People mean well. However, they often say things that should be kept to themselves. Now to be fair, I did not have anyone say anything of the sort to me. Nothing out of line. My experience was so shocking, unexpected, and unimaginable that most people said either nothing or my favorite, “I can’t imagine.” My quick reply was always, “Neither could I.”
However, when you’re thrust into loss you hear stories about the various statements people make.
The point here is that people try to make something bad seem better. People just want to help. They also try to protect God’s reputation, as if death takes him by surprise. As if death makes him seem out of control. As if God needs an emissary to come to his aid and reframe the current loss you face. Help God and help you at the same time. To make it worse, even I wanted to make it better. I wanted to make sense of it all.
However, I found myself settling in on a very important realization: I should face this tragedy head on, and I should not sugarcoat my loss.
“Then Job answered and said: ‘Today also my complaint is bitter; my hand is heavy on account of my groaning.’” Job 23:1-2
I learned that loss was going to come at me from every direction. Loss is multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, and multi-layered. Relentless. It’s not a respecter of the clock or calendar. It’s not a respecter of persons. Contrary to subtle feelings beneath the surface, unspoken, I am not immune to loss. No one is immune.
So, don’t sugarcoat loss.
I appreciate the raw authenticity of Steven Curtis Chapman in a song he wrote about loss.
“But right now, if we’re all honest, we don’t like God’s higher ways; but we are trusting Him ‘cause what else can we do?” Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael and Maria
It’s healthier to clearly identify your loss for the loss that it is. Face it. Sugarcoating it, or trying to downplay or diminish it, will only give rise to emotional infection and a delay in your hoped-for healing. It’s just not healthy to sidestep loss. There’s nothing admirable about being a person who can endure pain or hardship without acknowledging the impact of the loss. How do we come to such unfeeling conclusions?
“Somehow stoic conclusions are fashioned from a most unstoic truth about a most unstoic God!” David Powlison
As Mark Vroegop contends in Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, “…restoration doesn’t come to those who live in denial.” Denial, often a normal part of grief, must be addressed by facing loss and walking the long journey beyond denial.
Don’t sugarcoat loss.
“Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.” Psalm 55:17
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7-8