Making Loss Matter

Finding Meaning in Life's Difficult Moments

This article was excerpted with permission from "Making Loss Matter" published by Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.

Preachers often have claimed to have the answer to why the world is so constructed that we lose what we love. The answer is often beautiful and even convincing, unless loss strikes. Then it fades like the clouds at evening; the dark wipes out the beauty. Losses are the stuff of life. They will not miss you, they will not steer around those whom you love.

We search for an answer to the riddle of "why" because we want control. Give us a way to make sure that we will not lose again. But God gives this privilege to no one.

The blessing we seek in life is not to live without pain. It is to live so that our pain has meaning. The spiritually minded person seeks to live fully despite fear, because to allow fear to direct our lives adds the suffering of anticipation to the pain of the loss. No quality is more essential for a well-lived life than courage. Loss is arbitrary, our valor in living, and our determination to make sense of life, is wisdom. As my friend Linda said about her illness, "I am going to live with the fear, and I am going to



live in spite of it."

The blessing we seek in life is not to live without pain. It is to live so that our pain has meaning.

When I was a child learning to swim, I had a hard time floating. I was too afraid of drowning, and I knew that by thrashing my arms and legs I could usually manage to keep my head above water. Learning to float is learning to trust the world, and oneself. Paradoxically, though, it is by floating, by not being afraid, that the wave carries us highest. Sometimes when I floated, the wave covered me, just as it did when I thrashed about. But in between waves I was no longer afraid, and when the wave washed over me, I knew I would soon again ride the crest.

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