It can leave you having to recast your whole belief system and settle a score with the Universe. How did the God you tipped your hat to all your life let this happen to you? In fact, where did God go just when you needed him? This is often described by others as “being mad at God,” but that doesn’t begin to cover it.
A loss serves as a touchstone experience that takes you down to fundamentals. What do you believe is the source of tragedy? How do you make sense of a universe in which such an unwanted thing can happen to you?
Whether or not you practice a particular religion, juggling the questions that grief raises is an inevitable part of the process. Not to question at a time like this is like trying to keep a lid on a geyser. It won’t work and you’ll get burned trying. Let the questions flow and gather answers as you can, without guilt or criticism. You can’t contain what grief unleashes.
If you are more comfortable outside of formal religion, you can explore the spiritual side of things independently. Give yourself permission to figure out what you believe in right now, today, given what’s happened, and see where this takes you.
In a way, we have all been standing in the tragedy line, right next each other, all our lives. The question is not, “Why me, God?” but, “When will it be my turn?”
Now you know the answer – it’s right now. And once you work this one out, maybe sooner, you will be getting back in line waiting for another. Nobody gets a pass, nobody can earn their way out of reality by being pious or virtuous. This reality will need to inform your revised spiritual contract.
Spiritually, you need what you need at the time. Once life raises the stakes, you need more. That doesn’t mean that you failed or that your God failed. You just got sent up to the big leagues, to stretch for a sports analogy, where the pitches whiz by at 100 mph and you need to step up your game.
Many people I’ve worked with have transformed their notion of a higher power from a security guard standing at the gate into a master comforter and provider of perspective. And a teacher of how to combine the jarring reality that tragedy comes into every life, with the opportunity to greet every day with hope and appreciation anyway.
If you are reading this soon after a loss, this may all seem too theoretical and not immediately helpful, as you may still be sorting out the reality of what has happened and trying to figure out how to make it through the next hour or so.
Please take my word for it – the universe still can sustain you and help you through even if it may not be in the way you’d imagined. You haven’t been abandoned. You have been thrust into the crucible where you will create new ways to understand the universe and how you fit into it.
For now, grab onto people, beliefs, practices that soothe and comfort you. There will be ample time later to sort out the rest.