4 Minutes 4 Hard Times – Necessary Losses

Last week I asked if 4 minutes was too long. Response was mixed, so I’ll start with a quick summary and if you want to go deeper, more follows.

 (1 minute version)

 In her book, Necessary Losses, Judith Viorst discusses the “loves, illusions, dependencies, and impossible expectations that all of us have to give up in order to grow.”

Viorst writes,

In the course of our life we leave and are left and let go of much that we love. Losing is the price we pay for living. It is also the source of much of our growth and gain. Making our way from birth to death, we also have to make our way through the pain of giving up and giving up and giving up some portion of what we cherish.

We have to deal with our necessary losses.

We should understand how these losses are linked to our gains.

For in leaving the blurred-boundary bliss of mother-child oneness, we become a conscious, unique and separate self, exchanging the illusion of absolute shelter and absolute safety for the triumphant anxieties of standing alone.

And in bowing to the forbidden and the impossible, we become a moral, responsible, adult self, discovering—within the limitations imposed by necessity—our freedoms and choices.

And in giving up our impossible expectations, we become a lovingly connected self, renouncing ideal visions of perfect friendship, marriage, children, family life for the sweet imperfections of all-too-human relationships.

And in confronting the many losses that are brought by time and death, we become a mourning and adapting self, finding at every stage—until we draw our final breath—opportunities for creative transformations.

(3 more minutes)

There is plenty we have to give up in order to grow. For we cannot deeply love anything without becoming vulnerable to loss. And we cannot become separate people, responsible people, connected people, reflective people without some losing and leaving and letting go.


So there we have it. Times in our lives will hurt us. But because of that hurt we will stretch and grow and be more than we were. Like my Grandma used to say as she rocked me, “This too shall pass.”

We might regain what we lost, but more likely we will grieve and hurt and then learn something along the way. We will deepen our character. The more we grow, the greater our peace and happiness can be in this life, as well as in the next.

Here are some times in our lives when we must let go, followed by what we will gain by doing so:

Childhood’s End

Saint-Exupery writes, “To be a man, a woman, an adult is to accept responsibility.” We make and keep commitments. We don’t blame our current lives on our childhood. We give up a belief that we can be kept safe and receive instead the freedom and responsibility to make our own choices. We accept reality, and with it accept that we don’t get special treatment, absolute control, compensation for past loss, or perfect companions.

The Married State

We learn that no person can meet all our expectations all of the time, nor can some expectations ever be met. Our spouse can’t make us be happy, heal all our hurts from the past, or fill all our needs. Those unfulfilled expectations are necessary losses in order to truly love our less-than-perfect spouses.


Letting Children Go

In parenting we fear our imperfect love will harm our children, or we will fail to keep them safe. Facing our fallibility as parents is another of our necessary losses. We must let our children become steadily more independent and let go of them and our dreams for them. It is also through parenting that we accept that some things we wanted from our own parents we will never receive. We learn to give thanks for imperfect connections.

The Loss of Youth –

Time will repeatedly force us to relinquish our self image and move on. We travel stages of our adulthood and must move out of times of stability into times of transition. We leave youth and health behind. We lose abilities and strengths. We let go of dreams as we realize we’ll never accomplish them all. Yet we gain experience, inner depth, acceptance of others, patience, and self-control. We move from body preoccupation to body transcendence. We move from identifying ourselves by what we do or whom we parent to who we are. We can become an integrated whole, accepting our weaknesses along with our strengths.

The Loss of our Loved Ones –

Mourning is the process of adapting to the losses in our lives. We travel through and revisit stages of numbness, denial, intense emotional pain, bargaining, anger, guilt, and idealizing whom or what we lost. But as we find our way through the mourning and learn to let go of our pain, we can come to acceptance.

Accepting our Mortality –

By letting go of our pretense that we will live forever, we acknowledge the importance of the present. We live enriched lives, knowing that each day is vital. We make the most of the present to find a way to leave a legacy to the world for the future.

 So yes, being alive means we will suffer loss. But the loss will open us to new possibilities. Jesus lost his life, but by doing so, regained for us the Kingdom of God. He rose to new life so that we will, too. In that life, there will be no loss.

Blessings on you and on your week!

Betty Arrigotti

To read more:

Viorst, Judith (1998). Necessary Losses. Simon & Schuster.

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