Whilst it’s clearly a song centred on romantic strains, the following lyric describes something common in the pain of all loss:
“It’s a heartache,
Nothing but a heartache,
Hits you when it’s too late,
Hits you when you’re down.”
~Bonnie Tyler, It’s a Heartache (1977)
There’s nothing romantic about loss, apart from, perhaps, this endearing and enchanting way that completely overwhelms us and wins us to its case, however sickened we are by its presence.
There’s one thing about loss that’s not hard to agree on: most significant losses involve ongoing, searing pain. They’re ever real within our experience. They remind us of the same truths, again and again, that happened to us. And they may be relived anytime.
Honouring The Pain And Dignifying The Loss
I’m not sure I’ll forget easily, listening to talkback radio, the story of a woman (Sue) who had lost her baby to a contrived adoption; young and naïve, she did what she was told to do by ‘well-meaning’ authority figures in her life—her parents, her doctor, and hospital staff.
Reliving the story as she tells it, relating the sense of physical darkness, and actual scant memory of the events at large, due mainly to shock we can be sure, she sobs. 44 years on, the sense of loss is somehow never starker. And whilst she’s learnt coping mechanisms, damage occurred to her that day; damage she’s prepared to admit forever changed her. The coldness within the moment subsumed her. Using train terminology, having her baby bumped her onto a different track in life.
But there’s another thing we can notice in listening to Sue’s story.
Older and wiser she’s become an advocate. No longer crippled by her shame, a shame that was never her own fault, but one she’d held onto all those years, she became a voice for the silent and shamed. She became a voice for those that had no intentional or purposeful role in their loss. She became a voice for victims. And in that, she honoured her pain, somehow dignifying her loss.
What To Do With Something That Never Leaves
Some losses, indeed many, never leave us.
The love implicit of such losses is too precious, too significant and magnificent, to be pushed away for long. One day, when we’re long gone, we may understand, better than now, why. For now it’s a mystery; something we’re forced to accept or it sends us into trips of depression. And depression may be necessary.
As we deal with something that never quite leaves, something that has now defined the path of our lives, we trust God with it, knowing that pain is a universal language.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.