Sunday, December 25, 2011

A poem for myself

Christmas turned out harder than I had expected. As I tucked Mr. Monkey into bed, weeping, with a heart aching for my son, this is what evolved:

Give it to God

When your heart breaks
and there's no cure for the ache
Give it to God

When your tears come down
and threaten your soul to drown
Give it to God

When you despair of life
and your mind is full of strife
Give it to God

When you can't sleep
and your body lies in a heap
Give it to God

When the days are too long
and all you want is a song
Give it to God

When you need hope to have
but you see no rope to grab
Give it to God

When your faith tarries
and you need to be carried
Give it to God

When the time is right
there will be an end to the night
You fought the good fight and did not fall
because to Him you gave it all

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Special things

I haven't had a moment to spare. I can't count how many times I have tried to sit down at the computer and blog! So many ups and downs on this roller coaster, yet I am finding that either I am getting used to them, or they aren't as high and low on this course of the track. I marvel still at how one can survive this kind of heartbreak and loss, yet am in awe of God's blessings and comfort. I can see progress, though I wonder if the profound sadness will always remain.

This week, I caught myself saying, "It's getting better" in response to the dreaded "How are you?" It's such a peculiar emotion, this grief mixed with healing, bitter mixed with sweet. I don't understand how they can co-exist, and it leaves me a bit perplexed.

Yesterday was Dh's birthday. It was also a GriefShare meeting night, but our group, however, had been invited to dinner by a "veteran" member of the group. He is a generous man who brings hope to the group with the assurance that, yes, joy will return. So we met last night at Lyle's house, a beautiful, beautiful home where he served us chicken kiev, wild rice, dinner rolls, and asparagus. And for dessert, there was peppermint ice cream!!! (I was then obliged to confess my peppermint addiction!) It was a wonderful evening of fellowship and, yes, even laughter.

On the down side, church, however, is still the one place that I find so very difficult to be. I realized it's because it is so much like home. So much of our time is/was invested in our church body and family. And church is where I see so many familiar families. It's that reminder, seeing them, that makes it so painful. It is hard, but I know I must do hard things. I tell myself that going to church isn't as hard as burying my son. I also know that it is for my good. I need to hear truth, and I need to keep myself in fellowship even if I don't feel like it.

I'm unable to sing worship songs yet, but I am trying to give myself grace. I am allowing myself to just soak truth in and let the music minister to me. Some day I will sing again, but, for now, I know it's o.k. not to, too.

It seems for every down turn on this ride, there's an upturn. God continually reminds me of His love for us. This afternoon, another dear friend unexpectedly stopped by with gifts for the kids and a beautiful cardinal ornament for me and Tim. What a blessing to visit, even if only for a short time.

These special gifts and visits are treasured. God is seeing us through, not only the holidays, but this season of sorrow. With a thankful heart...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Finding hope

Psalm 147:3 "He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds." 

I am finally starting to feel as if healing has begun. I can feel the binding over my wound. The pain at first, so intense, masked the physician's hand and camouflaged the bindings. I honestly wasn't so sure they were there. I wondered if, indeed, the Great Physician, had left me. When grief sweeps me out to sea, it takes every ounce of strength in my being to swim back to shore. At times, I have simply allowed myself to be carried on the waves, not even attempting to swim back. But I realized this past week that I was not made for the sea. I was not made to stay in grief. The Great Physician had, indeed, NOT left me. He has continued to speak to me and carefully, tenderly inspects and tends to my wound. He is so good.

This week, I found myself being able to give thanks again. I am thankful for the ministry of music that speaks the truths of His word, and I am so thankful for a pastor who preaches God's word. I am thankful for the sound of my children's laughter. I am thankful for Advent and the reminder that this season is about hope, the hope of Christ Jesus. I am thankful for those wonderful, dear sisters and brothers in Christ who allow God to work through them.  

On Monday afternoon, a dear friend and sister in Christ, gave me peppermint candy canes nestled in a special mug. And that evening, a dear neighbor and sister in Christ, delivered a beautiful blue poinsettia to our door, along with a plate of goodies. On Wednesday, another dear sister in Christ unexpectedly delivered an assortment of cookies and sweets. And today, an anonymous brother and/or sister in Christ sent us a very generous gift of money instructing us to "spoil" the kids with it. I am overwhelmed with God's goodness. He reassured me that hope is possible, and, indeed, certain. I just need to trust that He will do what He says He will do and remember His unconditional love for me.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Out to sea

It's been a difficult day. I just want this Christmas season to be over with. I'm sick of hearing cheerful voices and seeing happy(read that as "whole") families because all I am reminded of when I look at them is that one of my children is no longer on this earth, my family is not whole. The cheerful voices mock the continuing sorrow in my heart. The more time that passes by, the more I feel it's no longer "acceptable" to show the face of grief. I feel like people expect me to be happy, to be better. And I find myself putting on a mask, a plastic smile. I rely upon my standard answer of, "I'm functioning" when asked, "How are you?" because what I really suspect is that they really don't want to know any longer. Because this is the Christmas season. And we're all supposed to be joyful and merry. But I'm not. And I'm not a good faker or liar.

I started reading the book, God's Healing for Life's Losses tonight. I know already that it is going to be a very good read. The author opens the introduction of the book by saying, "JESUS PROMISES THAT LIFE WILL BE FILLED WITH LOSSES. I know. That's not exactly the promise you were hoping for. At least it's honest."

Kellemen continues the line of honesty on page five. "Let's be honest. Growth through grieving is an arduous journey, much like the journey of Much-Afraid, the lead character in Hannah Hurnard's dramatic allegory, Hinds' Feet on High Places.

    Tired of valley living, but terrified to trek the high places alone, Much-Afraid asks Shepherd for companions on her journey. Encouraged by his pledge that fellow travelers would soon join her, she starts alone, anticipating the arrival of her partners. When they appear, she's horrified. Shepherd introduces them.

     They are good teachers; indeed, I have few better. As for their names, I will tell you them in your own language, and later you will learn what they are called in their own tongue. "This," said he, motioning toward the first of the silent figures, "is named Sorrow. And the other is her twin sister, Suffering."
      Poor Much-Afraid! Her cheeks blanched and she trembled from head to toe.
     "I can't go with them," she gasped. "I can't! I can't! I can't! O my Lord Shepherd, why do you do this to me? How can I travel in their company? It is more than I can bear...Couldn't you have given me Joy and Peace to go with me, to strengthen and encourage me and help me on the difficult way? I never thought you would do this to me!" And she burst into tears.
     A strange look passed over Shepherd's face.
     "Joy and Peace. Are those the companions you would choose for yourself? You remember your promise, to accept the helpers that I would give, because you believed that I would choose the very best possible guides for you. Will you still trust me, Much-Afraid?"
 The author continues with, "Don't misunderstand. Fear of suffering is normal. Grief is necessary. Shepherd is not denying these authentic life responses. So just what is Shepherd saying? Trust me. Trust is vital because suffering is inevitable. How do we find hope when we're hurting? Through trust. Where do we find God's healing for life's losses? In Christ. With Christ."

I wept as I read the words of Much-Afraid. Those are the exact same words I have uttered to God. When grief sweeps me out to sea, as it did today, trust is hard. But not because God isn't trustworthy. While I may doubt my faithfulness, I am clinging to His. (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Little things

Recovery is slow, but there are small improvements. Though tiny, they speak of big progress. Those who have walked this road know how significant these little things are. Things like finally dreaming again during sleep. I hadn't realized that the past four months, I hadn't been dreaming. My sleep was so poor, I never slept deeply enough to have R.E.M. sleep. Last Friday morning when I woke, I realized I had had a dream! Unfortunately, it was about Matt and I arguing, but was a dream. Having dreams again is a huge improvement. Drama boy is pretty much sleeping through the night again, too. Mr. Monkey has improved as well, though he still wakes once a night. Little things, but in the right direction at least.

The waves of grief aren't quite as unrelenting, though they still catch me off guard in the strangest places. I don't like being caught off guard. For instance, I wish I would have been warned about the Christmas cards. We received our first one last week, and several others have followed. If it was just the cards, it would be o.k. But it's the letters that accompany them. After reading the second one, I realized very, very quickly that I cannot read them. It's just too painful, like having the bandages ripped off a wound that had just been bound.

This week has been a roller coaster of ups and downs. Monday, again, was a good, yet convicting GriefShare meeting. Tuesday, we said goodbye to Jessie, our 16 yr. old "inherited" Dachshund of nine years. We took Jessie in when my beloved friend Jean passed away nine years ago. It was a difficult good-bye because Jessie was my last "link" to Jean. Jessie was a good dog. She adjusted so well in coming into a house full of little children, a fat cat, and a Pekingese. She was very sweet, but had that stubborn Dachshund personality, without a doubt! Wednesday night was spent with Sweet Stuff at Urgent Care. She again has strep throat! Once more, we are in the love/hate relationship with antibiotics.

In addition to the emotional see-saw of the week, my back has been the worst I've ever experienced. I've had a few chiropractic appointments, taken some Ibuprofin, and gotten several massages. Thankfully, the combination of all three have helped. AND, Dh and I also ordered yet ANOTHER bed! I swore I would never order one, but we ordered a Sleep Number bed. It is due to arrive by Monday. I'm praying it'll arrive tomorrow and Dh can put it together on Saturday.

The joys of the week, and there were some, were having Artsy girl make and decorate gingerbread cookies, seeing the children play in the 5" of snow we got, watching them eating icicles, hearing their squeals of excitement as they decorated the pathetically small, fake Christmas tree in the living room, and listening to them plead for me to read them the advent story each night. I am learning to appreciate the little things, no matter how small.

And now it's Thursday evening. Another Friday tomorrow. Praying the waves of grief stay out to sea.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Learning to live again, Matt

Today marks four months since you entered eternity, Matt. I can't imagine you worshiping before God, though, no matter how hard I try. You were just not the outgoing, vocal type. That's why your nickname was Mr. Stoic. But that's o.k. I also know that while you may have been reserved and stoic here on earth, I'm guessing that, in heaven, any inhibitions we have are no longer. It is a comforting thought.

My heart wound is just as deep as the day you went to be with God, but the Great Physician has been tending to it since the very second it was wounded. There have been days where I have wanted so much to die. Days where the pain has just been too overwhelming. Yet I also have to reluctantly admit that it is not my time, which is why my heart continues to beat, though I haven't always wanted it to. Life has gone on, regardless of whether I wanted to be a willing participant or not. And that is where I must submit to God's sovereignty and authority.

As time goes on, and months turn into years, I find myself wondering if I will be the only one to remember each of these "29th's." I imagine every single mother who has lost a child does the same. I find it curiously interesting that the observance of these dates now is so similar to what I did, as a mother, when you were in my womb. I don't know of any pregnant woman who doesn't count down the weeks until the pending birth of her child. Each week is carefully and lovingly measured by her watchful eye and the calendar on the wall. And now I find myself doing the same, only it's no longer a joyful anticipation of birth, but an observance of the day you died.

As the calendar pages turn, and the time goes on, I cannot deny that life here has continued. Some days I honestly can't believe I am alive. Yet I know it is because of His great care. God has never taken His eye off of me, or our family. He has, and continues, to change the dressings of my wound, to comfort me, and to care for me as I recover from this near fatal wound.

Recovery is not easy. This is an ugly, ugly wound. There are absolutely no words to describe how deep it goes. It is so very difficult to continually keep an eternal perspective. It is with great comfort, however, when I, as I lie hurting, see the Great Physician come into my room. This wound requires constant supervision, and He has often had to dig out angry looking infection, scrape away dead skin, and treat impending infection. I have found His remedies, though sometimes slow, in my opinion, to work, to be quite a balm. His Word, and the truths found in His Word, must be applied daily. The days in which I have neglected to apply the salve of His Word are not good ones.

Healing is very slow. So slow, in fact, that I'm not even aware of it at times. However, today I noticed it. I could find joy in the sun shining today. I found myself being able to give thanks for friends and six other precious blessings. Your brothers and sisters are helping me to live again, Matt. They give me the courage to go on, to not let grief be my identity. I have a longing now for heaven that I honestly did not have before. And I want ALL of us there, together again. But that's only possible if I teach them about our true home and how to find it.

Your dad's owner of FPX said it best with this quote in her condolence card, Matt. "Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal." ~Author Unknown I refuse to believe that God cannot heal even this. For sure, there will be scars, and there are. But Christ himself bore scars on His body. We do not have a Savior that cannot sympathize with us. He knows, and He cares. He gave His life for us, so that we could have LIFE with Him, forever. I will try to remember that, as I mark each passing week, month, and year, that you are alive, my son. You are alive and I will see you again. Thanks be to God because of His indescribable gift, your dad and I, and your brothers and sisters, do not grieve as those who have no hope. (2 Corinthians 9:1, 1 Thessalonians 4:13)

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.  ~Kahlil Gibran 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

An empty chair

Our Thanksgiving was o.k. I had picked up my mom on Wednesday and she stayed with us until Friday. We then visited my grandma on Saturday. It was a long drive, but I was glad to get the chance to see my grandma again. She is 88yrs. old. With the lack of snow, we really felt we needed to take advantage of the driving conditions and see her now instead of late spring. I also got to see two of my sisters and my uncle, though briefly.

I am convinced that I could not have gotten through Thanksgiving without my mom here. Our Thanksgiving meal was excellent, though I did forget to make the stuffing! I put the turkey in the oven the night before and it was FABULOUS! I believe I have found a new turkey baking tradition. It was even moist left over!

I had wanted to avoid eating in the dining room, but the way things all came together, we ended up in there after all. And amid the chaos, the distraction of toddlers, and the saying of grace, the empty spot where Matt used to sit did not go unnoticed. An empty chair that was once occupied cannot be ignored.

Dh and I cried together before going to sleep. It was a relief to have the day over with. In all truthfulness, I was more than ready to be done reading all the Facebook posts about what everyone was thankful for. When one is grieving and so caught up in one's own loss, it is downright difficult to be thankful. It's not that I'm not thankful, either. I know full well how very much I have to be thankful for, but the pain of losing my son overshadows, for a time, the thankfulness.

It took me until today to realize, too, why it's been so difficult to voice thankfulness. I guess I didn't want to admit that I was angry. And even less willing to admit with whom I was angry. I was mad at God. I have been angry for a few weeks. I have questioned how it's possible to trust a God who hurt me so. I have wondered at my passive faith, wondering if I even had faith, and wondering if I would ever have it again. But I was reminded today of how good God is, of how He loves me, and of how He has provided for us during this most difficult and darkest of times. I was reminded of His character. And I was reminded of how small I am. In a way, I have been acting a little bit like Jonah. And in the words of a Steven Curtis Chapman song, "God is God, and I am not."

I was also reminded of hope. That some day, there will be joy again. I don't even necessarily have to believe it. I just have to keep trusting Him. This week I have frequently envisioned myself being carried by God. I have no strength of my own, yet I have feebly struggled against being carried. I realize now that I need to stop resisting and, instead, cling to Him as He carries me.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Does Jesus care?

I flipped open the hymnal tonight looking for a song that I had had running in my head earlier today, but instead came across this one:

Does Jesus care?
(Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you. 1 Pet. 5:7)

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress
And the way grows weary and long?
Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.
Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?
Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.
Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed
To resist some temptation strong;
When for my deep grief there is no relief,
Though my tears flow all the night long?
Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.
Does Jesus care when I’ve said “goodbye”
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks,
Is it aught to Him? Does He see?
Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

We went to our church's annual Thanksgiving dinner last night. The dinner was good, but it was the time of thanksgiving and praise afterward that was difficult. I have heard so many times that this "trial" will make me stronger. The quoting of several verses such as from the book of James, chapter one, doesn't help, either. I don't want to endure. I don't want to be stronger. I'm just saying. Yet I know that is the flesh speaking. It is the heart of a mother grieving for her son. I also know, and take comfort in the fact, that God sees my heart. He knows that though I have no strength to praise Him with my mouth, I still worship Him in my heart.

I wanted to stand, as others did, and give praise for our church family, but I couldn't. Instead I sat there and cried. (Admittedly, I have learned to always carry tissue with me.) Being at church is, surprisingly, one of the most difficult places for me (and Tim) to be. We have been there all of our married life, eighteen years. Our church is, and has been, a HUGE part of our lives, and of our children's lives. It is a second home to us, so to speak.  I have yet to get through a Sunday morning without crying. Yet our church family is a big reason why we have been able to function. They have helped to carry our burden of grief these past 3 1/2 months.

As we enter into the holiday season, it's actually not the holidays I have a hard time with. It's every day. It's the commonplace, ordinary day I struggle with. It's the empty spot at the dinner table. It's the fact that I will forever now speak OF my son, but not TO him. It's the reality that Matt will never be in a family picture with us again. I never have been big on "tradition" or holidays. Our thing was birthdays. It was one of the few things I was traditional about. I always make a cut out cake from scratch. May 2nd is what I dread. It's not the holidays, per se.

So while I have struggled to stay afloat in this sea of grief, I have grabbed a hold of the only thing I can. God's love for me and my family. God has reminded me of this repeatedly. His word assures me that, though death makes no sense, it will not "be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:39)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Psalm 139:16
Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained [for me,] When as yet there was not one of them.

After intense struggling last night, I think I "got" it. I think I've accepted that no matter what I "could'a, should'a, would'a" did or didn't do, it would not have made a difference. God has a set number of days for every single person. When your time is up, your time is up. I realized it doesn't matter the circumstances in how you go. The Creator of the universe ordained a set number of days for each person's life. Period. I had a new found sense of peace after "reasoning" His word last night. It actually brought me a sense of comfort. The number of days God ordained for our son from his birth day to his entrance into paradise was 5,933. It comes to 16yrs., 2mo., and 28 days. How precious was every single one of them! (Not to mention the number of treasured pregnancy days carrying him...however many those were.) And I thank God that in heaven we have eternal life. There will be no end of days. Amen and Amen.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Grief and guilt

Tonight's GriefShare was hard. It was said that the bereaved need to grieve honestly. I think I've done a fairly good job of that. So to continue in that thread, I have to say how very difficult it has been dealing with guilt. Guilt, for me, has a lot to do with the "if only's." I can't help but think that if only I had not moved Matt's cooler off of the ledge the night before. Then his lunch would have been IN the cooler...and then his Gator-aid bottle would have never rolled under his feet...and then he wouldn't have been reaching for it...and then he wouldn't have ended up in the oncoming lane colliding head-on with a semi. And he'd still be here.

I try to hang onto God's word, to the truth. But this week has been hard. I have found myself wondering if this pain will EVER let up, if it will EVER get any easier. I find myself wondering if my faith was really all that real to begin with. I thought it was, but am wondering if, all along, it was only a passive faith. And then I wonder if it will ever be active.

I find myself listening to the words of certain songs and my fleshly instinct is to respond with "no." NO, I don't want the "blessings of this life" to be accomplished through raindrops or tears. I don't understand it and the flesh in me doesn't agree. I find myself responding sarcastically to certain verses, especially Romans 8:28 and Matthew 11:28 saying, "Well, I'm not seeing it and, trust me, I'm not getting rest."

Laura Story - Blessings
'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

I have guilt, too, that my son, who was such a cautious driver, inadvertently caused injury to another driver. The truck driver's life has forever been changed. He has suffered greatly and is still recovering and not out of assisted care. It grieves me. If only. If only.

The GriefShare video for tonight addressed the issue of guilt and how to deal with it. It was said that those grieving need to decide if guilt is true or false. If it's true, then seek forgiveness from the only One who can give it. I pondered that and then jotted down the question, "Was it my intention to cause harm by taking his cooler off the ledge the night before? Was it a sin?" I know the answer is no, but I'm not so sure my heart does. 

A few other points mentioned were that we confuse responsibility with accidents. We also need to stop blaming ourselves. We need to remember that God determines how long we live. We also need to accept that we can't go back and change it. That is what hurts the most for me. That I can't go back and change it. Because everything in my being wishes I could.

I hate being buffeted by waves in this sea of grief. And hate is an understatement. Choosing to focus on the truth is crucial. Honestly, however, it is a constant battle with the flesh and I am so tempted to give in at times. I am tired of fighting. I am weak. I am exhausted. I am hurting. God is going to have to lift me up. It's a good thing He is a covenant keeping God. It is a good thing He gives us His strength and His forgiveness. It is a good thing He is truth and can not lie. I need to know these things. I need to remember them.

Friday, November 11, 2011

One step forward, countless back

15 weeks. In so many ways, it's so much harder. Psalm 46 says, "though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging" I will not fear. God is my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Clinging to the rock that is higher than I.

Fridays are just hard days. I have privately wondered in anguish how long it would be before I lost Matt's smell. Yes, his smell. We have kept his sheets, blanket, and pillow in our room since the day he died. For the first several weeks, Dh and I slept with Matt's comforter between us, trying to capture our son's presence, to grasp whatever we could, whatever we had left of him. I have smelled his pillow every night before going to bed. Oftentimes I will pause throughout the day in the usual coming and going into our bedroom and savor the smell of his pillow.

This morning, I could not smell him. It was like having my heart wound torn open all over again. I knew it was not going to be a good day. The waves of grief came crashing violently in and snatched me out into the deep. I couldn't handle dealing with the two-year old, so I called a friend and she came to take him for the day. What a blessing and a lifeline.

Trying to regain my footing, I decided we would do "night school" and directed my energy instead on the mindless task of switching out the last of the seasonal clothing for Miss T.T. and Mr. Monkey. The older girls did their own several weeks ago. I had managed to get Army boy's and Drama boy's clothes done a few weeks ago, too. There's also been a towering pile of "homeless" clothing on the shelves in each closet for several months that have needed tending to. So I bit the bullet and pulled ALL of them down and drug out ALL the clothes boxes from sizes 2T through size 6. We spent ALL day sorting, throwing, and giving away.

Grief is hard work, no matter how you slice it. I am in awe of how many tears one can cry. It amazes, humbles, and comforts me, too, to know that God is aware of every one of them. Psalm 56:8 "Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?" I cannot fathom how many mine are, much less all the millions of other peoples' who have experienced sorrow of some sort. 

 Grief is exhausting. Yet I will not apologize or feel ashamed for crying. It is healthy and necessary for healing. If I feel like crying, I will cry. Whether it's in front of others or alone, I will not deny the God-given expression of sorrow. The physical impact of grief is crushing. It compromises the immune system in ways I never knew. We have suffered from sleeplessness and illness for literally months. But we have been sustained and provided for by friends and family the entire time. Without them, we honestly would not have been able to survive. "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you..." Phil.1:3

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Moving forward

It's been said several times by various people in our GriefShare group that we don't move on, we move forward. Each step forward is painful, but necessary for healing. I liken it to a burn victim or amputee participating in physical therapy. Painful, but necessary. My "PT" today was making homemade bread...for the first time in over 3 months. While the bread was rising, I went into the shower and cried. I believe another session of "PT" will be writing out condolence thank you cards. Again, painful, but necessary.

I met with another mother last night who lost her 15yo. son just over a year ago. For the bereaved, grief forges an instant bond between strangers. It is a reluctant, yet comforting encounter when two grieving souls meet. We talked of our loved ones and spoke of God's grace in our sorrow. We both emphatically agreed that having had His word hidden in our hearts has been one of the reasons we have been able to move forward.

As much as we want time to stand still, as it did at the moment of our loss, it cannot. For the bereaved, healing must happen. The hard work of grief must take place. "PT" must have its place even if difficult and exhausting. Moving on doesn't mean the loss is gone. Moving on means learning a new way of walking, though this time with scars. It means trusting God because He, and only He, is trustworthy. I am reminded of a stanza from our pastor's poem The World Stood Still Today.

The time came to start the clock again
We didn’t want to, but we had no choice
Slowly, painfully we moved
We moved back into the flow of time

Monday, November 7, 2011

A rant on grief

I hate grief. I hate the way it turns your life upside down. I hate the effect it has on you. I hate what it does to a person. I used to sleep fine. I used to be in charge of my emotions. I used to think I was strong. I hate being sucker-punched by waves of grief. I hate how it reminds you of milestones and events you will never celebrate with your loved one. I hate what grief steals from you.

This world is broken. And that is why we have grief. A broken world was NOT in the original plan. This wasn't how things were supposed to be. But it is what it is. So what do we do with it? We hang onto hope.

This weekend was spent at Hearts of Hope grief camp. It angers me that we even had to be there. Yet I am so very thankful for places like this, for people that understand, for the reminder that this, too, shall pass.

While the kids were at camp, Dh and I were at a parent seminar all day Saturday on "How to Raise a Grieving Child." There was a ton of valuable information. One very powerful statement I heard was "You don't ever get over it. You get through it."

It was a rough weekend filled with much emotion. But Dh and I knew we needed to do this for our kids. They needed it. For them, it was great fun. Children do not grieve the same as adults. While adults carry grief constantly, kids handle it in bursts. The fun was scattered throughout the weekend with various activities. They got to tie-dye t-shirts, make a memory plaque, participate in a candle lighting ceremony, write their thoughts on an "anger wall" and a "love wall" and scale a climbing wall. They also learned about hope and that they are not alone. We were all reminded that grief doesn't get the last word. Hope does.

1Cor. 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Heb. 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Heb 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Grief makes you think

Thoughts just keep swirling like a blizzard in my head. This grief thing is such a paradox. The searing pain, though just as deep as when the news of Matt's death first hit, is different. Not any less painful, but changed in form. At first like flowing molten lava, it has now transformed. The flow incinerated our lives, obliterating everything I once thought to be secure. But after three months, the pain has begun to settle. However, though the lava has stopped flowing, the cooling crust hides the heat beneath. It is still there, and it's going to take a very long time before it cools.

The daily tasks of life have been reinstated, but with changed perspective. The things that once gave me cause for anxiety, no longer give me pause for concern. It is a curious outlook. For instance, Mr. Monkey currently has the chicken pox. What began as a few strange spots on his neck last Friday developed into a full blown case of the pox. Four months ago, this would have freaked me out. Now it was merely a light blip on the radar screen. I am sure, as with the way of grief, that these things will change as time goes on. But for now, it is almost like an out-of-body experience.

Earlier, I worked on the GriefShare homework for this week. It was very sobering and convicting. It was stated "Your life is about more than your losses." There was a warning that "If grief becomes your identity, it will hurt you." I was convicted that I have, indeed, been tempted these past few weeks to do just that. The death of my child is inexplicable, but I was reminded of the truth. I can focus on "Why?" or I can focus on what I know to be true. Especially what I know to be true of God.

I was given the book Streams in the Desert. What a blessing and a comfort. The daily readings and poems are short, but powerful. Each day's reading is a balm to my soul, though I don't always like what I read. Who volunteers for suffering? Who looks forward to walking a seemingly impassable road? Who would willingly choose the path of sorrow in order to grow in their faith? But I know in whom I have believed. (2 Tim. 1:12) "Christ Jesus...who for the joy set before him endured the cross..."(Hebrews 12:2)

"When the frosts are in the valley,
And the mountain tops are grey,
And the choicest buds are blighted,
And the blossoms die away,
A loving Father whispers,
"This cometh from my hand";
Blessed are ye if ye trust
Where ye cannot understand."
(excerpt from Oct. 23 reading - Streams in the Desert

 It is a good thing I can not see the future, for I know I would have surely denied the trial. I would have refused to walk this path. But the amazing thing is that I do not walk alone, and I do not walk on my own. He gives me His strength, His courage, and the company of His presence. Today's reading from Streams in the Desert says, "The chiefest values in life and character are not blown across our way by vagrant winds. Great souls have great sorrows." And from Oct. 27th's reading: "Out of the buffeting of a serious conflict we are expected to grow strong. The tree that grows where tempests toss its boughs and bend its trunk often almost to breaking, is often more firmly rooted than the tree which grows in the sequestered valley where no storm ever brings stress or strain. The same is true of life. The grandest character is grown in hardship."

These are not easy things to accept. In all honesty, I was comfortable where I was and happy to maintain the status quo. But at least if I am to travel this way, I am comforted in knowing that there is a Shepherd who leads the way. He has walked the path before me and knows what lies ahead. There is a purpose and a plan, even if I don't ever see it, much less understand it. I am glad to know that it is not in vain. The apostle Paul knew what it was like to suffer for Christ, to lose all that he had. Paul says, "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ." (Phil.3:7) I honestly can't say I count the loss of my son as "rubbish so that I may gain Christ" (vs.8) but I can say as Job, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bitterness and despair vs. truth and comfort

“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”
― A.W. Tozer

I am currently listening to a sermon online by Pastor Greg Laurie titled, "A Passion for Hurting People." He quoted A.W. Tozer above. I hadn't ever heard of Pastor Laurie until yesterday when I visited with my best friend Gale. She mentioned that she listened to his sermons a lot while she was going through her chemo treatments for breast cancer. Yesterday was a painful day. I am not doing well. Neither is Dh. Today marks three months since our son died. I didn't know what to do with this pain, so I left. I loaded up the two youngest boys and got in the van and drove. 

Tim's sister, who had come on Thursday, had taken the rest of the kids to a movie with her husband and their three kids. Tim was at work. I needed to get away. I found myself about an hour later at Gale's. While driving, I cried in anguish and said repeatedly, "Help me, God. Help me." I had the radio station on to KJLY. (It's either that or KTIS.) I needed desperately to hear some truth, the truth of God's word. Two songs, one right after the other, spoke to my shattered, questioning heart. The past several days have been filled with anger, bitterness, and doubt. I have questioned my faith. I have asked, "What's the point of praying if God's going to do whatever He wants anyway?" I again have wondered "Why?" and "What was Matt's purpose?" 

I listened carefully to the words to these two songs as I drove. Both are songs I had never heard before, either. "In the Waiting" by Greg Long was the first, and "How Long?" by Terri and Barry Collecutt was the second song.

In the Waiting
The gift nobody longs for, still it comes
And somehow leaves us stronger
When it's gone away

I try and pray for Your will to be done
But I confess it's never fast enough for me

It seems
the hardest part is waiting on You
When what I really want
Is just to see Your hand move

I want a peace beyond my understanding
I want to feel it fall like rain
In the middle of my hurting
I want to feel Your arms as they surround me
And let me know that it's okay
To be here in this place
Resting in the peace that only comes
In the waiting

Time to let it go and just believe
Trusting in what no one else but You can see

Freedom from the fears that close me in
When I can't get beyond where I have been, but then

The silence doesn't mean that I'm alone
As long as I can hear
That I am still Your own

How Long?
How long, must I wait, Oh, God, for your word to come true
How long, my heart grows faint, oh, God, I need you
to come through
and I know that you're faithful, I know that you're able though I can not hear you
and the darkness that hides you but I know that you're faithful, and I know that you're able
So, I will serve you and my heart will trust you

How long, will this take oh, God, for your hand to move
how long, I'm weak and failing, God, my spirit cries to you.

but I know that you're faithful, I know that you're able though I can not hear you
and the darkness that hides you but I know that you are faithful, and I know that you're able
So, I will serve you and my heart will trust you

Lord, How long, must I wait?
Lord, How long, must I wait?
Lord, How long must I wait?
Must I wait, Must I wait?

I know that you're faithful, and I know that you're able though I can not hear you
and the darkness that hides you but I know that you are faithful, and I know that you're able
So, I will serve you and my heart will trust you

how long, must I wait? I'll wait for you....

I continued to drive and weep. I continued to wonder how on earth a heart that's been shattered into a billion pieces could be fixed. I kept asking, "But what do I do with this pain?" Living with this kind of grief is a daily battle. A battle to decide whom to follow. Bitterness is a tempting choice because one gets so tired of the pain and weary of weeping. And, for us, it's only been 3 months. In the time frame of loss, that is not a long time. Yet I struggled because I also knew that if I professed to belong to Christ, then I also knew that choosing bitterness was a wrong choice. The verse in 1 Peter 5 came to my mind about "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." I need to keep going to Him. 

Gale and I had a wonderful visit, and I was much comforted. I drove home feeling better. Yet I knew I still had a choice to make when it came to being bitter. But I honestly wasn't sure I was ready to let it go. I spent part of the drive home trying to decide before I finally made a choice. What a surprise the next morning then when I read the daily GriefShare email devotion.

Dealing with Anger: Choose to Move Past It
Day 79

Perhaps you are at the point at which you must now choose to move past your anger and bitterness. You have allowed yourself the time and opportunity to slowly vent your anger, and you have honestly expressed those feelings with others. When you are ready to move beyond your anger, be prepared to stick with that decision.

The night Heidi's husband died in a plane crash, she prayed, "God, I know that You have a plan for my life. And I don't want bitterness and anger to well up in my heart, because I have two young children, and we have to go on with our lives."

Heidi says, "I made a decision that night not to become bitter and angry about the situation and not to blame God. Sure, I asked why and I didn't understand, but I wasn't going to blame God, and I wasn't going to blame other people."

You, too, can choose to move past anger with the Lord's help.

"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful" (1 Timothy 1:12).

Jesus, strengthen me to move beyond my anger and bitterness and to stay there. Amen.

 I haven't finished listening to the rest of Pastor Laurie's sermon, but he makes yet another surprising statement. "The faith that cannot be tested is the faith that cannot be trusted." I didn't ask for my faith to be tested. I didn't ask to be thrown into this endlessly deep sea of grief. I didn't ask to be somebody else's testimony. I didn't ask to be made stronger. The night before Matt died, in speaking to a friend, I said "He (God) is my all in all." I wasn't asking to be tested as to whether I meant it or not. But I am not my own. I was bought with a price. How funny that my life verse is and has been Galatians 2:20. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."

1 Peter 4: 12-13 "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation." 

Pastor Laurie also states "...if your faith is real, it will get stronger through testing, not weaker." That comment led me to remember God's character. He purposes for our good. His aim is not to destroy us or take away our strength. It is always for good. He loves us. It doesn't have to make sense. It doesn't make sense to me, but I know God's character. He is love. He is perfect. He is without sin and cannot lie. I take comfort in these truths. "As God's children, we live on promises, not explanations." Warren Wiersbe

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Headstones and other hard stuff

John 16:22 "So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy."

Matt's headstone was placed on Sunday. Needless to say, it was a very heavy day. The week had been difficult enough, and getting the call regarding the headstone was like getting stepped on the chest, having the the air crushed out of me. Though it is a beautiful stone, it was a heart-wrenching reminder, anew, that our son is gone. Obviously, we knew it was coming since we had ordered it many weeks ago, but had no idea of the day it would be finished. Nothing really prepares you for the moment of reality, either. Seeing my child's name, my teenager's, on a headstone is so unreal. And excruciating.

Thankfully, last night was our GriefShare support group. I shared about getting the headstone and ten other heads nodded in unison. Yes, they understood. What a comfort. I can't begin to express how thankful we are for that group!

I cling to the truth of the verse above, that NO ONE will take away my JOY. No one will take away my joy. Now is my time of grief, but I will see Matt again. And I will see Christ. Jesus who died for me. I find myself wondering, though, why God doesn't give us more glimpses of heaven than He does. I just wish there wasn't a separation time in-between. *sigh* Meanwhile, I will trust in Him and in His word.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Living with reality

It's been 12 weeks. I think Dh and I have just now only begun to realize that this is life, a new reality, that our son will not be coming back. It's taken twelve weeks, I think, to realize that. I have had so many thoughts swirling around in my head, yet none stay still long enough to be organized. Somewhat like leaves in a wind storm.

It's also taken me a few weeks to put a name to what I have been feeling. I think it's rather funny, too, as I love words and yet haven't been able to find just the right one to describe how I feel. And then it hit me. The word is fragile. How completely simple, yet I couldn't think of it. Emotionally, I am so very fragile. I feel constantly as if I'm teetering on the edge of a cliff, never knowing quite when I'm going to fall off into the waves of grief below. It is a continual battle of trying to keep my balance so that I don't go plummeting down into the rocks below to be swept out, once again, into the sea of sorrow.

I found myself mulling over the first part of verse four in Psalm 23 that says, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." I've never understood what that means. What exactly is the "valley of the shadow of death"? Is it grief? Is that what the valley of the shadow of death is? I don't know, but I'm beginning to suspect that grief could definitely fit that description.

I have also found myself wondering about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Every time I drive the van, thoughts of getting into an accident flood my mind. I am tense and feel hyper vigilant. I am keenly aware of every emergency vehicle siren. I note any helicopter flying overhead. I see ambulances and have flashbacks of driving into St. Mary's underground emergency entrance. It seems to me that grief very closely imitates PTSD.

But God's word is ever present. Though I can't read it right now and am unable to comprehend it, the Spirit faithfully intercedes for me during these times. God's word fills my mind, coming up from seemingly nowhere. Yet I know it is because I have hidden His word in my heart. Because I have studied His word through Precepts. And I am so incredibly thankful. Psalm 119:11 "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." God surely knew, because He is all-knowing (omniscient), that it was His Word that will carry me through this season of grief. John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." I am thanking my heavenly Father for His Son, for His Word. For He has not left me. He will carry me and give me strength for the days ahead. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil.4:13)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Let's keep it real, shall we?

I don't like being angry. But I am so very tired of hurting. And when the pain doesn't go away, I get angry. And there are a few things I hate about being in this ******* sea of grief.

  • I hate that life continues to go on, that the daily, stupid *necessary* tasks of life don't allow me to just do nothing but grieve. 
  • I hate that I am questioning my faith.
  • I hate speaking of my son in the past tense.
  • I hate that the attacks of satan continue, that the evil one "kicks you while you're down." 
  • I hate that grief plays with your head.
  • I hate that grief affects your physical body. I am SICK and TIRED of being SICK and TIRED.
  • I hate that, though I am exhausted, my body/mind refuses to sleep. And if that weren't enough, what little sleep I do get is poor.
  • I hate that there is an unknown number of days, months, or years until I see Matt again.
  • I hate that because of grief I yell at the rest of the children for no reason.
  • I hate that I can't get out of this "season" of grief, that I have no control over it, and that I didn't have a choice in entering it.
  • I hate trying to convince myself of the truths of God's word.
  • I hate my emotions being tossed constantly about.
  • I hate that the way out is a long ways away. 
  • I hate that every blog post now is related to grief.
I honestly just want to drink myself into oblivion every night. I am angry. I am angry at God. I am angry at Matt. I am angry at Dh. I am angry at myself. I am angry because this weekend is the weekend Matt would have gone to Fall Retreat at Trout Lake camp. And it hurts, hurts deeply, seeing his friends and best buddies go off to camp without him. That's the real reason I'm angry. It hurts. And it sucks.

***Just after I posted, I checked my email and found the daily GriefShare devotional in my inbox. How apropos! (Just like God, eh?!)

Anger: Directed at People or Situations Surrounding Your Loss
Day 68

Anger does not necessarily follow a logical path. Different people will focus their anger in different directions. For instance, you might be angry with people or at circumstances surrounding your loss.

"I remember being angry at first toward my sister-in-law because she was the one who told me [about the car crash]," says Jodie, whose husband was killed. "That made me mad. I had to really ask the Lord to heal that anger. He's faithful."

Heidi shares, "In the situation surrounding my husband's death, there were a lot of people involved in making the decision for him to leave that night. There are times when [I] want to get angry about the way things were done."

Do you need healing from misdirected anger?

"O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me" (Psalm 30:2).

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

Father God, I am angry, and that's okay, but turn my anger away from false, destructive paths. Amen.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Grief newsflash

I was asked today, "So are things getting better now?" Wow. That I was thrown for a loop on that one was an understatement. I, for once, was literally speechless. Seriously??? Do some people really think that things would be better just eleven weeks after the death of my 16yo.? I was so shocked I didn't know what to say. I finally just pretended that I didn't hear the question. Driving home later, however, I pondered it a little more. I think my answer now would be, "No, not really." Seriously. Sure, some things are getting back to "routine" (I use that term deliberately, as the word "normal" is being redefined), but that in no way means that grief has subsided. However, I suppose, for some people, the presence of routine indicates healing. What a misleading conclusion.

The pain of Matt's loss is, if possible, even more painful now than eleven weeks ago. It is a profound pain. I have tried so very many times in my head to try to describe this pain, this wound. Yet there just aren't words adequate enough. It is indescribable, yet I try to make feeble attempts at it. It is deep, as deep as the marrow in the bone, yet even beyond that. It's not just deep, it goes all the way through. The pain has not lessened by any degree, though it has changed, if that makes any sense. It is still the same depth, though different in expression.

I know that healing will come, but it is going to take far longer than we anticipated. In fact, that was one of the first things our GriefShare video mentioned. Talk to anyone who has suffered a deep loss like this and they will tell you that the first TWO YEARS are extremely rough.

This week has been difficult, and this morning was no different. Driving to the store today to run an errand, I had the radio on and caught just a few minutes of a program by Dr. James Dobson called Familytalk. It was a powerful, powerful message by Dr. E.V. Hill on the death of his wife. I sat in the parking lot weeping in the van while listening. Then tonight, Dh and I listened to the entire broadcast. It was so very comforting to hear Dr. Hill repeatedly say of the LORD, "Trust me. Trust me. Trust me." When your heart is broken, TRUST HIM. Jesus speaking in John 14:1 says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; {1 Or } trust also in me" Dr. E.V. Hill referenced Job 1:21 as well and remarked that the Bible has the answer to how we as Christians are to respond to loss. When the LORD "has taken away" we are to say as Job, "Blessed be the name of the LORD."  Trusting HIM.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The effects of grief

"How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?" (Psalm 13:2)

We went to the visitation today for 16yo. Abby W. She was Army boy's FCA camp huddle leader this year. I am left once again wondering, "Why?" and "What's the purpose?" All this promise and then a life cut short. How interesting that my daily Griefshare homework addresses the issue of overwhelming, unpredictable emotions. The effects of grief are far more than I ever imagined. I never expected grief to carry with it temptation. Many temptations. The temptation to give up, to scream at ignorant people who don't understand what I'm going through, to blame or doubt God, to envy others, to not care about anything again, to take drugs or alcohol. 

I honestly can't believe I am alive right now. I am, as Isabel Fleece says in her book Not By Accident, "amazed that the human frame, frail as it is, can survive such a blast." Psalm 42:7 "All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me" Mrs. Fleece also writes that while God's grace is sufficient, it is "not an anesthetic." The pain of Matt's loss remains and continues to be indescribably difficult. 

God's word, however, promises us that he "heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3) GOD is the only one who can heal my heart. I must remember that His name is Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. He is love, and therefore, can only act out of love. (1John 4:16)  I need to remember that the Word of God is an anchor for my soul. The hope of eternal life and the fulfillment of His promises are the hope that I have in persevering through this trial. (Hebrews 6:19) 

The Griefshare homework for day three of this week ended with the question, "If you had a broken bone, what steps would you take to help it heal?" and "What similar steps could you apply to the brokenness of your life as a result of grief?" I answered that I would go to a doctor, trusting (and allowing) him to bring healing, and then wait for healing to happen. Similarly, I need to go to the LORD for healing, trust Him to put the broken pieces back together, and wait for healing to happen. 

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." 
 (Proverbs 3:5) 
These waves of grief roll in relentlessly. I try in vain to avoid them, to side-step the tide, but I must remember to put my faith in God's unchanging truth, to walk by faith and not by sight. Because waves come and go, but the Word of the LORD stands forever. He is unchanging. (2Cor. 5:7, Heb. 13:8, Malachi 3:6, 1Pet. 1:25)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Death changes your perspective

"Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief." (Psalm 31:9) It's been just over ten weeks into this season of grief. Dh had several co-workers come over Saturday morning to help with a landscaping project. We have a mound out front from an old septic system that was severely neglected. We decided many weeks ago, shortly after the funeral, that we wanted to re-do it. We received a beautiful blue bird bath from Pioneer that would be perfect on the mound along with a stepping stone the neighbors on our lane gave us. We also plan on planting some red geraniums and daisies in the mound as well come spring. A stone bench is also in the plans for completion. I know it will be a beautiful spot once it's finished. But while I am so very grateful and thankful for Dh's co-workers doing this project for us, it ushered in a new tide of grief. All of these "new" things (the van, the landscape project), while wonderful, are a painful reminder of our loss. They are forcing us, in a sense, to walk forward. And I don't want to go forward. I want time to stop while I grieve. I don't want to be rushed back into life, into "normal." There is no normal. It will never be the same again. I think that's why it's so hard...because I now have to re-define "normal." We don't have a choice in making a new normal, either, because time doesn't stand still. And I don't like it.

Another "new" is getting back to menu planning. I tried to get it done Saturday, but just couldn't do it. I took the calendar down and simply couldn't write on it. I saw Matt's name and my hand refused to write. At the beginning of the year, I had put each of the kids' names at the start of each week, rotating weeks of dish duty and table setting through to the end of the year. Then in each day's square, I put what we're having for dinner that night. The meals that have been so graciously provided have pretty much ended as of this past Friday, so I need to get the menu planning done. I just hadn't anticipated it would be this difficult to start.

I find it interesting how death changes one's perspective. Some things which I thought were so easy before are now difficult, and things which I thought were so difficult are now easy. Like menu planning. A fairly simple thing. Yet now difficult. And for Dh, it's addressing particular people about controversial topics that is easy compared to the fact that he and I have just done the hardest thing in the world, which is experience the death and burial of our sixteen year old son.

Ten and a half weeks ago, I didn't find it difficult to grocery shop, but now it's excruciating. Ten and a half weeks ago, I found it hard to ask for help, but now I don't hesitate to ask for what I need (or to accept an offer of help.) Ten and a half weeks ago, I thought skipping a meal was a big deal, but now I could care less if I ever eat again. Ten and a half weeks ago, I never worried about car accidents, but now I think of them every time I get behind the wheel. Ten and a half weeks ago, I was ignorant of grief. And now I am well acquainted with it.

Unfortunately, Dh and I are not the only ones well acquainted with it. It seems almost everyone we meet now has suffered a loss at some point in their lives. Just yesterday we heard news that a 16yo. girl had been killed in a car accident with a semi, only to discover later that she was Army boy's huddle leader from FCA camp this year. The visitation is Wednesday, and we plan on attending.

Death has put things in perspective for us. No longer will I offer platitudes or think superficially of someone else's loss. I will no longer keep silent for fear of not knowing what to say. I have learned that a simple hug is more powerful and affirming than words. Besides, there's nothing anyone can say that would take away the pain. It is far better, in my opinion, to just give a hug and say nothing more than “I'm so sorry.” Acknowledgement of our loss is crucial to the healing process. One comforting thing I did hear, however, was that God loved me. I thought it odd. I didn't realize that I needed to hear it. But each time I did, it was so very comforting. 
I know that these things I am feeling right now are for a season, but your emotions trick you into believing this profound pain will last forever. Tonight's Griefshare group meeting was so good. Not only were we with people who completely understood, but we were reminded via the video that this roller coaster ride WILL end. I can't fathom that right now and, honestly, I don't even believe it. But I have the promise from others who have been there, done that. My faith and hope are in the LORD, (Psalm 71) and I thank Him for using others to minister to us.

God uses people and song, of that I am certain, and last night was an evening of ministry as well. Dh and I went to a concert last night featuring Jason Gray, Aaron Shust, and Downhere. I used to work with Jason eons ago and have been a fan of his music for a long time. I actually did not want to go to the concert last night, but went anyway. And God spoke through Jason. He sang a song titled “Nothing is wasted” off of his new CD. It was incredible and I know it was the LORD's comfort to Dh and me. Here are the lyrics:

The hurt that broke your heart
And left you trembling in the dark
Feeling lost and alone
Will tell you hope’s a lie
But what if every tear you cry
Will seed the ground where joy will grow

And nothing is wasted
Nothing is wasted
In the hands of our Redeemer
Nothing is wasted

It’s from the deepest wounds
That beauty finds a place to bloom
And you will see before the end
That every broken piece is
Gathered in the heart of Jesus
And what’s lost will be found again

And nothing is wasted
Nothing is wasted
In the hands of our Redeemer
Nothing is wasted

From the ruins
From the ashes
Beauty will rise
From the wreckage
From the darkness
Glory will shine

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Standing on the shore

I feel like I've been standing on the shore of grief all day. Actually, the past two days have felt like that. This ocean of grief is vast and deep. I was thrown into it without warning and these waters are hard to navigate.

I long to hear my son's voice again. I long to feel his presence. I long to see his big, strapping teenage body. I ache with longing. Psalm 6:2-3 says it well. "Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long?" Yet I have taken comfort in Psalm 34:18 that says God "is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

These stages of grief are so unrelenting. I have tried so very hard the last few days not to cry. I am weary of wiping away tears. Though I long to look at pictures of Matt and watch home videos of him, it is just simply too painful. The only way I've been able to accomplish dry eyes is by deliberately not thinking of him. But denial is hard work and doesn't work for long. As Dr. Phil would say, "How's that working for ya?" Not too well.

If denial doesn't work and I'm not willing to give in and let grief have it's way, then anger becomes my second choice. And let me tell ya, that doesn't work so well, either. I guess I'm just delaying the inevitable. However, with each new passing day, it becomes harder and harder to deny the flow of life. I don't want to stay where I'm at, yet getting farther away from that fateful day also means that I'm no longer "close" to when my son was last alive. And I want to stay close to those last few, precious hours when he was with us. These are such disorienting, confusing waves. 

 Though I am tossed and seasick, lost and flailing, I know that I am not alone. Isaiah 43:2 "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;" Trusting Him who made the seas to keep me from drowning, to bring me safely to shore.

 Exodus 15:13 In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. 

 Psalm 31:3 Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. 

 Isa 42:16 I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

Isaiah 58:11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

Psalm 139
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in-- behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to {17 Or concerning} me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Grief changes things

We purchased a 2004 Chevy Venture today. While it was exciting for the kids, it was a difficult purchase for Dh and I. It's not that I'm not excited or don't like the van. I'm happy it has remote start, a built in car seat, and seats eight, but grief has changed my emotions. They're just not the same as before. It's a hard thing to describe. Today, for example, was a strange co-existence of excitement and heaviness. It's like colors being muted, I guess, only it's emotions. It's like when you look at someone and, though they are smiling, the smile doesn't quite reach their eyes. The sparkle is gone. I don't even want to tell people that we got a new van. I don't want to hear "Yay!" or "Congratulations." For me, the purchase of a new van is just an ugly reminder of why we needed a new one. It also happened that the new van is from the same place we purchased our silver one, the one Matt was driving that fateful day.

Yet Dh and I are so very mindful of God's goodness. He has provided for our need. We had eight offers of vehicles to use over the past two months while we searched for a new van. The new van was also paid for in cash, thanks to God's provision through the amazing generosity of friends and family. It is truly a blessing.

Another blessing is that my sister Cathy came to visit this past Friday. It was so good to have her here. She reminds me of Matt. :) Neither one of them are/were big talkers. But you feel their presence. Matt and Cathy shared the Pack fever together, too! LOL I got Cathy a Green Bay Packers T-shirt and had Matt's name screen printed on the back. It means a lot to me, and I know to her, to have it. I am honored she will wear it while watching the Packers play and cherish Matt's memory in this way. It's bittersweet.

I also ordered an eternity necklace online a few weeks ago and got it today in the mail. It has Matt's name and Revelation 21:4 hand stamped on it. It has his birthstone dangling from the middle as well. It is beautiful and I will treasure it forever. A very dear friend gifted me with the money to purchase it. It is truly a blessing to have. I'm not a jewelry person, but this is special, obviously.

I have been contemplating the emotions over these things; the van, the t-shirt, the necklace. I just don't know how to put adequate words to them. My mom was here with my sister, too, and wanted to get a picture of us three. I dreaded getting my picture taken, honestly. I don't feel like smiling. It's, again, one of those times when I wish the outside would match the inside. I don't like feeling like a fake, and when the outside doesn't match the inside, that's what it feels like. Fake. I can't help but wonder if this "emotion tweaking" is something that grief changes permanently or if it's just temporary. I'm guessing it's temporary, but it's a facet of grief that I certainly don't like. Grief changes things, that's for sure.

**Pictures of the necklace, the new (to us, anyway) van, and my sister's visit are in the current month's photo album link.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Living with grief

“From the moment you wake up until you crawl into bed at night, what is it like to live with grief?”

This was the question posed in week one of the Griefshare workbook this week. I sighed shortly in response as I re-read it. “What is it like to live with grief?” I don't think there's enough paper in the world to hold the answer. It is tremendous. It is unpredictable. It is overwhelming. It is humbling. And it is a continual mental vollying of the wordly vs. the eternal.

The pain and ache of grief is constant. With each passing day it becomes harder and harder, in some respects. Physically, you look fine to others. Two months have gone by and other people have moved on. They are not daily reminded of your loss. They don't, and can't, fathom the precarious nature of your emotional state. The inside just simply doesn't match the outside. And unfortunately, they don't see the inside.

I think that's what's so difficult about grief. We live in a society that doesn't acknowledge it. We are expected to “pony up” and get over it. Grief is given a time frame. It's even given a “this is what it should look like” attitude. There's a code of conduct to be adhered to. Yet I find it interesting what the Bible says in the book of Job in regard to grief. Job and his friends tear their robes, sprinkle dust on their heads, sit in ashes, and weep aloud. These are all outward expressions of grief, obvious manifestations of their sorrow.

No one chooses grief. Grief chooses you. I don't want to identify with grief, but since I don't have a choice, then I sure as heck want others to know that grief is here. It's not that misery loves company, but I want others to be aware of my sorrow. Not so that I can wallow in grief or to gain sympathy, but so that others will acknowledge our unimaginable loss. There is comfort in “shared” grief, in the bearing of one another's burdens.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 “Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”

Grief is a constant companion, an uninvited guest in our lives right now. However, I am reminded that joy will come again. Now is our time of sorrow (John 16:22), but we also remember that God has been good to us. We have been abundantly provided for during this time of loss, and we have a new reason now to long for eternity, for that life with Christ. We not only will see Christ face to face, but we will see our beloved son Matt, our firstborn, our teenager, our 16 year old who is waiting for us in heaven.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A dark day

Job 3:20-26 "Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave? Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water. What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil."

I am struggling. I don't want to go on. I just want this pain to end. I want my life to end. I am so weak. I cry, but there is not even strength to make a sound. I can only cry from the depths of my soul, "Why has God done this to me?" I don't care anymore. I don't want my faith strengthened. I don't want to be a testimony to anyone else. I am doubting that there even is a God. I am doubting that heaven or eternity exists. What's the point? What was Matt's purpose? I don't understand. If there is a life of eternity, then I just want to enter into it now.

These are dark moments, moments I wonder if I will survive. I cannot help but question if this grief is a mortal wound because that is what it feels like. Yet my heart continues to beat and the daily demands of life continue to pull at me. I thought of the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:19-26 when he says, "for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me."

I need sufficient courage as Paul says. Dh and I need your continued prayers and the help of the Holy Spirit. I need to do as Proverbs 3:5 says and trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. So much easier said than done.