The Landscape of Loss is vast.
Some say it is desert, but in my experience it is more varied than that. It certainly has large stretches of desert, but there are also roads. Many roads, all leading in different directions. There is no one way out of this place, and many of the roads are blind alleys. There are few road signs and, honestly, if you try to follow them, you may be misled or sent around in circles.
There are dangerous pitfalls and mine-shafts with concealed openings. Do not fear these, though - others have fallen down them before you and created tunnels to travel through. You will not be trapped there, with no way out. And you may find treasure in the darkness.
There are sinking sands of self-pity. Stay still too long and you may become trapped here. Though there is always a Rescuer who will come if you call and take His hand.
There are other dangers. Traffic that seemingly comes out of nowhere. You are blindsided. Hit-and-runs that leave you wounded and hurting. Strange forests of memory which may hinder or help you.
Oceans of grief to cross, when all that is supplied is a small one-person boat to cross them in.
It seems like the more losses you have, the larger this land becomes. Losses have a way of multiplying. If you lose health, soon you are losing abilities, strength, independence, hobbies. If you lose a job, soon your lifestyle suffers losses. If you lose your mind, you may lose friends. If you lose fertility, you lose your hopes and dreams. If you lose people … well, you may only lose one, but memories become lost, conversations lost, and casualties do have a way of mounting up.
You find yourself, therefore, in this Landscape of Loss, whatever it may look like for you (and it looks different to everyone). You may have gradually ventured into it, but most people find themselves knocked sideways by some enormous blow, and wake up to find themselves unceremoniously dumped in the middle of this place.
It can take days and weeks just to get over the numbing shock. To simply get up and start moving can be a huge effort when the thought of curling into a ball, hiding and sleeping can feel so much safer. But you hear the Rescuer’s voice urging you to ‘arise, my love’. It is irresistible, for you long to be rescued.
A word of warning: though other people walk this land, and there are day-trippers who may venture in to try and help, none of these people can rescue you. If you try to grab their hand to pull you out of a pit, you may both fall in. Yes, there are some who are permitted, like guides, to walk alongside you for a while, offering food and refreshment. But do not look to them to rescue you - that is not their role.
There are others like you, walking through this landscape, but each has their own path, and whilst some paths may cross, they are only wide enough to accommodate one person.
I am afraid that loneliness ‘goes with the territory’, as they say.
There is but one Rescuer. It is not likely that He will just lift you out of the landscape (though just occasionally He might) but He will always walk alongside you, even when you cannot see Him. Only He knows your way through this place. Only He constantly speaks of the destination of Hope-and-Joy that you will eventually reach. He is the one with healing ointment for your sore feet, comfort for your aching heart. Not only a Rescuer, but a Healer, a Comforter, a Guide and a Friend.
There is an enemy too, one who has many names - Accuser, Thief, Liar, Destroyer - and he is the prince of Despair. Don’t listen to him, for that empowers him. His power is limited, and ultimately he is already defeated, for how can Despair thrive when Hope-and-Joy is by your side and within you.
There is Refreshment here, though it is elusive. It feels almost impossible to continue to love and give to others on the outside, when inside you are trudging through this place of desolation. It is possible, though. When you manage it, it will be like a drink of fresh water to your parched soul. Refreshment can be nurtured. It is nurtured by practising gratitude, by learning to appreciate the small kindnesses that come your way, by giving. It is nurtured by Patience. Even patience through Pain.
More refreshment comes through Beauty. There’s not a whole lot of that here, but there is some, if you have eyes to see. Flowers do grow amidst the rubble, and there is a whole lot of Beauty that you can create. In your mind, in your hands, in your heart. Beauty is essential to your survival.
I cannot finish without mentioning Pain. Pain is a constant here, be it physical, mental or emotional. Pain can be a huge mountain, and there is no way around it. It hurts. I have no secret answer here, no short cut, no bandage big enough to cover it. Pain has to be faced. Endured as a sacrifice of Love to the Rescuer who knew Pain more intimately that you or I ever will.
‘No pain, no gain’ so they say. A nifty phrase invented, I suspect, by those whose pain was temporary, though there may be truth in it. The atmosphere in this place is laced with pain. You breathe it in with every laboured breath. I cannot tell you how to survive it. I can only point you to the Rescuer. I suspect He knows the answer, for He was the first one to blaze a path through it to the Kingdom of Hope-and-Joy.
He knows the Landscape of Loss.
You left so little behind.
To be won or lost in a gamble.
A broken body
To be anointed
And vast, empty chasms
In our hearts.
Silence in that place
Where once your words and laughter dropped like hopeful seeds.
You left yourself behind.
And soon that broken body
Could no more be dead and hid.
Rumbles shook earth -
The dawn of resurrection life
And dead bursting from their graves.
Those seeds flourishing and growing
Where now your words of rebuild temples
Made so much sense.
And when you left
Your spirit left behind.
But life spirit pulsing within
Whispering your words in our hearts
Wrapping us now in your garments of righteousness.
Just you .