Coping with loss.

Losing somebody close can be hard. Sometimes it’s not.

Sometimes we are even surprised at the difficulty of loss of an individual we may not have known or ever met.

Either way, coping with loss teaches us a lot about ourselves. Whether we wanted to learn them or not. While the world continues to move forward, it may take some time for us to find our footing back on the path and that’s ok.

Here are different ways we might experience and cope with loss.

The Black Sheep
We all have that person in our family or close circle. You know the one that everyone complains about. In my case, it was my grandmother’s husband. Nearly all of my memories of him, he is drunk and watching TV. Most conversations with him were filled with his favorite sentence, “Oh, I know.” There was nothing he didn’t know and wanted to make sure everybody knew it.

A few years ago he began getting very ill. The family knew he was getting close to the end and so my Mother and I made the drive to Southern California to pay him one last visit. His unhealthy lifestyle finally took a toll on his body. We arrived at Hospice where they were keeping him “comfortable.” He had become frail and thin. His once over-confident stature now weak and fearful of what was ahead. He thought he saw my brother in the hallway, but my brother was on the East Coast.

This is where it got weird for me. Other than my Grandmother, he was alone. None of his family was present. His own children didn’t come to see him and say goodbye. He was scared and alone.

Sure, I was physically present, but I was no better than the people who never showed up. I didn’t know how to care for this man. A man that my entire family had been bitter towards for my whole life. I told him that I loved him and said my goodbyes. There was not much else to say. I couldn’t make the cold and sterile room warm with the love every human deserves to have at their end of their life.

I left that building disgusted with myself, sad for him and sad for every human that has had to endure death alone. That moment showed me how selfish I truly am and taught me that death teaches us some dark and scary things about ourselves. It caused me to be far more intentional with having grace towards those who I may not feel deserve it. I am not God. It is not my decision to decide who is deserving of grace and who is not. But what I do know is that God said to love everyone, and I could have done a much better job.

The Stranger
Steve Jobs was a man with quite a reputation. Genius. Arrogant. Impatient. Intolerant. He knew what he wanted and he would never settle. He was fired from his own company because of his tunnel vision. But it was this tenacity that made him who he was and brought him so much success. Once he was able to reign himself in, he learned the importance of surrounding himself with incredible people and harnessing their best from them. He believed in being crazy and different. Those were the type of minds the world needed.

I have had the pleasure of working in the company this man built, for the last 8 years of my life. This company has taught me not only about technology and big vision, but it has managed to shattered some of my personal biases and stereo types I once had of other individuals. Daily, I am surrounded by some of the most intelligent and talented individuals that I have ever known. And had the man mentioned above never been as zealous as he was and built what he had, I would not know the people or the principles that I know today.

Steve passed on October 5th of 2011. I never personally met the man. Never saw him face to face. But that Wednesday, I drove home from work in tears. As far as I am concerned, he indirectly gave me incredible life opportunities and I will forever be grateful for what he has done not only for me but for the world. His contributions were tremendous. He was crazy enough to think that he could leave the world better than he found it. and he did.

He will always hold a special place in my heart. I too hope that I leave the world a better place than I found it.

The Gone too Soon
You’ve experienced this, I am sure. I think we have probably all experienced this far too much, actually. The young ones, taken from us too soon. The quick realization that life is too short and we truly do not know how long we have on this Earth. The reminder to cherish the one’s you love.

Recently, a young woman I had met through mutual acquaintances had a tragic hiking accident and lost her life. I only met her face to face twice. Young, vibrant and full of life. She was a person that others consistently describe as “The sweetest person I have ever known.” A young person with an incredible heart and a passion for life. It is clearly the truth. There has been an outpouring of love and support as the news has spread. She clearly cared for people and they deeply cared for her.

If there’s anything we can take away from young tragedy, let it be to remind us to love each other a little deeper every day.

The Family Pillar
I don’t have a lot of personal experience here. However, I have seen my fair share of close friends and family endure the loss of their family pillar.

When I was 20 years old, I was part of a year long internship for ministry. It was a small group of about 12 of us. We traveled all over, doing ministry and serving. When you’re stuck in a van with a group of people for 16 hours at a time, you create a very special bond. The youngest of our entire group was my friend, Sam. He was barely 18 at the time. Young, goofy, hilarious. A very musically talented kid with a great heart for God.

Once our internship ended, Sam went back to his home in San Diego. Shortly after, news spread of Sam’s Father unexpectedly passing. Sam was the oldest of his siblings, with a toddler younger brother. His Father owned a landscape business and supported the entire family. Sam stepped in immediately and took over the business and support of his Mother and siblings.

I remember thinking how devastating that had to have been and how quickly it must have forced Sam to grow up. He was determined not to let his family down. His Father was a great man. Sam took the place of the family pillar with a deep sense of responsibility to make his Father proud.

Moments like that change the entire course of one’s life. There is a deep sense of purpose that must be fulfilled and Sam took ownership. I like to think that Sam’s Father is extremely proud of him, up in heaven.

With all of these stories of loss, we have a choice in how we respond.

Yes, the world keeps moving, and eventually we will have to get back into the forward motion again, but with a new lens of what this life has to offer and how we can make the most of it.

What’s your story? How did you cope? What has it taught you?