Five Reasons Why Loss is so HARD


Loss is hard.

One of my best friends died at age 12 and left me in a fog. My dad’s death when I was 15 shattered my world. Every loss since has been difficult and sometimes traumatic. I felt punched in the gut or like I had been hit by a train.

Even if death was expected, it hits with the force of a tsunami.

Here are five reasons why death stuns us:


First, this life is all we’ve known.

We’ve spent all our lives on this planet, breathing this air and walking this earth. With death and things beyond, we’re in uncharted territory.

Faith can make a massive difference. Some have great peace about what’s next and a level of certainty about what’s beyond this life. Even then, death means separation from those we loved, even if it’s temporary. And that hurts.


Second, death is hard because of our culture.

Researchers of thanatology (the study of death) classify cultures as death-accepting, death-defying, or death-denying. Currently, the majority of North America falls into the death-denying category. We don’t think about it. We pretend it doesn’t exist. We don’t accept it. We see death as an intrusion – the destroyer of hopes, dreams, and relationships.

In other words, our cultural mindset doesn’t exactly prepare us for the realities of what we face when someone dies.


Third, death is hard because of the relational separation.

We’re created for relationship. Our lives are about people – our families, friends, and those we’ve known and related to over the years. This is our history.

Being torn away from those we love is a scary proposition. It’s traumatic, heartbreaking, and lonely.


Fourth, death is hard because it’s emotionally complicated.

Our emotions are all over the place:

  • We’re shocked. Our hearts scream, “This can’t be real!”
  • We feel sad, maybe lost.
  • Loneliness and heartache plague us.
  • We get angry at our loved one for leaving, at God for taking them from us, or at anyone we see as contributing to their death.
  • Our anxiety goes up.
  • Depression knocks.

It’s not business as usual. Our insides are being torn apart. It hurts.


Fifth, death is hard because of the guilt factor.

Death brings a bag of accusations and dumps them on us:

  • “If you had only…”
  • “You shouldn’t have…”
  • “Why didn’t you…?”

Guilt is a relentless monster, and not to be toyed with. It can suck our soul dry. It benefits no one, and keeps us stuck.


What can we do?

  • We can being by accepting the truth. Loss is hard. It’s supposed to be.
  • We can be nice to and patient with ourselves. We need that, more than ever.
  • We can find a way to forgive ourselves and send guilt packing. We must do this – for our own sake and for those we love.
  • We can cherish memories and tell our loved one’s stories. They live on, in and through us.
  • We can honor our loved ones on holidays and at special times.
  • While we’re missing the presence of our loved one, we can also bless those around us with our presence.

Why is death so hard? Love, that’s why.

I’m glad we had the privilege of loving someone precious, aren’t you? And we love them still…

Shouldn’t You Be Over This By NOW?


We’re all missing someone.

Michelle sat across the table from me, turning her chicken salad over and over with her fork.
“I should be over this by now,” she sighed.

Michelle’s mother had passed away four months earlier. They had seen each other almost every day for a decade. They talked about everything. Her mom’s death left a gaping hole in Michelle’s life and heart.

“She’s always been there. Until she passed, you had never lived a day without her,” I said. “Michelle, you’re not going to get over this.”

Michelle looked up from her plate and stared at me. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came. Her face began to crumple, and the tears began to fall.

When we lose someone (to death, divorce, moves, mental or physical illness, or relational distance) it’s impossible to get over them. That would be like saying they didn’t matter and their lives were of no real importance.


My Friend Bill

About 15 years ago, I got a call from my friend Bill. He was a college buddy and a groomsman in my wedding. We hadn’t seen each other for years, but we talked at least every couple of months. He was a master at staying in touch.

This phone call was different. “Gary, I’ve got leukemia, and it’s advanced. It doesn’t look good.”

I gripped the phone in silence. No words came.

“I know, man, I know,” Bill said. “That’s how I responded when they told me.”

Several months later, Bill was gone. He was barely 40. I still have a hard time believing it. I miss his voice, his sense of humor, and his encouragement. I sometimes close my eyes and try to remember his face.

Get over Bill? Nope. No way.

Relationships are the foundation of our lives. People matter so deeply.


People are Priceless

All of us are special. We are priceless beings of eternal value. When someone exits, they leave a hole. We can’t replace them. We can only grieve, and hopefully learn to appreciate them even more.

  • You never get over a person. You learn to adapt and adjust over time.
  • As you grieve well, the one you miss will naturally take his or her new place in your life.
  • If you look carefully, you’ll recognize them in your actions and hear their voice in your words.
  • Grief will become mixed with thanksgiving.
  • Slowly, the color will come back into life.

I learned so much from Bill, the most powerful thing being selfless service. Bill loved people and gave his life to those around him, especially those in need. I can honor him by living his legacy as part of my mission.


Grieve Well, Lean Forward, and Grow

How do we do this? Here are five suggestions:

1.   Appreciate what’s been lost.

2.   Feel the emotions involved (sadness, anger, confusion, relief, frustration, fear, anxiety, depression, etc.).

3.   Don’t go internal or isolate. Stay connected to people.

4.   Share the stories and memories.

5.   Don’t get in a hurry. Take your time.

Moving through the fog of loss is not a random, wandering journey (though it may feel that way).
Our hearts are seeking a new equilibrium. Recovery takes time. Lots of time.

Let the one you miss sink deeply into your life and heart. Honor them in the way you live. Let the memory of your time together bring smiles as well as tears.

Who are you missing today?

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