Why We Shouldn’t “Hold On” to Loved Ones After They’re Gone Apr11

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Why We Shouldn’t “Hold On” to Loved Ones After They’re Gone

Promotional image from Tomb Raider (2018).
In the 2018 reboot of Tomb Raider, Lara Croft is still a long way from the agile, clever, gun-toting superwoman plumbing the depths of ancient ruins and uncovering supernatural mysteries. In this film, she’s more of an emotionally stunted adrenaline junkie who throws herself into danger with no care for her life or legacy.

Lara’s father disappeared several years ago on “business” and she refuses to sign the papers declaring him legally dead. She cannot handle the idea that her dad, her hero, could be gone forever and so she pursues every lead, even spending thousands of dollars, to find out what happened and where he could have gone.

Hanging on to hope seems like an endearing quality. Her resistance to giving up on someone is touted as a great asset to Lara, but it ends up costing her a lot. For seven years, she lives in near poverty and makes few contributions to society because her tremendous assets are frozen. She could help people out, create a foundation in memory of her family, or pursue almost anything to work through her grief, but instead, she lives in delusion.

We’re afraid letting go means they are somehow less important in our lives.

Lara’s refusal to let go of her father puts not only herself, but others in danger as well. People join her on her journey, facing a vicious storm, a murderous militia, and a deadly curse. Their sacrifices don’t return her father to her.

I have been fortunate in my life that very few family members have passed away. I know the days are coming when it will happen. And I’ve spent a lot of recent time with those who have lost loved ones; I have seen the grief I will one day have to face. It’s hard knowing that person you relied on, who was part of you, won’t be with you any longer.

The reason we hold on too long is fear. We’re afraid of losing a loved one forever. We’re afraid letting go means they are somehow less important in our lives. We’re afraid we will forget them and they will fade away into obscurity. Maybe if we hold on tightly, their memory will stay with us.

Or maybe, the tighter we hold on, the more wounds we inflict upon ourselves, like a cup that has shattered under our grasp.

Screenshot from Tomb Raider (2018).

Like Lara, we stay trapped in a reality that misses the greater things happening around us. She eventually realizes she needs to let go, embracing all the great things her fatther helped her become. Rather than listening to his advice and destroying his research into Himiko, she saves it and searches for the lost island where the tomb is supposed to be. In opening it, she almost gives her father’s enemies an extremely dangerous virus.

If she had let her father go, she would not have seen a loved one die to the very virus he spent so much time trying to keep hidden. She could have pursued his work from a safer place, exposed his enemies, prevented them from seeing her as a target and found out what happened to him from a position of authority and with resources at her disposal rather than a near-death experience. It takes witnessing death, destruction, and sacrifice before she realizes she can build off the good work he started.

Her resistance to giving up on someone is touted as a great asset to Lara, but it ends up costing her a lot.

Theologian Mirislav Volf says”the self is shaped by making space for the other.” So as we engage in relationship, we give some of ourselves to the other, and receive some of them in return. We make room within ourselves for the other and carry them with us even as we leave something of ourselves with them. The process enriches both and helps us become intrinsically connected to each other, enriching rather than diminishing.

It means there is something of my uncle, who was instrumental in helping me become who I am, living inside me. It means the valuable things my parents, grandparents, and friends have contributed to my life will carry on forever. I can say goodbye knowing their legacy is not completely gone. I can retain the advice, knowledge, and love they’ve given me, and pass that on to others—and I think that is the greatest way to honour the lost, knowing their lives impact those I come into contact with as well as myself.

Dustin Schellenberg

Dustin Schellenberg

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Dustin spends his time exploring the far reaches of space, understand the ancient ways of might and magic, and wandering the post-apocalyptic wastes. If it has a reasonably open world, a crafting system and some way to sneak around, he'll be there. When not gaming, he's probably planning his next D&D character (because his DM keeps killing off the old ones). He is a competent bass player and guitarist, mediocre mid laner and outright awful FPS player. He is father of two, husband of one, a sometimes theologian, and all-times pastor of Crestview Park Free Methodist Church in Winnipeg, MB.
Dustin Schellenberg