Rules of Engagement for Moving Through Life’s Losses

Photo by Lakin Easterling

Guest Post by Rita Schulte

Our world is in constant turmoil. Everyone seems to be defending a cause or fighting a battle. Whether it’s the war on terrorism or defending a cause (morality, sexual equality, right to life, right to choose, etc.), our fight is always indicative of our passion and tells the story of what we hold dear.

Somewhere wedged between our causes and the wars we fight lies a different battle—one we often miss because we don’t always pay close attention. It is perhaps the most important battle we will ever wage: the battle for our hearts.  Why is this battle so important? Because our hearts matter to God, and he calls us to guard them with all diligence.

Fighting a battle for our hearts seems more like something out of a romance novel than a directive on rules of engagement. But if we are to move through the losses of life, we must devise, and be intentional about executing, a battle plan to care for our hearts after the assault of loss. We must learn the rules of engagement.

The first step is to notice how the difficulties in our lives have affected us at heart level. Next, we need to identify each person, circumstance, or event that hurt us or broke our hearts. Then we need to put words to our pain.

Devising a Battle Plan

Each of our losses is important, and each one has shaped our beliefs about self, God, and the world around us, so it’s important we identify both the relational and abstract losses we have incurred in order to process our pain. Relational losses are fairly straightforward and would include loss due to death, divorce, or betrayal. Abstract losses are less recognizable. They could include:

  • Shattered dreams or unmet expectations
  • Loss of a possession
  • Loss of trust, hope, or faith
  • Loss of health or safety
  • Role loss
  • Loss of self-esteem or identity
  • Loss of childhood or innocence

You may begin this journey of self-discovery with an identifiable loss, or you may discover hidden losses that you have never stopped to consider.

Begin with prayer. Ask God to help you identify the losses in your life, and record each one. Then put feeling words to your pain. Next, list what you had hoped for, or expected from, this person or situation. This compiles your loss. Lastly, record how you could shift your focus by trusting God for what you needed. Your list should look something like this:


Relational Loss—Best friend /Susie

What Happened

Betrayed my confidence by ___.

How I felt

Anger, hurt, disappointment
Loss–trust, faith in friendships

What I hoped for, or expected

I trusted you to not betray my trust

What I will trust Christ for

My security

Additional ideas for putting words to your pain could include journaling, writing a letter, writing an autobiography to tell the story of your life, or talking to a trusted friend. The key is to do what feels right for you.

All these exercise are designed to help you engage with your pain and keep a check on your emotional pulse. If any of your losses have left you with regret, unfinished business, bitterness, or an unforgiving spirit, take the time to learn about forgiveness. A great resource is Dr. Everette Worthington’s work on forgiveness and reconciling.


Rita Schulte is a licensed professional board certified counselor. She received her B.S. in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Rita has a private practice with offices in Fairfax and Manassas Virginia where she specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, anxiety and depressive disorders as well as grief and loss issues. In April, 2011 she launched “Heartline Podcast where she talks with top leaders in the Christian counseling and literary world about cutting edge issues affecting the hearts and lives of people today.  She also airs a 1 minute devotional spot Consider This on 90.5 FM in NC and 90.9 FM in Lynchburg, VA. Heartline airs on Saturday evenings on 90.5 FM NC and will be heard on Christian Life Internet Radio in the coming months. Her book, Sifted As Wheat: finding hope and healing through the losses of life is currently with Hartline Literary Agency. You can follow her at or Twitter at Heartlinepod.


Read more encouraging stories from brave-hearted women here. Be sure to grab your free copy of inspirational quotes and writing prompts while you’re there. (Look over on the right hand side!)


3 thoughts on “Rules of Engagement for Moving Through Life’s Losses

  1. Dear Rita,

    Thanks for the tips on how to write our wrongs in life. Life isn’t fair and some of us get more of the bird splat than others, that is certain. You and Jo Ann Fore should seek out Alice Wisler. She does Writing the Heartache workshops and lives in Durham, NC. Y’all have lots in common.

    Blessings and Agape,
    Linda G.

  2. Linda,

    What a joy to connect.

    Alice Wisler is a dear friend. I met her a couple years back when I interviewed women for a book project about writing through life’s pain. She is an amazing woman, authentic and God-led. Thanks for mentioning her.

    And thank you for spending time with us!

    Jo Ann

  3. Rita,

    I LOVE your practical exercises. Rooted in faith, grounded in truth, always pointing us to divine healing. Thank you so much for sharing from the heart!

    Jo Ann

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