The Purpose of Loss

Searching for meaning…


Mark Twain once said, “By trying, we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man’s, I mean.

It’s easy to ignore pain you don’t feel.


I’ve been thinking about the purpose of loss. I am not the first.

But today, I hope I can speak to those who have lost a job, a home — a life.

I have a dear friend I’ve known since we were both 8 years old. We grew up together, as missionary kids, in Malaysia.

Carol was more a sister than a friend. Our last two years of high school, we lived in a mission hostel in Singapore, because there was no English-speaking school in the cities where our parents lived and worked.

Carol was tall, beautiful, and a gifted pianist. Right after college, she married her high school sweetheart, another alumnus of Singapore American School, who was in the U.S. Air Force.

Life on the cusp…

Then, late one night, speeding across the California desert on their way to a new posting in San Antonio, Carol, who was driving, fell asleep. The car rolled and Carol, who has no memory of the crash, suffered a severe brain injury.

In that instant, her life changed forever.

Carol was in a coma for months. She is severely disabled, without hope of real improvement.

She had to learn how to live again.

She lost her marriage. She lost her ability to play the piano. She lost the ability to walk across a room.

She lost almost everything, except her sense of humor.

Carol rarely complains about her life, but one time recently, when I told her how inspiring her attitude and perseverance are, she looked at me without rancor or blame and said, “I’m tired of being an inspiration.”

We don’t suffer for others.

The purpose of my loss is not to somehow educate you.

If there is any purpose, it is to educate me.

The losses of my life are small, especially compared to Carol’s, and probably yours.

I am still learning.

Yet, one of the lessons I’ve learned is that people will watch to see how we cope with adversity.

People we don’t even know. Eyes we don’t ever feel.

And as one of those who has watched, I can state with certainty that it’s a transformative experience, observing grace and faith in the midst of loss.

Struggle can be ennobling. Acceptance can be humbling. Strength can be shared.

Hope and courage are infectious.

And, I have learned that no matter how much you lose, you still need a purpose.

Even if you’re at that stage of grief where you cannot see any purpose in your loss, you must not suffer also a loss of purpose.

It may require redefinition, but our lives need to be about more than acquiring things and putting in 60 hours a week at work.

Grief will slip into each of our lives at some point, an uninvited intruder demanding acknowledgement.

And as you deal with what you must — a lost job, a foreclosed house, lost health, a shattered marriage, the death of one you love — to learn the lessons of your life, we watch.

We see. We take notice.

And we use what we’ve seen to help those we love along the way.

Seeing that it can be done, that you can move on, is so encouraging.

Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances may be, whatever misfortune you may have suffered, the music of your life has not gone. It is inside you. If you listen to it, you can play it.” ~ Nido Qubein


If you have a friend dealing with misfortune, and God knows, there’s plenty of that, especially in our business these days, reach out and gently remind them of the song they may have trouble hearing right now.

Help them remember their purpose.

That is the purpose of loss.


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