The cost of love is the inevitability of loss.

The family heirloom cut glass crystal punch bowl slips from my fingers; I watch it shatter on the kitchen floor.

My circumstances change; I am caused to leave a community I have cherished.

A relationship I had valued and trusted goes badly wrong; a blessed bond is irretrievably broken.

My body ages; things I could once do are now beyond my capability.

Someone I love dies; a ragged tear opens a hole at the centre of my heart.

The problem with loss is that it is so permanent. The punch bowl is simply gone. It will never be repaired; the pain of a broken relationship is irreversible. Some capacities I once possessed will never be retrieved. The physical presence of the person I love will not return.

It is hard to live in a world where so much can be taken away. The reality of impermanence shatters any illusion of security in this material, time-bound realm of form. Just beneath the façade of safety to which I cling, lies the disturbing awareness that any form I cherish can be taken without warning.

It is tempting to refuse the risk of attachment. The price of love feels too high. I want to build a shelter, brace myself against the storm. Every part of my being resists the pain that lurks around the edges of any genuine human bond. But, living in a fortress, is itself a bleak and hopeless form of loss. There is no protection against the painful questions love calls me to bear.

In the face of loss, I hear love’s questions:

“Where does love come from?”

“Did I create this love to which I cling?”

“Is the object of my love its source?”

When I listen deeply to love’s questions I know that I do not create this gift that blesses my life. It is not manufactured by the object of my attachment. Love is a force that exists. It is the power of life. It pulsates at the core of all being.

But, I only discover the presence of this love when I refuse the temptation to cling to the forms through which it is manifest.

At the moment she believed she had recovered the object of her affection, Mary heard the voice of her beloved say,

Do not cling to me. (John 20:17)

I navigate loss in a more life-giving way, not by clutching desperately to the object of my affection, but by practicing the counter-intuitive gesture of letting go.

It is good to practice on the small things.

I release my grip on my particular plan for my day. I let go of my need for things to go exactly as I had determined they should. I stop requiring people to satisfy my needs. I give up trying to run my life by my personal likes and dislikes. I lay down my agenda. I release my desperate grip on some cherished habit that is impeding my relationships.

In these small acts of surrender, the hole in my heart becomes a greater space in which my true nature is nourished. In the place of the hardness birthed by resistance to pain, I find growing tenderness, gentleness, perhaps gratitude, greater generosity and even compassion. In the place of fear, I sense the hint of a security that does not depend upon life’s circumstances conforming to my wishes.

There is a power that is stronger and more enduring than all the loss I may ever experience. It will not remove the pain of loss, but it can break open my heart to a deeper awareness of the mystery and beauty beyond any physical expression of these transcendent realities I long to know.

This opening and gentling is the work of love. It can only be realized to the degree that I am willing to risk the inevitable pain of loss.