The young baby is convulsed with crying and tears when its mother moves out of sight. We are born into relationship and it is quite natural that we find loss and separation as painful. No doubt we are sensitized to loss by the birth experience, which itself is one of separation, yet we are so dependent on relationships.
Any change or loss is then experienced as disaster. It is about survival and it is human instinct.
In childhood we lose friends, we move house, we change schools. The world and the relationships we have learned to depend upon disappear and it can be devastating and it takes time to build new relationships of confidence.
Strong emotions surface – bewilderment – a numbness when we don’t know what to do or which way to turn – a questioning of why something has happened coupled with a blaming of those we might hold responsible. Anger and frustration often explode but will move into a resigned depression and it takes some while before we can be more reasoned in our reactions.
Such experiences are not invited but are universal. They occur and recur on an almost daily basis. The seemingly trivial experience of losing door keys can find us in a panic. There is disbelief that it has happened. There is annoyance and anger as the implications rush into our thoughts. It takes time for us to calm down and begin to think straight. All these emotions well up when we experience more significant loss. It is clear that there is no easy way through.
However, is it not the very positive aspects of relationship and dependency that cause such reaction when they are lost?
When the Christian community celebrate the Ascension of Christ we can only imagine the turmoil of emotions for the first disciples. They have worked through the fact that the one on whom they depended has given himself up for crucifixion. They have somehow got their heads around his resurrection only to find that he is leaving them once more. However, the relationship is not to be broken. Jesus reminds them (John 14) ‘If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’ The prospect of Jesus leaving is countered by the promise of the Holy Spirit – ‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see my anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.’
It is not that Christian faith makes us immune to any sense of loss. The emotions will rise in us daily and we will find ourselves angry and disbelieving even in our relationship with God. But, that relationship itself will not disappear. We cannot mourn the loss of God, as long as we are open to his love through every eventuality that life presents.