A New Year’s resolution: Living well with loss

| Father Paul Jarvis | January 21, 2016 | 0 Comments

HabitsResilienceAuthor Beryl Schewe says, “Not all tears have words.” I think that’s especially true in the depths of winter. With the holidays in the rear view mirror and spring far away, I often find myself missing loved ones who are no longer here, or meditating on my own mortality. As a survivor of serious heart surgery, I sometimes feel a sense of loss that’s not easy to talk about. Perhaps you have losses in your life that affect you in similar ways. Along with the promises of our faith, where do we turn for comfort?

The beginning of the new year is a good time to make small changes that could build into something that lasts. Rather than the grand New Year’s resolutions that go flat with the holiday champagne, I think it’s helpful to set achievable goals that you can repeat enough times to create a new, positive habit.

In her new book, “Habits of Resilience: Learning to Live Fully in the Midst of Loss” (Twenty-Third Publications, 2015), Schewe offers hard-won wisdom for making these kinds of changes.

Written for those who grieve as well as for caregivers and pastoral ministers, “Habits” offers practices for recovering the rich, full life we may have lost in the midst of mourning loss. Based on her experiences as a hospital chaplain and as a longtime pastoral care minister at Our Lady of Grace in Edina, Schewe’s book brims with thoughtful stories about how to navigate the tricky journey through grief.

Grief has no timetable, and everyone’s journey is different. Healing from grief comes in part from increasing our awareness of what we are feeling and framing that awareness with the people and pleasures in our life that can help us return from the gray zone of loss.

As Schewe points out, grief is a full-body experience. There’s a complex interaction between mind, body and spirit. We expect grief to be emotionally exhausting, but sometimes I’m surprised that it can be physically draining as well.

At the end of her book, Schewe offers spiritual practices that can help us recover our spiritual and physical energy. Most importantly, “Habits” talks about the importance of gratitude. Remembering the people in our lives and the experiences that have given us meaning and fulfillment can literally change our brain chemistry as we exercise the feelings of gratitude that we have about them.

“Habits” includes special chapters on helping children and veterans who are grieving. Schewe has a compassionate voice that comes through in her book, alternating with a puckish sense of humor that I remember well from when we worked together years ago at Our Lady of Grace.

If you’re looking for a gift for someone who has recently suffered a loss or a selection to read with your book club, “Habits of Resilience” is worth your consideration. You can learn more at Schewe’s website, habitsofresilience.com. She publishes a weekly reflection on her blog, Open Every Door.

Father Jarvis is pastor of Christ the King in Minneapolis.

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