Sunday, December 30, 2012

In the lion's den

I spent several days last week, before and after Christmas, in the lion's den. Bully grief shoved me from behind and I fell into the pit. They were long, terrible days of emotional and mental war with grief in the dark confines of the den. There are times when the grief is so overwhelming that all I want to do is die, to commit suicide. I don't want to leave my husband and family, but I just want the pain to go away. Last week was the third time I have felt like that since our son died.

The lion's den is a dark, foul place. The battle of the finite mind against the truth of God's Word echoes with deafening roar in the pit. Your eyes see nothing, only darkness, while your hands grope frantically about seeking to find anything of comfort and familiarity to grab hold of. The reverberating lies of the enemy bounce off the ears and clang with acute sharpness in the mind. Mercifully, however, the hand of the God of hope reaches out and takes a firm hold of yours. His calm, unhurried whisper brushes next to your ear. Suddenly, the noise of grief is drowned out by the words of the Comforter. "Be still."

God's voice, through His Word, comforts His children. "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) God knew. He knew where I was. He knew what I was thinking. He knew what I was feeling. I was not alone in the lion's den.

God's Word is the light that pierces the darkness. Truth is the slayer of the liar Assassin in the pit. But truth does not stand alone. Just as Batman has Robin, Truth has Hope. Hope is what gives you the strength to crawl out of the pit, with Truth pushing your backside up and out of the lair. 

I managed to get out of the pit. I turned on the praise and worship music and shared what I was feeling with my husband. The LORD gave me the key to escape when He reminded me to focus on Him, to worship Him, to pour out my heart to Him in honest lament. What is brought into the light cannot be hidden by the dark. The journey of grief is indeed dark at times, but the words of Corrie Ten Boom are wise: "When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer." Giving thanks to the LORD, for He is good. (Lam. 3:19-26)


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Grief is a bully

Grief is a bully. He strides in inconspicuously without warning and knocks you over before you know what hit you. He walks with purpose and strength. His one, sole aim is to knock you over, unawares. And he is effective. Oh, so effective. How do you fight an enemy that has perfected the art of ambush? I still don't know. But I am learning to get back up, little by little. And though my attempts are feeble, I know that each time I do, I will get stronger and better at it. To be honest, however, there are times I don't feel like getting back up. Sometimes I'd like to just lie there in defeat. Yet I know that's not what God wants. He doesn't want me to give in to the enemy or allow him a foothold. Yet He also knows I'm not strong enough to fight on my own. He is there waiting for me to take hold of His outstretched hand, to pull me up, where I can stand firm beside Him in His strength.

Not surprisingly, today was tough. The roller coaster of emotions has left me physically and mentally exhausted. After grief has knocked you down, he proceeds to kick you. He is a master at implanting envy and doubt with each stamp of his foot. He taunts viciously, "See all those pictures of everyone else's family? Their families are whole." And you can't argue with him because it's the truth. There is no empty chair at their table, and you can't deny the glaring, barren spot at yours, no matter how hard you try. No amount of wishing or attempts at filling the chair with another body replaces the one who is gone.

Grief continues his assault, spewing hateful things in your ear, planting seeds of doubt. Things like, "So where is God? Where is this Jesus that you are hoping in? He hasn't returned. It's been centuries. You're still waiting, and you're still suffering. Are you really sure Heaven's real? Where's the proof?"

I tried to ignore the enemies lies and taunts, yet hearing Grief's whispers made my heart ache. My son is gone. There is no celebrating the holidays with him. I realized I wasn't escaping the ambush. I've learned enough the past 16 months to know that when I'm pinned, I'm pinned. I cried, "Uncle" and went to my bedroom to cry. After about 10 or 15 minutes, however, the incessant banging by our three year old on the door coerced me into getting up. It was a good thing, anyway, as company was due to arrive within the half hour, and I still had a lot of meal preparation to do.

I realized I needed some praise and worship music to help deflect the blows of bully Grief. Christian music is a powerful thing, enabling the truth to speak quietly into a hurting heart. The lyrics lifted my eyes back to the Author of life, the giver of all good things. And as our company arrived, I was reminded that we are not alone, that the troubles of this life are only overcome through faith and trust in Christ.

God's grace is sufficient and got us through the day. However, the reality is, as author Isabel Fleece said, "...grace is not an anesthetic."(Not By Accident) The LORD uses the painful things of our lives to turn us toward Him, to remind us that we need Him. It seems to make no sense, but after all, I am the created, not the Creator. Then just when I needed it tonight, God spoke to me about today. I cried once again reading the homeschool devotional in my email inbox, and though today's struggle didn't have to do with homeschooling, the LORD had a message for me.

Daily Focus - A Christmas Love Letter

I see you sitting there tired, worn out, and empty. Another year of homeschooling has used you up. You feel helpless like a baby. That's OK. I know all about being a baby. I was born one for you many years ago. I know the ache you feel to be held and loved, and that is why I came. I knew you would be sitting there in the future, praying and asking me to hold you, and I am, dear one. Let me give you a special Christmas gift of love as I breathe new life into the center of your soul.

Do you know that I think of you every moment of every day? I watch you patiently homeschool the children I gave you, and I know how badly you feel when you fail and lose your temper. I forgive you, my child, just as you forgive your children when they make a mistake. "It's OK. We'll try again," you say to them, and I'm telling you the same thing. I'm so proud of you and how you've followed me when I asked you to teach your children about me at home. Your sacrifice says that you love me. I know all about that, too. I left everything that was mine when I came from heaven. I know how you feel when the Father asks so much of you.

Look at me, my child. You may feel beat up, but do you know that you are still beautiful? I see that smile. Yes, you're still as beautiful as the day I created you. I love who you are, and I'm whispering your name. Can you hear me? Remember, my child, this is not your home. You really belong here with me in heaven, but I want you where you are now to love this family I gave you. Don't give up. I want you to trust me. I won't let you down. Every promise I've made is true, and someday, I'm coming back for you. For now, rest in my love, and tonight and even tomorrow when you wake up, I'll be here watching over you. I love you. Merry Christmas.

"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Hebrews 4:14-15a).

Jesus, thank You for the best Christmas gift I could ever receive, Your forgiveness and love. My heart sings with praise to You for understanding my every need. I love You, Jesus, and offer You my life again to use however You choose. In Your name I pray, Amen.

God sent His son at Christmas to save us, to redeem all that was lost; His Creation, the world, and everything in it. A day today filled with grief, yes, but still a blessed Christmas.

Toby Mac - Get Back Up


Saturday, December 22, 2012


I firmly believe there are several essential "lifelines" (a.k.a. beliefs) one needs in order to heal well from the loss of a loved one. My mind goes especially to the parents of the Newtown, CT school shooting victims who are just beginning the journey of grief. They are now members of the club no one wants to be a part of. Looking back to the beginning of our journey, I remember several "lifelines" that were, and continue to be, instrumental to our healing thus far.

Lifeline #1: God loves you
Lifeline #2: God is Sovereign
Lifeline #3: God is good

Lifeline #4: God desires you to express your grief to Him

Lifeline #5: God designed us for Heaven; this world is not our home.

The first lifeline is crucial, I believe, to the healing process. Ramon Presson in his book, "When Will My Life Not Suck" states, "I have discovered in my years of counseling that most people can endure almost anything if they are assured of at least one of two things: 1) they are loved or 2) the current situation or condition is temporary and will either improve or completely pass."(pg.34) 

I found that immediately after Matt died, over and over again, I kept hearing "God loves you." I didn't even realize how badly I needed to hear that until someone would say it. It was like having someone place an oxygen mask over my face, and I felt resuscitated each time I heard it. I find it interesting, however, that for my husband, it was the second assurance statement of Presson that spoke most deeply. My husband drew comfort in knowing that the overwhelming grief and pain would not always be there, that God, over time, would bring healing.

Lifeline #2 is a tough one. God's sovereignty is an enigma to many people. If He is sovereign, then why doesn't He stop bad things from happening? Why does he allow loss? I find it comforting, however, to know that there is a sovereign God who rules over all, even death. Our lives are not in the hands of a ruler who does not know what He is doing. I take great solace in knowing that the LORD Almighty has a purpose and a plan in all things. Our lack of understanding about His ways does not define His character. We can trust our Maker.

The belief that God is good is also fundamental to healing. I think many people draw the wrong conclusion that the allowance of bad things must mean either an impotent God or an evil God. This is simply not true. God reveals Himself through His Word, the Bible. Many people know so little about God and His character because they do not study His Word.

When the sorrows of this life come into our lives, they are filtered through the loving heart and fingers of the Almighty. What we do with them matters. What do we do with this horrendous, overwhelming grief? Do we suffer well? "Our response is our responsibility." (Emerson Eggerichs)  Do we turn to God in complaint or do we curse Him? There is a huge difference. In the Bible, Job complained honestly and lamented frankly while his wife gave a wrong picture of how to grieve. The Bible shows us what to do with our sorrow, and there is no better example than the books of Job and Psalms. In fact, there are more psalms of lament and complaint (vulnerable frankness) than of thanksgiving and worship. It is comforting to know that "There is no human experience which cannot be put on the anvil of a lively relationship with God and man, and battered into a meaningful shape." (God's Healing for Life's Losses)

Finally, lifeline #5 is what keeps me from drowning in the sea of sorrow. For every moment of grief, I must remember that this world is not our home. This is not where we belong. From the very beginning, God had a plan for His creation and is working it out in His time, His way. I know that I must trust Him and trust His Word. And I can because He alone is trustworthy and faithful. Remembering lifeline #5 is also what helps me to remember the truth that my son is alive. He is alive in Heaven. Remembering that is what helps me to go forward. The end of every day is one day closer to eternity where there will be "no more death or mourning or crying or pain..." God Himself will wipe every tear from our eyes. (Rev. 21:4)  
God does not leave us when tragedies hit. He is there, throwing us a lifeline. If you're in the sea of sorrow, take hold of the lifeline and He will bring you to safety. Though the sea billows roll, you can say, "It is well with my soul.


Monday, December 17, 2012

A bit of blog housekeeping

I've added a "resources" tab to the blog and expanded the tab description. If anyone has any suggestions or comments, please feel free to comment and/or contact me. You can find my email address in the "About Me" tab.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Walking with grief

I was thinking this morning about how our grief has changed over the past 16 months and wrote the following poem to portray the journey. I think grief will always be our companion until we reach Heaven, but hopefully, grief will walk further and further behind us as we travel forward.

Walking with Grief
by Angie Cherney

You strode your way in one day
walking ahead of me along the way
You blocked my view of life
and all I saw was strife

You walked beside me
and shook with glee
But the Lord was near
and you slowed with drear

You thought you had won
but I was not done
The LORD is my strength
and He led me the length

Grief's breath is heavy
behind my laden back
Yet there is nothing I do lack
for God's love is ever steady

His word is sure and true
though the road is long
God gives the sorrow a song
and joy comes out of the blue

Friday, December 7, 2012

Things I never thought possible

After Matt died, there are things I thought I would never say or do again. I thought I would never smile again. I thought I would never laugh again. I thought I would never dream again. I thought I would never again say "Good" in reply to the question "How are you?" Yet I found myself saying just that this week. For a second, I was surprised at hearing myself say it even. It never fails to surprise me at how healing takes place almost without my realizing it. It never fails to surprise me now how grief and joy can, and do, coexist.

It feels so good to have more good days than bad now. I never thought that would have been possible a year ago or even four months ago. Grief is always there, but not so intense now. Another grieving mom, Corinne, describes it this way, "Life is only shades of grey for a long time....color returns very slowly." It's so very true. Life turned black the day our son died, but ever so slowly, light is returning again.

The death of my child has forever changed me and I never would have thought it possible that some of those changes would be good. For one thing, I find myself no longer afraid to do things I would have never done before. The knowledge that life is short and our days our numbered was solidified because of my son's death. As a result, I don't necessarily believe in a "bucket" list anymore. I refuse to "wish" like that. If this life is short (and it is), then I am going to do my best to see that those "bucket" list items are fulfilled. I want to make them realities now in this life, while I can, instead of just dreaming about them. It's been a good thing. I have already "crossed off" two items on the list! (Cake decorating classes and a digital photography class) I also wrote a children's picture book about two years ago and am now actively pursuing getting it illustrated and published.

I don't believe grief will ever leave, just like an amputee never gets his/her appendage back. What they do, however, is learn to live without their limb. They will always look down and realize the fact that their limb is missing. But the pain of losing it will lesson and they will learn to live without it. It is a harsh, painful reality that leaves a terrible, horrific scar, but with the LORD's help, one can live again and find joy in living. Hope has been painted in on the canvas of my life by the Artist. Hope in God and the knowledge of His great love towards me are the prosthesis to my loss. I never thought it would be possible to experience such unspeakable grief and live, live with joy, peace, and hope.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Surviving the holidays

The first line spoken in the video pretty much sums it up for me. I wish there was also a tactful, kind way of saying "Please don't send me your Christmas letter/photo/card." Heavy heart this morning.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Sunday night we attended a Thanksgiving dinner at our church, fellowshipping with our church family, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Honestly, I don't even remember Thanksgiving last year. Dh tells me we were there, but all I remember is standing in the hallway visiting with another grieving mother who had experienced the recent loss of her adult son.

The past week, week and a half has been very difficult. I was impatient, short-tempered, and snarly. I apologized to the kids yesterday for my behavior after I finally admitted what my problem was. I had spent the last week and a half trying to ignore Thanksgiving coming up, trying to ignore the fact that Matt isn't here. Stupid, huh? As usual, when the pain is too great, instead of crying and giving in to the feelings, I worked extra hard at stuffing my grief, falsely thinking there was a shut off switch somewhere. But, as Dr. Phil would ask, “How's that working for ya?” It's not. It didn't. It exploded like projectile vomit the entire week all over my children.

I dread Thanksgiving now. It's not like Christmas. Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus. A Savior has been born. I rejoice in that. There's nothing sorrowful about Christmas. Thanksgiving, however, is all about, well, giving thanks. How easy it is to give thanks for stuff and for the people in our lives when circumstances are good. It's easy to give thanks for the blessings God has given. It's easy to be thankful when your heart is not heavy with grief. Don't get me wrong, I am thankful. I do acknowledge the abundant blessings the LORD has given me. There is joy to be found. I'm just trying to figure out what to do with Thanksgiving now, how to give thanks in all things when our loss is ever before us. I need to know how to reconcile joy with grief.

What I find most difficult are songs. That, and seeing Matt's two best friends sitting together during church. Seeing them without him and hearing certain lyrics are painful reminders of our loss. I still don't sing in church. My heart drops with heaviness when I hear song lyrics about being in Heaven or standing before God. It's one thing to sing about imagining Heaven and quite another to be cognizant of the fact that your child is there.

We decided to leave for Thanksgiving this year. For only about the third time in 19 years, we will not be having Thanksgiving at our house. I am all too happy about it, also. I just did not want to be at our dining room table this year. Some of the tension I was experiencing included that, of all things.

So here we are on the road. I finally have the chance to gather my thoughts and write without interruptions. As I was finishing the last minute packing before we got on the road, the radio playing in the bedroom, I heard Matt Redmond's song, “Lord, You Never Let Go” come on. I, of course, had been thinking about my Matt when the song came on. I knew it was a “God nod,” a perfect reminder from the LORD that Matt isn't so far away after all and that God knew my heartache at that moment.

I am so thankful God is faithful. He continues to minister to us and walk with us through this valley. He continues to provide comfort and encouragement in this season of sorrow. While I'm not necessarily looking forward to Thanksging, I rest in knowing that God is with me and goes before us. I heard a Chris Tomlin song a few days ago that has been particularly encouraging as we head into the holidays. It's titled, “God of Angel Armies."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What for?

I have another blog, but I find it very, very difficult to post anything. Everything just seems so trivial now. My life is colored by grief. How can it not be? My son was here for 16 years. He was standing here in the kitchen making his lunch just before 7:30am on the morning of July 29, but gone forever (this side of Heaven, anyway) just an hour and half later. A GriefShare video mentions not letting grief become your identity. It's such a slippery slope, however. I've been climbing and falling a lot lately on that slope. I've been wrestling with trying to discern the difference between losing a child as my identity with it defining me. We have things in our lives that have shaped us and made us who we are. Those things define us. Then there are things that are inherent like being female or having a particular type of personality or temperament. Those things are our identity. Additionally, when you birth a child and become a mother it's a fine line between letting motherhood become your identity and having it define you.

Thankfully, the LORD is our anchor. He is the tether on that slippery slope that keeps us from falling. Thankfully, God never lets go! Thankfully, truth prevails. Thankfully, God shows us how to deal with our sorrow, our burdens, our trials in His Word. I went to a Desiring God conference on Thursday titled, "The Works of God: God's Good Design in Disability." I felt drawn to attend, for one thing, because Nancy Guthrie was one of the scheduled speakers. She and her husband David are the hosts of the GriefShare videos that I watch weekly. Secondly, I believe that grief is very much like a disability. Losing a child is like losing a part of yourself, like losing a limb. In my opinion, the words "grief" and "disability" can often be used synonymously. I knew this conference was for me.

Going to a conference on disabilities isn't something one tends to gush over. The auditorium wasn't sold out or jam-packed with attendees. I mean, really, who wants to go to a conference that doesn't give you warm fuzzies or that reveals the tough questions and doubts you have regarding the hardships and trials in your life? In fact, one of the speakers remarked that it could really be called the "uncomfortable" conference because there is nothing comfortable about disability.

So while it wasn't a "breath of fresh air" type of conference, it was a deep, abiding assurance that God is there. He knows. He cares. His grace is sufficient for every single second. It was, as John Piper stated, a reminder to look beyond the causality of disability and focus on the sovereignty of God. Krista Horning, another speaker, gave an incredibly moving testimony. She spoke with the title "How I live with Disability" by reminding us that disability lies, but God tells the truth. It was a powerful message that will be available on the internet in a few days when Desiring God puts up the link for the conference on their website.

I am still processing the conference information, re-reading my notes, and seeking God for wisdom in figuring out this thing called grief and how to walk through this season of sorrow, trying to learn what 2 Corinthians 6:10 means when it says we can be "sorrowful yet always rejoicing..." I believe there is comfort in knowing there is a sovereign God who has a plan, who sees meaning and purpose in suffering, and who can make beauty from ashes. (Isaiah 61:3)

One of the conference speakers pointed out that although God asks questions, He doesn't ask them in order to get an answer. After all, God is all-knowing. God asks questions to reveal the heart. He also doesn't always give an answer to our questions,either, because He is the answer. I wonder if God hears me crying "I need You now" instead of my question "What for?" and "Why?"


Monday, October 29, 2012

I want my life back

Having a public blog is risky not only in terms of privacy, but in terms of vulnerability. I debated for more than a week about posting this particular entry. For whatever reason, I don't like it. I'm not comfortable with it. I don't like revealing this part of me. But this is real. This is grief. And it is what it is. Last week was a struggle, revisiting anger. Yet I knew I was doing exactly what the GriefShare daily email (Day 76) said. I was putting all my energy into my anger to avoid a torrent of tears.  I wrote the following paragraph when I was angry.

I want my life back. The one before my son died. I want my health back. I don't want this new "normal." I hate that word. Normal. There's nothing normal about the death of your child. I'm mad and I'm sick of being in pain all day every day. I'm ticked off because I can count on one hand how many times I've had a decent night's sleep in the past 15 months. I'm sick of having to push memories of Matt out of my mind in order to function and "carry on" with life. I'm angry that I can't look at his pictures because it's too painful. I'm angry that hardly anyone talks about my son or shares a memory of him with us. I'm angry that the rest of my children have to grow up without their brother. I'm angry that yet another month has gone by. I hate that my son is a part of my past. I hate that there's not a damn thing I can do about it. Grief really, really sucks and being angry is a really crummy place to be.

Anger takes a lot of energy. Energy isn't something I have an abundance of, however. The moments (or days) in which my grief and sorrow are transposed with anger are hard days. I mentally beat upon God's chest, falling back into asking why, but eventually collapsing into His arms in tears and exhaustion. The very person I direct my anger at is also the only person who can bring me comfort, healing, and truth. "Whom have I in heaven but you?"(Psalm 73:25) Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?(Psalm 139:7) I don't (and never will this side of Heaven) understand God's ways. BUT. But thanks be to God, I don't have to. Because GOD is GOD. He is good. He is love. He is righteous. He is just. He is who He says He is. I will trust in Him and lean not on my own understanding.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding."

(Prov. 3:5) 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I didn't see that one coming

Got knocked over by a wave of grief last week. Wasn't pretty. I was just standing there looking at the beautiful sky one instant and the next I'm picking myself up, coughing and spitting out sea water. This grief thing still sucks. It may be easier to function and carry on with routine, but an undercurrent can pull your feet out from under you without warning at any given second. There is simply no rhyme or reason and no preparing for those moments.

David, our exchange student, came home from school last week and announced that he would like to go through the graduation ceremony for the seniors. Wham. Tidal wave. Woman down.

While he doesn't officially get a diploma from the high school, he can participate in the ceremony, order a cap and gown, and buy a class ring if he so desires. I got the wind knocked right out of me. I so didn't see that one coming. We had been told before even getting the approval to host an exchange student that they wouldn't be allowed to graduate here in the U.S., so it never occured to us that he would want to participate.

And now I am utterly torn. One part of me can't fathom going through the whole graduation thing because it's supposed to be my son doing all these things this year. It's supposed to be Matt. But it's not. And it never will be. It's the ugly, horrible reality. Another part of me, however, can't imagine not being there for David. He has become like a son to us in just these few short weeks. I don't want him to be all alone as he experiences the thrill of such a memorable American custom. I want to be there for him, to show him our support and share in his excitement. Oh, God, how do I do this? How do I get through this?

I think I know the answer, though. It's by leaning hard on God, doing the tough things, but always, always remembering that this world is not our home. This is not where we belong. And most importantly, remembering that my son IS alive. He is alive in Heaven where, someday, we will be reunited.  

“Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Martha, do you believe this?” 
(John 11:26)

I am, in many ways, much like Martha. Always doing, always thinking that the things of this world are so important. Always looking at what others are or aren't doing. But the truth is, staying focused on Jesus is really the only way I'm ever going to get through this. It's the only way I will find the perseverence, the strength, and the faith to continue until I am finally home. Home in Heaven where God intended all along. Home where His plan is finally fulfilled, completed and perfect.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Mark Schultz--Anita Renfroe concert

I had the opportunity to attend a Mark Schultz--Anita Renfroe concert last night, and it was great. I was bummed when I realized I forgot my camera, but then thought, "Hey. They're Christians. I'll see them in Heaven and talk to them forever." Seriously. I thought that. It's just one way the death of my child has changed my thinking. It's not always a bad thing to change your thinking! Do what you gotta do here, but keep it on eternity, baby. Remember, this is not where we belong.

I think it's somewhat similar to a runner's mentality. Their mind is always focused on the goal. The route they run matters, but their feet are always headed toward the finish line. I have no idea why I used a runner's analogy, either, because I do not run. Ever. In fact, I avoid anything that could possibly result in perspiration. But it works. Run with it. (Sorry. Couldn't resist the pun.)

I'm working at finding purpose and not running aimlessly. I'm realizing that the course I run matters. It is all about getting to the finish line, but the race you run before you get there matters. Since Matt died, I've been wondering what's the point and what does it matter? The LORD's been showing me that it does matter. If you don't stay focused on the goal, you'll run off course. God wants us to finish the race and finish it well. If you don't run well, the finish isn't satisfying. Who doesn't want to be satisfied????

I'm keeping my eyes on the goal, but learning to look at the path ahead of me, watching out for hazards along the way. I'm remembering that, while the goal is what I'm aiming for, the race from start to finish has some redeeming qualities as well. But only if I look for them. Only if I turn my head every so often and look for the beauty along the way. I want to get to the end and be satisfied.

"...Run in such a way as to get the not run 
like a man running aimlessly; not fight like a man beating the air."

 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
(2 Tim. 4:7)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

When Will My Life Not Suck?

I'm reading the book by Ramon Presson titled, "When Will My Life Not Suck?" with the subtitle "Authentic Hope for the Disillusioned." I am only on the introduction and already blown away! I mentioned the book in a previous post and was sweetly surprised and blessed when a generous and thoughtful friend asked if she could get it for me. I have no doubt the LORD has some things to say to me through this book.

I guess you could say I've been in a "funk" lately. As if grief doesn't mess with you enough, I also know that the physical pain from this herniated disk contributes to my thought processes and frame of mind. And not in a good way, I might add.

While reading page two of the introduction to Presson's book, I nodded in agreement with several paragraphs. If the introduction is any indication of how the rest of the book is going to be, it's going to be great. The author is funny, candid, and profound, as well as God-centered.

I identify with Presson when he says:

"But life often feels more like a roller-coaster ride--slow climbs, sudden falls, jerky turns, and someone else in control of the whole brain-jarring romp. When my life feels like a roller-coaster ride, I want to get off. I want to know, along with countless others, when is this going to be over? When will my life not suck? 
But it is into the very middle of our twisting, turning, roller-coaster lives that God comes. It is into the ecstasies and agonies of our story that the Bible speaks. The apostle Paul said that if we only have hope for this life, with no legitimate hope of heaven, we are to be exceedingly pitied. But I believe that the converse is also true--if the only hope we have is the afterlife, then we get close to Camus's assertion that the only question man must concern himself with is whether or not to commit suicide. If the only meaning and purpose is to be found through the portal of death, then why even bother with life?"

Wow. How did he know the debate going on in my head for the past several weeks??? For sure, the loss of a loved one leaves you with more questions than answers. Having additional physical pain factored into the equation of grief has left me questioning more along the line of Camus' assertion...and coming up likewise with the wrong answer. 

I know enough of God's truth to know that He isn't all about our happiness. But He doesn't take pleasure in seeing us miserable, either. He's all about our holiness. He desires, as His Word says, that we have an abundant life, a life that transforms more and more into His image. Satan would like nothing more than to see a believer reflect poorly of God. If he can't get us to doubt God or believe lies, then he will aim next at crippling us, seeking to make us powerless and ineffective.

I almost fell for it, too. Only God spoke. On page two. When will my life not suck? I don't know, but the author has already pounded a stake in the ground with an arrow pointing in the right direction. I'm following the way to hope, taking comfort in knowing there are others who've made it through.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Streams in the Desert Devotional poems

The following poem is from the Oct. 6 entry. Such a good reminder to remember Christ when tempted by grief in thinking you're alone in suffering.

"Before you" He trod all the path of woe,
He took the sharp thrusts with His head bent low.
He knew deepest sorrow and pain and grief,
He knew long endurance without relief,
He took all the bitter from death's deep cup,
He kept not a blood-drop but gave all up.
"Before you" and for you, He won the fight
To bring you to glory and realms of light.

This one is from the Oct. 7 entry. Another good reminder when grief weary that there is hope, there is an end.

"Hold on, my heart, in thy believing--
The steadfast only wins the crown;
He who, when stormy winds are heaving,
Parts with its anchor, shall go down;
But he who Jesus holds through all,
Shall stand, though Heaven and earth should fall.

"Hold out! There comes an end to sorrow;
Hope from the dust shall conquering rise;
The storm foretells a summer's morrow;
The Cross points on to Paradise;
The Father reigneth! cease all doubt;
Hold on, my heart, hold on, hold out."

Sunday, October 7, 2012


It's been a hard weekend. David, our exchange student, brought home an envelope from school on Friday addressed to "Seniors and Parents/Guardians of Seniors." I opened it up, glancing at the enclosed information about measuring for graduation caps and gowns, graduation photos, and yearbooks. Thus began a downward spiral for the rest of the weekend. Grief still sucks.

The reminders of what would (I want to say should) have been are far less in frequency, but just as painful as ever. I know that sleeplessness and dealing with this herniated disk/back pain only compound the emotions. In some ways I feel trapped by grief, like being stuck in the middle of an intersection. I know I have to move forward, yet I don't want to leave my son behind.

I think of him every single day, and I have recovered enough to regain routine and daily living. However, I've discovered that I only seem to do that best when I don't look at Matt's things or pictures. But what horrible, horrendous guilt I have in doing that!

Most of Matt's things are put away, but the cold weather this weekend brought out the boxes of winter clothes, which means seeing Matt's younger brother wearing his hand-me-downs. It is so very bittersweet. And while it is difficult for me to see, I know that his younger brother loves wearing Matt's stuff because it makes him feel close to his big brother. I certainly am not going to deny him that. It brings me comfort knowing that his siblings are thinking of him.

I wish there were other mothers to talk to about all this because I don't know if what I'm feeling and thinking is normal or not. I question if maybe it's because our loss is so fresh, and I wonder, hoping that it won't always be like this.

I am glad the weekend is over. It's time to get out of the intersection. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

God's grace

I continue to receive the GriefShare daily emails and find them still to be helpful, for the most part. It is different reading them now, however. The pain isn't like it was 14 months ago. The grief is most certainly still there, but it has changed in form. I'd say it's sort of like looking through different eyeglass lenses. The landscape of loss and life appear radically different than a year ago when reading the devotions through the thick haze of excruciating pain.

I have seen, and experienced, an abundance of God's grace this last year. I look back and literally shake my head when I think of how we have survived such a devastating loss and I don't at all doubt that God gives grace. But. But I struggle. I struggle (read that as "argue") with certain statements. Statements like Romans 5:3 that say "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance..." Really? I have to be honest and say that I don't glory in my sufferings. And I certainly would disagree and say that I have had enough perseverance, thank you very much. 

I have been dealing with sciatic nerve pain due to a herniated disk in my lower back since April. While back pain may seem unrelated to grief, it is similar in many ways. Daily, incessant physical pain is not something one ever quite forgets. One might be able to "put it aside" for a brief time and actually function to some degree, but the pain is always there, unpredictable in when it will return or flare up, much like the ambush of emotional pain related to grief. The temptation to kill physical pain is no different than the temptation to kill emotional pain, either.

So here I sit, blogging at 1:00am, tired and in pain with an ice pack placed strategically between the computer chair and my back. Ibuprofen is not an option because a cortisone shot is scheduled for early afternoon. But this lack of sleep leaves me wondering, "Where is God's grace?" I need sleep. I need relief. Is this herniated disk really producing perseverance? How can the death of my son "work together for good?" (Again, Romans) I don't get it. I don't understand suffering.

As I sat down at the computer with the ice pack, I checked my email, which is when I came across the GriefShare devotion from Day 49. The devotions always end with different resources highlighted at the end of them. What caught my eye was the title of the recommended book from the GriefShare HelpCenter. It was a book titled, "When Will My Life Not Suck? Authentic Hope for the Disillusioned." 

Obviously, that's a title a person in pain is intrigued by! I pulled up another browser for Amazon's website and typed in the title. I was hoping to find a "click to look inside" tab. I wasn't disappointed. I read all of the pages it would allow one to read and I now have yet another book on the wishlist. The author writes well and honestly. He makes reference to the Apostle Paul, and Paul's candidness about his struggles. I can identify. If there is one thing about this grief journey, and about my life, that I want people to know, it's that believers' lives are not about being perfect. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. It is all about God's grace, God's forgiveness, His character, and the completed work of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross. Through those things, we are being perfected.

I strive to blog truthfully, acknowledging that I fall daily into sin, but knowing all the while that my GOD loves me, forgives me, and is always extending grace. I may not feel it, but I can rest in knowing it.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


The loss of a loved one changes you. There is no escaping it. I think one of the most identifiable ways in which it does is in your thinking, your perspective, the way you see things after your loss. All those things you once thought were such priorities and so important, really aren't. They become so much less.

Yet there is a flip side. Priorities become focused, clear-cut. The brevity of life hangs at the forefront of your mind like a flashing neon sign. Things like blogging about my day, laundry hanging on the line, and getting items checked off the "to-do" list just seem so trivial now. Grief makes you realize those things were just cheap imitations of joy. Not that those things don't still bring me satisfaction or cause me to smile, but I now recognize that they are shallow in the joy they provide. They fail to reach the heart.

In contrast, meditating on the promises of God, seeing the smiles and laughter from my children, and hearing them converse with one another from the back of the van while I'm driving are now sources of deep, abiding joy. These things were certainly there before the loss of our son, but I failed to grasp how deeply they went. I agree completely with the following quote: "People say you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Truth is, you knew what you had, you just never thought you’d lose it."

The shift in thinking caused by grief changes many things. Thankfully, not all the changes are bad. For one thing, I'm much quicker to forgive and move on. As the psalmist says, "You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath." Life is short and I'm more resolved than ever not to waste what precious time there is in being bitter. Secondly, thoughts of eternity are ever-present. Almost everything I see now is filtered through the lens of Heaven. Troubles, frustrations, temptations, and the stresses of daily life are tempered in the light of eternity. I don't fret about stuff like I used to. Many things that used to be "big deals" aren't anymore. I just wish the catalyst for these changes hadn't been the loss of my 16yo. son.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More signs of healing

PT (a.k.a. grief) continues, but there are signs of progress.
  • Drama boy doesn't talk about his imaginary friend Jerry every day anymore. 
  • Drama boy no longer asks "When are we gonna get Dad's silver van back?"
  • Household tasks are becoming more and more routine, like baking bread and planning the menu.
  • I'm able to laugh again and feel excitement.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

I miss

I miss seeing your big hands. I miss cutting your hair. I miss seeing the way you walked through the house with heavy footsteps, taking long strides as you went. I miss your deep, quiet voice. I miss seeing you sit in the exact middle of the couch, in the crack of the cushions with Miss Toshiba on your lap. I miss seeing that rare smirk. I miss seeing you sitting behind the sound board at church. I miss hearing the cereal cupboard door opening at 10:30pm each night. I miss hearing you chuckle as you watched "The Office" and "Everybody Loves Raymond." I miss seeing your dark brown eyes, those "chocolate Hershey kisses" of yours. I miss you.
Love, mom


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I wonder

My heart hurts this morning. No rhyme or reason to these twists and turns of the grief roller coaster. This morning, it is pictures that set my heart vibrating with pain. I wonder if I will always look at pictures and think, "We're not all there." Then I wonder, "Am I the only one that notices?" To those on the outside, do they know that my son is gone? Of course not. To others, we look whole. They have no idea that one of my children is missing.

Friends' FB posts of their family photos, wedding occasions, graduations, and other momentous events are blaring reminders that our family memories will never, ever again be complete. It is a unique hurt. I certainly do not begrudge others those precious moments, and I must remember, too, that I was blessed to have sixteen years of memories together. Yet, who wouldn't wish for more?

In these moments when the pain flares up, I lament honestly to the LORD and take refuge in Him. I am so thankful for the book of Psalms because it reveals a true picture of how we are to respond and what we are to do with our pain. God invites us to be real with Him, to turn to Him when the pain is unbearable. I have said before that losing a child is like becoming an amputee, and last night I came across this quote by C.S. Lewis in which he expresses the same sentiment.

“Getting over it so soon? But the words are ambiguous. To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he’s had his leg off is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has ‘got over it.’ But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed. All sorts of pleasures and activities that he once took for granted will have to be simply written off. Duties too. At present I am learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again.”
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

This second year of grieving is so very different from the first. The first year is, in a word, horrifying. Losing a child suddenly without warning is, again, like experiencing an amputation. Christopher Moore says, “There's a fine edge to new grief, it severs nerves, disconnects reality--there's mercy in a sharp blade. Only with time, as the edge wears, does the real ache begin.” I think it's a fitting description of the second year of the grief journey. Now the reality of the severed limb has set in and the difficult work of rehabilitation is a conscious, daily effort. There are assuredly days of physical therapy that go better than others, days in which the recovery doesn't seem quite as much of a struggle. Finding the strength to do the work is exhausting at best. Unfortunately, the "bad" days simply leave one discouraged, hopeless, and utterly without strength or motivation to go on, "...but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ", it is possible to get through them. (1 Cor. 15:57) "This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.  (Lamentations 3:21-25)


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Signs of healing

The GriefShare daily emails continue to be helpful. I read this one the other day and decided I needed to list the few "signs of daybreak" that I have seen.

Grief Can Feel Unending
Day 29
You feel as though you've been in this pit, this dark tunnel, on this roller-coaster ride, far too long. Will this grief never end?

"There is no microwave healing. There's no way you can just zap it, and you're better. God's healing takes time, but morning will come," says Barbara Johnson.

What signs of daybreak do you see in your life? If you are walking blindly in the darkness of despair, look to the God of light to show you the way.

"Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).

Lord Jesus, sometimes I feel like my grief will never end. Show me patches of sunlight in my life today that will spur me on with a healing hope. Amen.

  • I am planning a menu on a somewhat fairly regular basis again.
  • The two youngest boys are sleeping consistently through the night again.
  • I am wearing make-up most days.
  • The times of crying are less, shorter, and further apart. (It doesn't mean I miss my son any less or don't still grieve, but the pain has changed. In the beginning, it's a consuming fire; a hot, molten-lava type of pain. Now it is a profound sadness. Just as deep, but changed in form.)
While that may not seem like much, it truly is. Healing happens almost so slowly that it seems unnoticeable. I am learning to appreciate the little steps forward, no matter how small. It still amazes me to look back and see how far we've come. Of course, we didn't do this alone, that's for sure. GOD has carried us every step of the way, and the prayers of many have upheld us unaware on many a day. Thanking God for His goodness, mercy, and love.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dear Matt

Yesterday I washed your hand-prints off the ceiling in your bedroom from when your loft bed was there. I guess it was time. I cried a little bit, but I also knew the truth. You aren't coming back. Instead, some day we will join you. It made me sad knowing that we are separated for an unknown amount of time, but also reminded me again of reality. The reality is, nothing in this world will last forever. The only thing we have for certain is eternity...and we only have that if we have Jesus. I can't imagine bearing this grief without the hope that the Bible says is ours if we belong to God.

 "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, 
or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 
We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God 
will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 
According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, 
who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede 
those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, 
with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel 
and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together 
with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. 
And so we will be with the Lord forever. 
Therefore encourage each other with these words." (1 Thess. 4:13-18)

I am encouraged by those words. I am thankful that God continues to remind (and reveal) to us how very much He loves us.

Your sisters, Matt, moved out of your bedroom last week to make room for David, a Brazilian foreign exchange student that I'm sure you saw God drop right in our laps. :) David is most certainly not a replacement or a substitute for you, but a new life and a new beginning that the LORD undoubtedly led us to. I think you would like him. He's quiet like you. But unlike you, he smiles a lot and doesn't mind getting his picture taken. :)

My heart continues to ache, Matt, longing for you. But I am encouraged and comforted with the truth. I love you, my son.
Love, mom

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Grief is a disability

I am reading a book by John Piper titled, "Disability and the Sovereign Goodness of God." It's a short, free e-book I downloaded. It was a good read, and I was struck by several similarities between the death of a child and having a child with disabilities. In some respects, they are parallel griefs. One quote in particular by John Knight, whom Piper interviews in the book, resonates soundly with me. Knight says, "And disability is hard in every conceivable juncture of life. I don't get to not live with it or not live with disease in my wife. I have to live with it." (He is referencing his wife's cancer and his son's profound disabilities.)

This is so exactly how I feel about the death of my son. It is "hard in every conceivable juncture of life." I don't get to not live with the fact that my teenage son is no longer here. He died. I have to live with it. It is a hard reality. Yet another reality, a comforting one, is the truth of God's word. Another quote I agree with from the book says,  "One of the reasons I believe the Bible and love the Bible is because it deals with the hardest issues in life. It doesn’t sweep painful things under the rug — or complex things or confusing things or provoking things or shocking things or controversial things" (p. 7).

As I continue to struggle with the painful moments and reminders of what will never be, I take refuge in His Word, clinging to the buoy of hope, staying afloat through His promises. Heb. 6:19, "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast..." I will not sink, though the waters overwhelm at times, because my hope is built on the solid rock. This reminds me of why I love the hymns, because of the truth they speak.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

So when the way is dark and my faith is weak, it is God's Word that takes my hand and guides me along. In a GriefShare daily email, Dr. Robert Jeffress says, "Going through grief is like going through a tunnel. The bad news is the tunnel is dark. The good news is that once you enter into that tunnel, you are already on your way out." I have to add an important truth to this. You are not in that tunnel alone, groping and feeling your way aimlessly along. The LORD is there, patiently and tenderly guiding you through it. "When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer." (Corrie Ten Boom)


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Marriage and grief

Grief has so many dimensions and dynamics. It is unique to each and every person. One's response to grief can never be anticipated. When I look back to the moment we learned of Matt's death, I will never forget how I froze, trapped in a chasm of disbelief, my brain failing to register reality. I will never forget seeing my husband throw the phone across the front seat to our neighbor, sounding as if he was hyperventilating, simultaneously screaming “NO!” as he scrambled frantically to throw open the front passenger car door. I remember seeing him stumble, then fall sprawled out onto the grass area of the Kwik Trip parking lot, letting out an inexplicable cry, a cry from the depth of his soul that I have since heard referred to as “the death cry.” I always thought I would be the emotionally expressive one, but instead I just shut down. (Let's be honest, as parents there are unspoken moments where we allow our imaginations to pick up the Pictionary “this is what I'd do if my child died” card, drawing the scene in our minds.) This was so not the way I pictured it.

I don't think anyone acts the way they think they'll act at the moment of their loss, at least not if it's sudden and unexpected. Yet, putting themselves in the grieving person's place, there are people who persist in their pre-conceived notions and expectations of how the bereaved should behave. The truth is, grief is irrational. Grief makes people do things they'd never do and say things they'd never say. One eye-opening lesson I've learned in this season of grief is not to judge and not to assume. Grief results in humility and grace if one is willing to learn its lessons.

Quite unbeknownst to me at first, respect was another lesson of grief. My Dh and I knew immediately, and without a doubt, that we were going to handle the death of our son very differently. And we knew that was o.k. We respected one another's different response to our loss almost instinctively. We acknowledged that it was going to require allowing each other to express our grief uniquely, individually. I believe the fact that we recognized that necessity is one of the reasons our marriage has grown stronger.

Grief invades every facet of our life. It has required open communication, patience, and understanding in our marriage. I have seen a side of my husband that I admire more than words can say. He is amazing and has been more than patient and understanding as I have struggled with numerous health issues since Matt died. An aspect rarely shared or discussed in regards to grief is it's effect on marital intimacy. One GriefShare video addresses the topic of marital relations after the loss of a child and, although we found it helpful that they explained the differing thought processes that wives and husbands have when it comes to connecting intimately in the marriage bed, it was very brief.

Still dealing with grief one year later, we know that some days we aren't always going to be on the same page. He might be having a good day, while I am struggling, or vice-versa. But we've worked hard at respecting and being sensitive to each other's grief journey.

As we move forward together through this season of sorrow, we continue to redefine our “new normal.” In many respects, I feel like the work has only just begun. Yet as I look back to over a year ago, I know we have come so far. Doing the hard work of grieving, lamenting to the LORD, and being honest about our grief has played a huge part in determining and shaping our healing.

My Dh and I have experienced one of the most devastating events that a marriage can undergo. Thankfully, we both chose to turn to the LORD in response to it. Our choice in reaching out to God reminds me of what our Pastor said during our marriage counseling. He stated that marriage is a bit like a triangle with three people: you, your spouse, and God. You and your spouse are at the bottom of the triangle, one on each side, and God is at the top. As each of you grows closer in your walk with the Lord, you grow closer to one another. That analogy has always stuck with me. “...A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Eccesiastes 4:12) My God is who He says He is, and I am immensely grateful for my husband and my marriage.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Even if by Kutless

THIS is how you get through the loss/death of your child...believing the truth of God, of who He is. Circumstances do NOT dictate God's character. He loves you. He loves me. Remember the TRUTH.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

SEE BY FAITH - an UpWords devotion from Max Lucado

On the wall of a concentration camp, a prisoner had carved the following words:

“I believe in the sun, even though it doesn’t shine.

I believe in love, even when it isn’t shown.

I believe in God, even when he doesn’t speak.”

What hand could have cut such a conviction? What eyes could have seen good in such horror? There’s only one answer: Eyes that chose to see the unseen.

Paul wrote in 2nd Corinthians 4:18: “We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will only last a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever.”

We can see either the hurt or the Healer.

Mark it down. God knows you and I are blind. He knows living by faith and not by sight doesn’t come naturally. He will help us. Accept his help.

Either live by the facts or see by faith!

From Cast of Characters


Saturday, August 25, 2012

More phantom pains

So this would have been the year Matt graduated. Lord willing, anyway. (He was an incredibly smart kid, but chose not to use his smarts in certain classes. Like English. Which he failed the last quarter of his sophomore year. Which is why I say Lord willing.)

Anyway - here it is near the end of August. Another school year is gearing up, and I have already read two FB friends' posts about how their child will be graduating this year and how graduation party planning is in the works. Honestly, I know the posts are completely innocent. They have no intention whatsoever of causing pain. In fact, I'm absolutely sure I'm not even on their radar when they make references of this kind. I realize this. BUT. But it hurts. I am truly happy for them and rejoice with them. BUT IT HURTS. It feels like I've been unintentionally, accidentally bumped into, right at the spot of amputation. It sets off reverberating ripples of phantom pains.

I don't want to deal with this for the next year, and it's only going to get worse as May and graduations draw near, in my opinion. I also know, Lord willing, that I will get to experience graduations, etc., with our other kids, but the truth remains. Not with Matt. But it is what it is. It's part of life and it's a part of grief. I just remind myself to take a deep breath, remember that my son is alive in Heaven, and that ultimately, these momentary "joys" on this earth are just that. Momentary joys. There is greater joy waiting. Much greater joy.
Permanent and everlasting joy. Hallelujah.

Friday, August 24, 2012

When the ride evens out a bit

Thirteen months on this ride. Because the roller coaster's twists and turns aren't quite as wicked, and the ups and downs aren't as steep at thirteen months, it at least allows you to open your eyes and bravely take a look around. The nauseated feeling in the pit of my stomach is no longer a constant. While I still want off grief's ride, it's not over yet. But at moments when the ride slows, there are times I can open my eyes and catch a view of the things passing by.

I'm noticing beautiful things. Things like the smiles of my other children, the excitement and laughter in their voices, the plans and dreams in their hearts as I listen to them conversing from the back of the van. It's such a different perspective now. The things that used to excite me, just don't anymore. Sure, I still enjoy certain things, but the thrill, their importance, is gone. Grief will prioritize your life. That's for certain. Ask anyone who's experienced a loss and they'll tell you the same thing.

I think what surprises me most is the realization that, while there are things that bring a smile to my face, they fail to penetrate the center of my heart. Yet the joy that exists with other things is deeper, more settled, and does sink into the heart. I don't know how to explain this adequately. It's rather a mystery to me. I don't think I've figured out yet, either, if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I'm guessing it just means I no longer clutch those things because I now know that they're not as important as I once thought they were. Grief has given me discernment into the things that matter and the things that don't. At least I think it has.

Our family continues to heal on this journey through grief. We are merging back into the fast lane of life, but are content to let others pass. We have realized that merging is mandatory. We have to do life, even if we don't feel like it at times, even if we're uncertain, weak, or afraid. The flow of life's traffic is a constant. But I have determined to be content in the carpooling lane, keeping my eyes on my Chauffeur trusting God to do the navigating.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Grief? Good?

I found myself wondering recently if there is anything good about grief. I came up with two.

One, grief has strengthened my resolve to be a better mom. I have purposed in my heart to not let my son's death be in vain. One of the ways in which I see that happening is in improving my relationships with the rest of my children. My relationship with our oldest was not good, at least definitely not the last two years he was here. I yelled. A LOT. I honestly did not understand him. He was a complete enigma to me. I had, in fact, the contact information of a counselor sitting on my desk the week Matt died. I wanted so badly to have a better relationship with my son. But the opportunity here on earth is forever gone. I do believe that we would have eventually worked things out and gotten on better with one another eventually, but it is something I think I will always regret, not getting the chance to do that or see the results. We only get one chance. One. I am more convicted and convinced, too, that a lot of Matt's and my struggles were because of me. I know without a doubt, and without condemnation, that my response, and my actions, could have been so much better. I will not let my son's death not make a change for the better in me.

Two, the death of my son has left me with a longing for Heaven that would have never been there otherwise. Heaven, which is God's dwelling place, is promised for those of us who trust Jesus Christ as the LORD and Savior of our life. God's plan has always been for us to spend eternity with Him. And this world, earth, is not our home. It is but a poor reflection of our true home, Heaven, seen through the tainted eyes of sin, sickness, and death. Before the loss of my child, my thoughts about Heaven were pretty vague, more along the lines of, "Yeah. It'll be neat." But truthfully, there was no deep burning desire to really go there, no excited anticipation. Just more of a ho-hum, matter-of-fact, "won't that be nice" attitude. I can say with assurance that not a day goes by without thinking of my son, and neither does a day go by now that I also don't think about being in Heaven and living on the new earth, one without death, sorrow, crying, or pain. Eternity without sin, accidents, or sickness. Eternity with God the Father and Jesus His Son, who died for us, so that we might live forever with Him. Amen!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Rehab session

Let's be honest. Rehab sucks. It's hard. It's exhausting. It's physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually draining. I went with a friend yesterday to pick up her boys from Trout Lake Camp. I wasn't "watching where I was going" and got hit by a multitude of thoughts once we got there. For one thing, it didn't occur to me until I stepped out of the van that the last time I was there was in May when our family spent a few days together there to remember Matt's birthday. Then I looked around and saw countless teenage counselors holding up cabin signs for their young crew to locate their assigned groups. All those teenagers. My heart started to shake. I drew a deep breath, squared my shoulders, pushed the thoughts of teenagers out of my mind, and, with determined focus, set about collecting the boys' things.

We loaded in what we could, then headed up the hill for the closing ceremony. Because of the herniated disk in my lower back, I sat on the steps of a nearby cabin, watching and listening to the swarm of kids. But, as usual, alone with my thoughts in the midst of the crowd, I wistfully wondered if Matt would have volunteered to be a counselor. I guessed that he would have, and then tears began to fall as I realized we'd most likely be picking him up from camp as well if death hadn't pierced our lives. 

Now overwhelmed with emotion, I stood up and walked slowly back to the van. I realized that this was a "PT" session. I can't avoid certain situations because they're painful, and I can't avoid teenagers for the next however many years. But I allowed myself to cry without reserve in the privacy of the van. 

The GriefShare (Day 4) devotion titled, "Grief Lasts Longer Than Expected" came to mind. How perfectly fitting it was for the moment. Dr. Larry Crabb states, "The grieving process for me is not so much a matter of getting rid of the pain, but not being controlled by the pain." It's a fine line between letting yourself grieve and being stuck in grief. It takes discernment and a "eternity" perspective. It requires doing the hard work of PT, which guarantees tears and painful stretching. PT validates that the recovery process is grueling, hard fought, considerably longer than anyone anticipates, and necessitates the help of others. It is incredibly humbling and dissolves any belief that a "stiff upper lip" or will-power will be enough to get you through.

I definitely do not like PT, but I can't deny the fact that it's necessary for the recovery process. All I can say is this: I am deeply, deeply thankful that GOD is my therapist. I may stumble and fall, but He will pick me back up. He will see to it that I will walk again. Someday. And definitely not without a limp like Jacob. But with the LORD's help, I will. He's got my back. Death may be fatal, but it's definitely not final.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I am not a dam

The last several days have been a valiant attempt at holding back tears. But God gave us tears for a reason. They're not meant to be held inside, and I am not a dam.

Matt, tonight as I watched your little brothers play together on the trampoline, I wondered what you would be doing if you were here. Would you be working? Would you be on the computer? Would you be at a friend's house? Would you have been at ping pong? But wondering is what broke the dam. I just hurt so much. I miss you more than words can say.

Your dad is doing o.k. He says if he could have you back, he wouldn't, because he knows how great Heaven is. But honestly, in moments like this, I can't say that. I do want you back. I am selfish. I know Heaven is wonderful, too, but I still want you back. I want my life back, struggles with you and all, son. I ache with longing.

Recording artist Jewel has a song called "Satisfied." I heard it several times, and even downloaded it, months before you died. Looking back, I regret not heeding the lyrics and failing to take seriously the foreshadowing of your leaving. The words are true in that the sorrow of regret is a painful, excruciating state for the heart.

by Jewel
If you love somebody
You better let it out
Don't hold it back
While you're trying to figure it out
Don't be timid
Don't be afraid to hurt
Run toward the flame
Run toward the fire
Hold on for all your worth
Cause the only real pain a heart can ever know
Is the sorrow of regret
When you don't let your feelings show

So did you say it
Did you mean it
Did you lay it on the line
Did you make it count
Did you look 'em in the eye
Did they feel it
Did you say it in time
Did you say it out loud
'cause if you did hun
Then you lived some
That feeling inside
That's called satisfied

Busy people walking by
Can't help but worry some
With so many things to do
So little love gets done
Empty hearts everywhere
Drowning but dying of thirst
If you want love
It's not that tough
Start by giving it first
It's so easy to give
Baby can't you see
Just close your eyes open your heart
And do what comes naturally

Well did you say it
Did you mean it
Did you lay it on the line
Did you make it count
Did you look 'em in the eye
Did they feel it
Did you say it in time
Did you say it out loud
'cause if you did hun
Then you lived some
That feeling inside
That's called satisfied

Horses are built to run
The sun is meant to shine above
Flowers are made to bloom
And then there's us
We were born to love

[Repeat Chorus]

Yet I pray you would know, Matt, how much I love you, how much I regret certain things, how much I wish our relationship had been better, how sorry I am for not being a better mother. I can only hope and pray that Heaven allows those who are there to know that, to see that. And I trust that in the time between now and seeing you again that God would continue to hold on to me and remind me of His truths.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fits and starts

I've realized this rehabilitation/healing process isn't smooth. Go figure. I've been discovering a lot of expectations, that I didn't even know I had, aren't very realistic and are downright naive. I had expected by now to be back "in the swing of things." Household things like baking homemade bread weekly, having "normal" sleeping habits, and a return of energy and mental clarity. But I have learned from many in our GriefShare group that these sorts of things don't magically return all at once. They sort of happen in fits and starts. I am just so relieved to know that it's "normal" for those of us in the grief journey, that I am not crazy or abnormal. I am learning to re-adjust my expectations.

I've also twice now caught myself referring to our 2nd born as the "oldest." Oh, how that pains my heart! She is NOT our oldest! I shocked myself both times as soon as the words left my mouth and my ears heard them. I don't know if other bereaved parents have struggled with this, either. It is a paradox to me and I am not sure how to deal with it. It leaves me confused and feeling as if I've betrayed my firstborn.

My heart is also heavy with the knowledge that I am forgetting, that lately I can't remember certain things about Matt. Grief is a double-edged sword in that, though excruciating when it is fresh, it is because the feelings, the smells, the memories, are fresh as well. However, the other side of the sword is a bit duller in that the farther in time from grief that one goes, the "duller" the pain, but then, too, the duller the feelings, the smells, and the memories. It, again, leaves me perplexed, troubled, and deeply saddened.

Moreover, reminders of our loss persist. This week, it was the FB post regarding one of Matt's cousins who will be graduating this upcoming school year, the same as Matt would have, that brought a stab of pain as his mom posted a preview of his Senior pictures. While I am happy for them, it is a bitter pill to swallow as it's also a reminder that that's not something we get to do. Can grief make one jealous? You bet. Just yet another temptation to battle along the journey. I must, however, choose to remember that God is just. It is not unfair. The truth is, we all will have an end to our days and they are not the same for everyone. However, those 18" in getting that truth from the head to the heart seems a lot farther at times.