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.