Losses always come with gifts, even if we only see them from behind

What would you call the biggest loss of your life? Death of a loved one? The end of the relationship? A fork in the road that led you to a place you never wanted to go?

When you look back on that loss, on the emotional pain it caused, and the time it took to heal, what do you see?

Were there any lessons you learned? Were there blessings that eased the pain? Did you feel gratitude not for the loss, but for the gifts she brought, shining like a rainbow in the midst of a storm?

Loss always brings gifts. The bigger the loss, the bigger the gifts. Sometimes we can only see them retrospectively. But in the end, we have to choose: will losing make us bitter or better?

My three children barely grew up when we lost their dad from cancer. He has been ill for four years, and watching him suffer has affected us all. We were so sure he would win. If he didn’t, it struck us so hard that I was afraid we would never recover.

Then there was the gift: we were always close as a family. But the loss of it brought us even closer. My kids were my inspiration. I relied on them, and they relied on me, and by the grace of God, and with the help of good friends, we became not bitter but better. Nothing has ever made me more proud. I bet their father is proud too.

But my favorite example of a bitter or better choice will always be my brother Joe.

I’ve written about it countless times and am always happy to hear from readers who find it almost as inspiring (if not as stubborn) as I am.

Completely blind all his life and badly damaged by cerebral palsy, Joe lives alone, walks with a walker, cooks on his own (he used to roast chicken until he almost set himself on fire) and always seems the way he says, “Okay, thank you very much.”

Joe knows about the loss and how to survive it more than anyone I’ve ever known. We live with him on opposite shores, but keep in touch by phone. The family we grew up in is almost extinct.

A few years ago Joe lost one by one our mother who was his champion; our stepfather, who was his best friend; and his wife, who was the love of his life.

He was devastated. But his faith never faltered. He relied on his Lord, his family and the good people in his church. He then gathered pieces of darkness around himself and continued to live on, illuminating others.

Joe makes the choice bitter-or-best simple. He gets up every morning, puts on leg braces, sneaks into the kitchen, frys eggs, turns on the radio and pulls for the Clemson Tigers to win another game.

I tell myself that if my brother can do all this and more without complaining, then the least I can do is also choose the best, not the bitter.

It helps to have inspiration. I have more than my share. Not just from Joe. More often than not he comes every day in the mail from readers who write to share their stories of the heartbreaks they face and overcome when they choose to be better rather than bitter.

I wish you could read them.

For more than two years, the pandemic has inflicted losses on all of us to one degree or another.
Loss of lives and loved ones and time spent together. The loss of all sorts of things that we once took for granted.

We try to tell ourselves that loss is just a part of life that sooner or later everyone suffers. But if it strikes, there is no way to reduce it. And no one should suffer alone.

We all need inspiration. If you want to find it, you will find it. Look at your faith, your family, your neighbors and friends. Look around you.

But most of all look into your heart. In the end, bitter or better, you choose it there.

Sharon Randall is the author of The World and Then Some. It can be contacted by mailbox 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or at

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