Loss and Gain

Especially from the perspective of an older adult, life seems like a repetitive cycle of give and take, of gain and loss. Erikson posed that within each stage of life there is a developmental task that is necessary to complete; babies learn to trust, adolescents gain a sense of identity, and so on. There are consequences if these tasks are not achieved, thus Erikson phrased them in a versus relationship; for example, Trust vs. Mistrust and Identity vs. Confusion. In adulthood and older age, the developmental tasks are Generativity vs. Stagnation and Integrity vs. Despair.

The elderly patients I cared for as a nurse all experienced losses over time, some more than others. Loss of spouses, siblings, opportunities, jobs, abilities, and physical function to mention just a few. One said to me, “There is nothing left to lose but my life.” I was sad for her and must have tried to give some encouraging words, but being much younger at the time I could never have understood fully. I remember her words as I navigate the accelerating cycle of gain and loss.

I have lost too many loved ones: a husband, parents, young nieces, grandparents, many of them tragically before their time. I have lost abilities due to a degenerative osteoarthritic condition. I can no longer ski, hike, ride horses, golf — things that I not only enjoyed but formed my self-concept.

Pondering loss and fighting the understandable grief that comes with it, I rely on faith in God and in his words like “Be not afraid,” and “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” People can disagree with me on my source of comfort but I am undeterred. Each finds their own way in life.

There is a new series called “The Chosen.” A hit with millions of viewers, it is the highest grossing crowd-funded project to date. The amount of money donated secured not just the first season but the second as well. No money is asked for and it is free to watch. It is the only multi-season series on the life of the early disciples and of Jesus. Even if I had no interest in the spiritual life of Jesus I would watch the show on its period drama merits. It is good entertainment. Of course the intent is to do more than entertain but to inspire. It has done that for me as well.

As I continue to ponder the looming horizon of old age I will strive to stay peaceful. I will strive to “generate” and fight self-absorption. Stagnation helps no one. I am not as productive as I used to be, but I can still hope, pray, talk with friends, give advice, educate my children and support my husband. I may not be able to swing my driver or jump a 5-foot fence with a Thoroughbred or strap on my skis ever again, but I can do important things for my loved ones. I can still enjoy many other things in life. One can find ways to be generative in learning, loving, caring, praying, encouraging and praising.

Better There

The loss of a loved one can really only be fully comprehended if you have gone through it. Even well-meaning folk do not know what to say. Those of us who have suffered tragic loss know that they don’t have to say anything–just be near, give a hug, or tell you that they are thinking of you, keeping in touch, available in case of any need.

I have known suffering souls who felt no other recourse in life but to end their lives prematurely. One friend tragically left her husband, two boys and all who loved her. A loving and decorated war hero left his children and his Mom and Dad shockingly bereft. Another kind soul, an Army Major succumbed, leaving his wife and children, family and friends. They were each people you would have loved to know. Fascinating, warm, inspiring, but their internal pain was agonizing, and too much to bear. But they underestimated the grief, despair and devastation that their final actions would wreak, and the life-changing, excruciating holes left behind in their loved ones’ lives.

I wrote this for my friends left behind.

Better There

I know,
Our eventuality, each soul,
But prematurely, by their own hand?
Too much to bear
And I wear it

Daily

Can you see? It is me
Walking Pain.
Behind the convincing smile that I am alright
Though in truth not fully,
Until I am with my loved one again


Few
None?
Can escape loss.
But prematurely, by their own hand?
Dimensions painful beyond imagination

One more step, one more step
One more smile, one more day
Traversing the dark tar pit of pain.
Full of questions and remorse
And memories.
Molten innocence turned torture

One more step, one more step
I go, Lord, I keep going
I must reach the other side
Must “be” for others, for You.
For now, however long, despite the burning
Despite the scars that form
In an effort to numb the next step
That will make it possible


It is for You, for others
That I push on
Bearing this pain
This must be enough for now

You will be my strength, give me grace
Until in Your time
I too will be
Better there