Life After Loss

Over the past 18 months I’ve been working in a laboratory of loss. Through our son Paul’s death, my participation in a study of education in American, my knee replacement surgery, post-surgical recovery and rehab, relocating, political realignments, and global immigration dynamics, I kept being drawn to the issue of loss.

Through all of that, I’ve come to see that loss is not to be feared or rejected. It is a normal and essential part of life’s cadence. If we regard losses properly, they can bring renewal for the next season of life. Here are some of the details:

  • Loss is not personal. Yes, I know that it sure feels personal. In the moment, it seems unique, even historic. But loss is rarely personal. The simple truth is that everyone dies, financial tides rise and fall, relationships get injured, trains go off the rails, etc. The old bumper sticker (sanitized), BAD STUFF HAPPENS, captures a simple, but large and inescapable truth.
  • Life requires that we deal with it. The species cannot continue if humans are immobilized by loss.
  • Loss (a.k.a. ruin, failure, death, destruction, etc.) is always painful and disruptive; it never comes at a good time. So we must learn to accept and navigate it.
  • Loss is short term. Most people tend to view the whole journey through the keyhole of the present moment. But almost nothing we see through the eyes of grief is accurate or helpful in the long term.
  • Loss is an illusion. It might lash, boil, invade, injure and steal from us; it may even leave us face down in the gutter. But it cannot destroy the core of our true identity. For that reason, we don’t have to fear it. Nothing significant is taken away by loss.
  • Loss is a myopic interpretation of a larger change. An old “Far Side” cartoon showed two men fishing on a lake as a large mushroom cloud boiled up over the horizon. One fisherman said to the other, “I’ll tell you what it means, it means screw the limit.” People inevitably view global realignments through the lens of their personal needs and desires.
  • Loss calls us to greater maturity. Living in a culture that encourages emotional indulgence, we tend to welcome grief and offer it a big easy chair. But maturity pushes the grieving out of bed, into the shower, and to the office. And it makes sure that he or she does that every day for the rest of his or her life.
  • Loss passes by. Glen Roachelle once said, “When you go through a storm, don’t become an expert on storms. Just get through it.” It comes. Endure it. Loss moves on; you should too.
  • Loss reveals a higher path. Crises always bring me to see that my “Edness” is insufficient. For me, I can only proceed by faith in God’s total reliability. I’m not assuming this is (or should be) your response, but I have to get up above the big muddy me and ascend into a higher and clearer view.
  • Loss is not The End. Although it appears to be apocalyptic, loss the usually just the end of a season or a way of thinking. What appears to be great loss can be a gate to a brand new future.
  • Life surpasses our earth existence. For me, where I live is not a big deal. Living in God is the real objective. From His place, I am able to more clearly see the vast sweep of the whole journey. And seeing loss from the high ground give a completely new perspective and releases people to accept and bless it.
  • What about loss on a national scale? It seems to me that conservatives tend to view every loss as an assault on our foundations and liberals tend to see losses as threats to progress. Both views are power grabs. In truth, when seen from the high ground, the losses brought by war, disease, economic tremors, social injustice, technology shifts, and even immigration crises are often servants of renewal and redemption.


The losses suffered by individuals, families, business and industry, and nations mean old things are blowing away and new things are arriving. Life after loss is much like the land after a thunderstorm. The scent of rain and the purity of the air suggest new beginnings.

Let’s step into the new. We have more to gain than we ever lost.

22 thoughts on “Life After Loss”

  1. Marilyn Blankenship

    Ed, thank you for sharing your ponderings and learnings on loss.
    Your value as a teacher after losses you’ve stated have great power.

    I love the tender example of “the scent of rain and purity of air suggest new beginnings”
    after a thunderstorm. May God’s grace and mercy be with you always.

  2. Ed, This has shifted the focus of the event to how the loss fits into the big picture. Thanks for lifting our eyes above our belly buttons.

    1. Most of us need perspective more than we need information. Seeing something from the right altitude always makes it clearer. Thank you for writing.

    1. Thanks, Dan. You have stood in far greater losses than I ever have. I really wish you and I could sit and talk. You have so much to tell.

  3. Ed,
    Well said as always. . and having walked through the valley of loss, there is a path. Love what you said about the rainstorm and scent of new beginnings. It is always a matter of reframing. . and whether our eyes and spirits have the will to see beyond the darkness in the clouds. Hope cometh after the storm. .even if morning hasn’t arrive. Thanks again for stirring us all so deeply and tenderly.

    1. Yes, hope is one thing that remains after a storm. The very creation seems to speak hope after we suffer loss. Thanks for writing.

    1. And, thank YOU, Jim. Part of the reason you liked this piece is because of where you have walked through the years. You have known loss. I appreciate you and your example.

  4. My goodness Ed, as only you can do, this is the best I have read on death and loss. I have printed this for an employee that just lost his wife. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am so proud of you and proud you are my brother.

    1. I’m honored and humbled that you would pass it on to one who is now in that crucible. May the Lord bless the words and bless your friend. Thank you so much…for being my brother (even though you had no choice) and for being my friend (which you DID choose)! 🙂

  5. I love your analogy of the thunderstorm. Yes, storms come and pass through. We sometimes watch it from a place of personal safety, but as it passes we go outside to survey the “damage. ” Those fresh breezes of pure air, scents that may not be what we are accustomed to (but are somehow comforting) bring us to place of trust in Jesus as we close our eyes and lift our head to heaven in silent worship.

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  6. I suffered the loss of a loved one some 40 years ago and in my great pain I spoke a verse out of Job – (paraphrased) “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” From that day, I was free. It took a year for the pain to go away but nevertheless, I was free from the moment I spoke those words.

    1. Rene, that is one great testimony! Speaking truth to ourselves and to the atmosphere does alter our mind and even our environment. Thank you so much for writing that.

  7. Dad, I am so grateful that I’m walking this path of loss with you. Thank you for your guidance and perspective.

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