Naming Losses to Grieve Losses

A Loss of Friends
In August, within a week of each other, I attended two memorial services in different parts of the country for two friends.

One loss was the sudden jolt of a 54 year old friend dying suddenly of a heart attack.  He was a vibrant and brilliant ministry leader. Even as I write these words it does not seem that it can possibly be real.

The second friend was a 52 year old Barnabas colleague. He had walked a noble walk with cancer for 8 years. His passing was “expected” as he slowly faded in strength over the past weeks. Regardless, his absence is another void in many lives.

I have had some expected reflections on the brevity of life.

Yet, I think my lasting thoughts have been of the reality of their life. I find I do not want to speak of them in past tense. Both these brothers are still good friends. They are still fun-loving, brilliant, and creative. I just won’t be able to experience that until I see them again one day. They are more alive now than ever (to quote D. L. Moody).

Within hours of hearing of my first friend’s sudden death, as I was staggering to grasp the reality of it, I found myself suddenly saying out loud, “I will carry on the fight, my friend.” These guys were colleagues in arms. We fought similar battles, held similar values, and desired the same ends. Their fight is over. Yours and mine is not. So we carry on.

Naming Losses
A very helpful exercise in grief is to name losses.  A loss cannot be grieved until it is identified and named. I have a growing list of named losses for each of these friends. I am reflecting on how it would be appropriate to grieve those various losses.

Our lives are full of losses. Sometimes they are profound as in the loss of a family member or friend. Other times they seem less important, like when we lose a favorite possession. Yet, each deserves to be named and grieved. The danger of not doing so is an accumulation of ungrieved losses which will have impact in our lives in unhealthy ways.

Grieving losses is a gift given by a good and wise God.

What are your losses of late? Have you named them? How would you like to grieve them?

Helping Others to Name Losses
When I sit with  others, I often give them an exercise of making a list of losses with a column next to that list of the emotions attached to each loss. It can be very insightful for them to see that long list of losses. It is significantly freeing to then lean into some appropriate grieving. Sometimes the naming is sufficient. Other losses require more time and attention.

Create safety to allow others to grow in the spiritual practice of grieving. 

This entry was posted in Living Wisely, Personal Vitality, Shepherding Well and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Naming Losses to Grieve Losses

  1. Nancy says:

    Thanks for encouraging others to take time to grieve the losses, Scott. I totally agree that naming the loss(es) is important. I have found it helpful to “name” the loss through painting, clay, and or collage etc. The creative “right-brain” can help get to the feelings associated with the loss. Also, having a simple “letting go” ceremony can be really helpful.


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