As we grow older, we often experience different types of losses that can be difficult to deal with. Losing friends, partners, perhaps our memory, our hearing or sight, independence, and other things can all be challenging to cope with. However, as Christians, we have a unique perspective that can help us navigate these losses with grace and strength. Here are some ways that we can deal with losses in later life from a Christian perspective.
Lean on God’s strength
As we face losses in later life, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. But as Christians, we have access to the power and strength of God. We can turn to Him in prayer and ask for the strength we need to face each day. Psalm 46:1 reminds us that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” We can trust that He will be with us and give us the strength we need to face each new challenge.
Focus on gratitude
When we experience losses in later life, it’s natural to focus on what we’ve lost. However, as Christians, we’re called to focus on gratitude instead. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” By focusing on what we’re thankful for, we can cultivate a positive attitude and find joy in the midst of difficult circumstances.
Seek support from others
Dealing with losses in later life can be isolating, but it’s important to remember that we don’t have to go through it alone. We can seek support from our church community, friends, and family members. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” By reaching out to others, we can find comfort and support during difficult times.
Find purpose in serving others
One way to find meaning and purpose in the midst of loss is to serve others. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” By serving others, we can make a positive impact in the world and find fulfillment in the midst of difficult circumstances.
Trust in God’s plan
Finally, as Christians, we can find comfort in the knowledge that God has a plan for our lives. Even when we experience losses in later life, we can trust that God is still at work and that He has a purpose for us. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” By trusting in God’s plan, we can find peace and hope in the midst of difficult times.
Exploring Losses in Later Life – July 2022
In the recording below, you can listen to Growing Old Grace-fully’s Chair of Trustees, Carol Burns’ talk exploring losses in later life and how we can respond (from our online event on this theme on 12th July 2022):
At the same event, we were moved and inspired by hearing from two people sharing their story of journeying through loss and change, and what it meant for them. You can listen to them below:
We were also aided in our reflection on loss by some insightful poems from Hannah Stone (poet theologian at Leeds Church Institute), who shared the background to these poems as she read them for us:
Reflection on Losses and Later Life
To close our event, Mgr Peter Rosser brought a reflection and prayer, drawing from his own chaplaincy experiences and pointing us to the example of Jesus:
“From my experience as a prison chaplain and in hospital chaplaincy I have witnessed, among people of all ages, the great pain and suffering of many types of loss.”
“I often encountered losses in these people which are similar to the types of losses we frequently experience in later life such as:
- the loss of – independence and autonomy
- the loss of – dignity and personal possessions
- the loss of – friendships and close relationships.”
“When we seek comfort for and meaning in our losses, there is hope in reflecting on the final days and hours of the life of Jesus.”
“On that tragic night in the garden of Gethsemane when he was arrested
Jesus lost his independence and autonomy.
Decisions thereafter were out of his hands and out of his control.”
“The remainder of his life became a series of further losses:
- He was stripped of his garments and lost his final remaining personal possessions.
- He lost his dignity as a human being as they hung him naked on the cross.
- He was no longer pain-free.
- He was abandoned by so many whom he had helped as they jeered for his crucifixion.
- He even lost all but one of his 12 closest companions, those who knew his story and had shared so much with him.“
“He lost his reputation as he was taunted for his perceived inability to come down from the cross and he was considered a fake.“
“And in his final moments he experienced the darkness of being deserted by God –
“My God, my God why have you forsaken me.”
“But as he subsequently pointed out to the disappointed disciples on the road to Emmaus, this was the necessary path to an eternal and glorious future.”
“An anonymous author wrote:
“Hope is that beautiful place between
the way things were
and the way things are yet to be “.
And so, as we come to the end of our reflections on losses in later life, I pray:
May the God of love bless you
with comfort and peace
to calm your troubles spirits.
May God bless you
with insight and understanding
to enlighten your confusion and doubt.
And may God bless you
with how to sustain you
through the darkest moments.
Mgr Peter Rosser