A loved one of mine posted some misinformation on Facebook this week. She does that a lot.
She is against the vaccine. She’s against the Democrats. She’s against CRT. She’s for guns. She’s for freedom. She’s for Jesus.
I’ve spent a lot of emotional energy in the past couple of years trying to make sense of her. I will never not love her. And she has gone so far into this world of nationalism and conspiracy, I feel like she’s lost to me for good. I could still send her a text or meet for coffee, but I fear that the person I once knew – or the friendship we once had at least – is no longer there.
Many of us have folks like this in our lives. In our families, in our churches.
Pauline Boss is a psychotherapist who coined the term Ambiguous Loss. Originally, she used it to describe the loss of someone mentally but not physically – like loving someone suffering from Alzheimers or experiencing addiction. Or it can be the loss of someone physically, but not mentally – like a deployment or immigration. Over the years, Ambiguous Loss has become a helpful way to describe lots of other kinds of losses that are complex, that are drawn out or confusing, that elude closure.
Living as a Christian in America during COVID has come to feel like an ambiguous loss to me. The community that I once loved, that once loved me, still exists. But also, it is gone. Or, perhaps it is my trust in it that has gone: my trust in the church as a place of safety, as a community of integrity, as a people committed to Christ. For me, this has not been a deconstruction of my faith. It’s been a process of grieving the departure of the Christians around me from the ways of Christ.
I learned that one way to cope with ambiguous loss is to practice both-and thinking. That means holding two opposing ideas at the same time.
I’m so angry with her; I love her so much.
The church I loved is gone; it is also still here.
Already; not yet.
Christ has died. Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.