The Losses of Our Lives: The Sacred Gifts of Renewal in Everyday Loss

Shows us that by becoming aware of what our lesser losses have to teach us, the larger losses become less terrifying. Includes spiritual practices and questions for reflection, weaving in spiritual and classical themes, scripture and personal story.

Dr. Nancy Copeland-Payton

6 x 9, 192 pp | 978-1-59473-307-9

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Find hope and renewal in life’s natural cycle of ordinary losses and new beginnings.

“When we intentionally enter into our everyday walk through small losses, the terrain of larger losses, the valley of the shadow of death, is not totally unknown. It is not completely unfamiliar, alien, terrifying, for we have walked some of this way before with our lesser losses. We can journey through this valley of loss, for journey through it we must. And we can emerge markedly changed, but alive, on the other side.”

—from the Prologue

Going beyond loss as a problem to be resolved, a grief to be worked through, Dr. Nancy Copeland-Payton, a spiritual director and ordained clergywoman, reframes loss from the perspective that our everyday losses help us learn what we need to handle the major losses. Weaving in spiritual and classical themes, personal and scriptural story, Dr. Copeland-Payton shows us that by becoming aware of what our lesser losses have to teach us, the larger losses of our lives become less terrifying. Each chapter includes a spiritual practice and questions for reflection to help you:

  • Mine the hidden depths of painful losses of things and places
  • Traverse the devastating loss of relationships and the heart-wrenching death of people we love.
  • Overcome the steep, dark slopes of loss of beliefs and faith.
  • Venture past our fear of the losses of aging and our own death.

“Uplifting…. There are so many ways in which this book could be enriching: for personal reflection, for grief group sharing, for teaching about the many faces of human grieving, and for individual and corporate prayer…. Exceptional.”

Catholic Library World

“Capture[s] beautifully the paradox that the losses of our lives can become our gains. By weaving story, experience and faith … shows how our deepest hurts may be the soil that nurtures the seeds of our transformation.”

Sr. Clarissa Goeckner, prioress, Monastery of St. Gertrude, Cottonwood, Idaho

“An extraordinary and wise guide in the treacherous terrain of loss.”

Rabbi Dayle A. Friedman, author, Jewish Visions for Aging: A Professional Guide for Fostering Wholeness

“Deeply revealing.... Invites readers to connect with events and experiences that illustrate the vagaries of loss and gain.... A treasure ... written from the heart.... Will help readers embrace both loss and gain as gifts.”

Presbyterians Today

“Walks us step by step through the stages of life ... helping us delve deeper into the meaning of gift and loss—inconsequential or catastrophic—when they are considered together.”

Terry Taylor, author, A Spirituality for Brokenness: Discovering Your Deepest Self in Difficult Times

“Illuminates a framework for all loss and helps readers see the natural rhythm of both profound and seemingly inconsequential grief…. Wise … will inject courage into the reader and leave spiritual seekers and their spiritual companions open to the many trials of moving toward light and life.”

Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction

“Offers a way to reflect on loss that is integrative and practical. Invites the reader on a journey of depth and care.”

Mary C. Earle, author, Days of Grace: Meditations and Practices for Living with Illness

“Shares wisdom effectively.... Reflective ... slows the reader down to see how to fully experience and deeply feel a loss.... Offers an invitation to anticipate and unwrap a gift given.... Profound questions are sprinkled throughout … that move one to notice the mercy, love, and longing with which we are gifted.”

Sinsinawa Dominicans

 “An extraordinarily wise, practical guide … on how to develop a deep spirituality grounded in the matrix between the wounds of everyday life from birth to death and the longing for God as the sacred ground discovered in the everyday gifts of life.”

Dr. Tyron Inbody, professor emeritus of theology, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio; author, The Transforming God: An Interpretation of Suffering and Evil


Spirituality & Practice

“[This] beautifully written and deeply pastoral book touched my soul as [the] stories melded with my stories to explore ever more deeply the fabric of gift and loss in our lives. To everyone who deals with losses—and that’s all of us—I highly recommend it.”

Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, president, World Alliance of Reformed Churches; visiting professor of ecumenical studies and global ministries, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Acknowledgments ix
Prologue xi

1 The Human Tapestry 1
Spiritual Practice: Breath Prayer 10
Exploring Deeper 11

2 Birth Pangs and Passages 15
Spiritual Practice: Walking Meditation 29
Exploring Deeper 30

3 Awakening: Patterns of Gift and Loss 35
Spiritual Practice: Examen 47
Exploring Deeper 48

4 Things and Places 51
Spiritual Practice: Sand Mandala 64
Exploring Deeper 65

5 The Ebb and Flow of Relationships 69
Spiritual Practice: Labyrinth 86
Exploring Deeper 87

6 Relationships That Unravel and Tear Apart 89
Spiritual Practice: Accompaniment 108
Exploring Deeper 109

7 When Foundations Shake and Crumble 113
Spiritual Practice: Lectio Divina 129
Exploring Deeper 130

8 The Passing of Time: Our Final Loss ɠand Gift 133
Spiritual Practice: Guided Meditation 146
Exploring Deeper 148

Epilogue 151
Notes 153
Suggestions for Further Reading 155