Notes from the Campus Chaplains: How to Support Each Other Through Loss

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In the C-Term welcome of a fresh snowfall, a new year brings with it rhythms of beginnings and endings. Here are some approaches to support each other through Loss. 

Notes from the Campus Chaplains: How do we in our faith traditions support each other through Loss?

"The African American Church of God in Christ tradition offers a few approach(s) to the human experience of loss. One approach is marking the experience by way of ritual. The sacred event and practices of ritual acknowledges the moment of loss, building an altar in the world to process feelings associated with the disruption of loss. Dedication services and funerary practices of black church traditions are some of our most sacred. 

The second approach draws attention to a particular scene of imagery for those experiencing loss. The scriptural texts used in these Christian rites call readers into a moment of noticing. In a posture of humility, the reader acknowledges the innocence in all vibrant matter pulsing in the world around them. The scriptures call readers to draw nearer “Run now” (II Kings 4:26) to those who are young in need of support, those who are aged and aging in need of care, those surviving the most tragic in need of healing. 

In these approaches, I see a way my faith tradition might offer our community a message of support in experiences of loss. Make space in your world to honor changes and the associated feelings around them. And remember in feelings of loneliness, you are within a larger fellowship of love, community, and support here at WPI." 

"The Lutheran Christian tradition offers two resources for those experiencing loss.

First, we believe God works in community to support and bless God’s people. In this community, also known as the Church, those experiencing loss can find support, comfort, and encouragement – a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, an encouraging word. This community prays for one another. I remember the man being treated for cancer who told me he actually felt the prayers of those he knew were praying for him. God sustains us as we experience loss by surrounding us with people – friends, mentors, religious leaders, mental health experts, teachers and others who are for us the physical hands and feet of God’s presence.  

 Second, centered on the hope of the death and resurrection of Jesus, this community is sustained in the belief that all of life is a cycle of endings and beginnings.  Contrary to popular belief, life is not an endless progression of one stepping stone to the next in a succession of achievements. We lose things and have to start over. Something special ends and in hope we must trust that, in time, a new season of life will begin. I once had a pastor colleague who was fired by his congregation. This was a heartbreaking loss for my colleague who had moved cross country to serve that congregation. But in that loss he was supported by community. His congregation invited me to attend the meeting in which he was fired so he would have a friend to support and guide him. As he decided what to do next, he ended up taking what turned out to be his dream job that was a perfect match for his energy, passions, and talents. One season of life ended painfully, but another season of life began unexpectedly for which my colleague was grateful.  

Together, these two resources are an important way in which my faith tradition supports those experiencing loss. God blesses us with a community of support that accompanies, sustains, and encourages us in life’s inevitable cycle of endings and beginnings. If you are experiencing loss, look for the ways God is blessing you with people in your life, and in hope, trust that a new season of life will open for you."

"As we walk through times of loss, grief is experienced in both the solitary moments and communal moments with each other. We commit to walk together through the suffering - to feel, to process, to lament with one another. We also believe in a hope restored as we trust in the precious promises of God. The psalmist writes in Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit." Loss changes us forever, but it does not leave us broken beyond repair. 

Gerald Sittser writes, "It is therefore not true that we become less through loss… Loss can also make us more… I did not get over the loss of my loved ones; rather, I absorbed the loss into my life... Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it. The soul is elastic, like a balloon. It can grow larger through suffering."

We believe in the ultimate hope found in Jesus Christ, who suffered to the point of death on the cross for us, so that he might bring us to God. It is in him that our hope is renewed afresh as we enter into the work of lament together." 

WPI’s Campus Chaplains serve as a resource for all individuals on campus who seek guidance. Whether you want to deepen your faith, find yourself at a crossroads, or would like to begin exploring your spirituality and worldview, a Chaplain can advise and support you through many different life changes. Chaplains are also able to mentor individuals in general matters of faith in addition to specific times of hardship. Learn more about the Collegiate Religious Center.

Stay tuned for more Notes from our Campus Chaplains!