Loss. We spend so much time and energy trying to avoid it, and, yet, it is one of those things that all of us will experience in one form or another or, most likely, in multiple forms. As children, we often experience loss first through the death of a pet or grandparent or, sometimes, the loss strikes us more closely through the loss of a sibling or parent. This often causes children to question and begin to confront, for the first time, their own mortality. As we grow older and enter adolescence, we begin to gain more things in our lives like maybe a car, a job, or our first romantic relationship. As we move into adulthood, our gains and losses have the potential to become greater. There may be better jobs, a home, possibly a spouse, and maybe children.
With each of these things comes joy and excitement, but there is also an element of fear that we might lose them. Much of our financial industry is built upon our desire to gain more and our fear of losing that which we have. We try to protect ourselves by trying to prepare for the events that we can anticipate, and we purchase insurance policies in an attempt to ascribe a monetary value to those things that we value and to protect us against a loss should it happen. Of course, deep down, we know that an insurance check can, in a sense, replace the item, but it cannot replace the emotional connection that we felt towards our first car or to the home that we raised our children in. All of human life is a cycle of gains and losses.
What has be entertaining such a sobering topic as loss today? In my case, as, sadly, with so many others who have been placed into the position of having to make drastic changes to their lives in order to live in a way that is true to who they are, I walked away from my faith community. Was this an avoidable loss? Absolutely. I could have chose to remain, but it would have been at the expense of my authentic self. When I first left, I was keenly aware of the loss of these relationships, but there was also the need to focus on just surviving. Knowing that I could then, and could still be today, in many parts of Ohio be legally terminated because of my sexual orientation, I had to focus on keeping my job and a roof over my head until I could find a way out.
Once I did get another job, my focus shifted to doing well at it and finding someplace new to live. Survival and the fear of failing became my new points of focus, and I was experiencing a whole new community, a community that embraced me for who I was and not as they wished me to be. Then, it would be the finding of and the subsequent loss of my first significant romantic relationship in my authentic context that would lead to me to seeking the guidance of my pastor. As I was in a state of extreme emotional distress, she was wise enough to see that I was mourning more than just the loss of the relationship. She sat me down and said, “Josh, for what you’ve been through, you seem remarkably well adjusted, but you have been through a lot.”
Shortly after this conversation, I began seeing a therapist, and she began to help me work through the process to begin to acknowledge the huge loss of relationships that came with leaving behind an entire faith community. It wasn’t that they had died or that they had left me. They were still there, where I had left them. I knew that I could always go back, but I knew that was not the healthiest option for me nor for them. I knew that I could never again see the world from the same perspective that I had before, and I knew that attempting to have relationship with them would only give them hope that they could win me back. Thus, I knew that it would just be an on-going source of torture for them as they hoped for something that would never come.
Now, I find myself experiencing that loss all over again in a different way. Yesterday, I was informed that a member of my former faith community had passed away. Sadly, the possibility of seeing him again and reconnecting on this plain of existence has been extinguished. I know that this is probably not the last time that I will experience news of this nature. My plan is to return to my hometown tomorrow and place myself back amongst my former faith community as we say our final farewells to a kind and generous soul. I am being wise about it. I am taking someone with me, and I am letting others in my support network know that tomorrow may be a difficult day for me. Even though I may now see the world through a different perspective than they do, these people are still, in a sense, family to me. I will always share a connection with them.
I debated whether or not it was appropriate for me to share my reflections on this, but I know that I cannot be the only who finds themselves in this situation. I am so thankful to be who and where I am today. I sincerely am, and, when I share my story with others, they often tell me that they are so happy that I am where I am and that I can share my story, as, sadly, all to often, stories like mine end in tragedy and the world is deprived being able to know those people as their true and authentic selves. As much as I appreciate the loving embrace and the sense of community that I have in my life now, please know that, just as it important that we welcome folks into a life of authenticity and love without limits, it is also important that we support them in acknowledging and working through the loss of the life that they left behind in order to be true to who they are. I hope this is helpful to someone out there who needs to read it.