Beginning the Healing Process after a Loss

Rev. Douglas J House, M.Div

Janus – The God of Beginnings and Transitions

The ancients in Rome looked to Janus as the god who watched over beginnings and transitions in life. He is usually depicted as a head with two faces, one looking forward and one looking back. Our month of January comes from the name “Janus” as we are at a point in life where we begin a new year. None of us is able to look forward to the next 12 months with clarity, but all of us can remember the events of the past year. We recall the joys that we have experienced as well as the challenges that we have faced. Many of us have lost loved ones over the course of the past 12 months. The void that they have left in our life is hard to fathom. We may wonder whether the feelings of loss will ever subside… how we can move on…or perhaps even whether we should attempt to move on. The truth surrounding our loss painfully reminds us that life is a gift, yet when we share the stories of our loved ones with others, we begin to move in a hopeful direction.

“May her memory be a blessing to you.”

A friend of mine lost his mother several months ago. I hadn’t seen him in a number of years, yet we reconnected through social media. It was there that he passed on information about his mother; where she had grown up, schools she had attended, and what she had done professionally. As he was sharing the information about her life and about her passing, he confessed that it felt like weights were being lifted. Telling her story to others, albeit through social media, quickly reminded him about the wonderfully loving person that she was. After reading his post, another friend wrote, “May her memory be a blessing to you.”

As I read the words about “memory being a blessing”, I remember thinking “what a wonderful sentiment”. My friend may not have his mother in his life now as he always has had, but she will forever be with him in the stories he can share and in the memories that he will hold. To be certain, her memory will prove to be a blessing for the remainder of his life. Like the god Janus, at the beginning of a new year, he may always look backward, but his loss may just be eased as he begins to look forward.

“Take the First Step in Faith. You Don’t Have to See the Whole Staircase.” -Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

By its very nature, loss and maneuvering through the process of grief is hard, and it is very personal. There is no predictable timeframe for it, however there are elements of the grief process which seem to be universal. And as hard as it may be to think about the future when it can be so exhausting to be living with loss in the present, know that time has a way of healing. The feelings of loss do not disappear quickly but in time they will ease. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King put it well when he reminds us that in facing our loss, it is important to “take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just the first step.”

The first step can be taken in many ways, and everyone may take it differently. My friend who lost his mother took his first step by the sharing of her life with others on social media. It may not have been much, but it was a first step. The staircase would come in time.

So, like the Roman god Janus, we see that there is value in looking backward and holding onto memories. Yet, there is value as well in attempting to move on from the pain of loss by taking one new step forward at a time. May the hope of this new year enfold you with a sense of comfort, knowing that you do not walk alone, and may you discover peace with each step of the journey.

“No matter how hard the past is, you can always begin again.” – Buddha

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