful now. So there are ways for me to find joy in the milestones of other children, my own and others, knowing that Jesus will right all wrongs and wipe away all tears (see Revelation 21:4). And I marvel at the world that Robby will grow up in (see Isaiah 11:6-9).

I have since suffered many other losses. My younger brother Ed and my older sister Kathy (the two siblings closest in age to me) have both been gone for many years now. We’re also missing my mother-in-law; and, most recently, my own mother passed away. All of these losses have caused me great sorrow. But knowing the Lord’s hand is over all His creations (see Matthew 10:29-31) also gives me hope and encourages me to develop trust, faith, and patience, both for myself and with others.

If someone were to ask what is the hardest loss you’ve experienced? I think that would be an unfair question. The current loss is always the immediately most difficult, and it often brings back the tenderness of sensitivities of the other losses. But I have found that we may grieve differently at different times in our lives and with different losses. Truly, we cannot expect each other to grieve the same. Nor should we ever trivialize another’s loss.

With our losses, we cannot live in the past; but, I find it most helpful to be able to draw from the past and cherish the memories. Doing so can give us greater hope for the future. I have also found it most helpful to me, in experiencing the death of a loved one, when others share memories and impressions of that person with me. Sharing love, light, and hope is healing. We need to remember our baptismal covenants, so eloquently described by Alma, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort (See Mosiah 18:7-11).

I also think it helps to imagine, much like Brother Goodson does in thinking of his daughter’s wedding. Using our imaginations in constructive ways is a way of developing faith and hope, both in the goodness of our memories and the brightness of our future together. With an eye single to the glory of God, we can move on with a perfect brightness of hope (See 2 Nephi 31:20). 

We must also remember and cherish our testimonies. If there is anything that has helped both my husband and me to move forward even in times of sadness, it is our knowledge of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of the Gospel. We know that because Priesthood Keys have been restored, our separations are temporary; and because we have been sealed in the temple of our God, our family can and will be together forever. This is our testimony, our faith, and our hope. 

Scripture to Ponder:Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life: John 11:21-27. 

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