Eating Our Losses

Eating Our Losses

Today’s guest blogger, Joe McHugh, is a spiritual director, retreat leader, teacher, and writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the National Catholic Reporter. His book, Startled by God: Wisdom from Unexpected Places, will be published by Franciscan Media in September 2013. He can be contacted at

Much of what I know about mourning and loss—breakups, deaths, lost jobs, friendships gone south, disillusionment, and even depression—I learned watching National Geographic Wild on TV. Google “Leopard Queen” to see what I mean.

The film documents the life of Manana, an African leopard, from her birth until she disappears 17 years later. Halfway through the film she discovers her single cub is missing, and she tracks down the snake that swallowed it whole and harasses it until it spits up the dead cub’s remains.

She carries it back to her den, cleans it, and eats it. Then she sits in a nearby tree for days, calling night and day for the cub she knows is dead. When she can call no longer, she walks away to find a new den.

There’s something instructive in the visceral simplicity of her ritual that connects us with the unavoidable rhythms of life and death: panic, searching, finding, feeding, mourning, and moving on. Too many of my own losses, I hate to admit, could stand more internalizing and less avoidance, less muted expression and more extroverted wailing against the wounding violation loss brings us.

That’s what Manana did when she lost her cub: she took her loss into her body to make it her own, and cried out until her pain started to lose its choking grip.

If we trust the same instincts in us, our pain has a chance of turning into suffering. And our suffering, when joined with the sufferings of Jesus, can be transformed into hope.


Photo: Wikimedia Commons


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