Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ten Months

Ten Months, Matt. Really? I can't help but wonder if this is the way it will always be, me counting months. And then months turning into years. I just want to pretend it never happened, that there was never an accident, and that you never died. But if I pretend that, then I'd have to deny you ever existed. And that simply isn't true. You did.

I just wish death didn't hurt so bad. The pain reverberates to my very marrow. I'm not saying that my child is the be all, end all of my existence, but the pain of losing him permeates to the very core of my being. As a Christian, I know that God is my all in all. There is no way I would get through this without my Father in Heaven, “the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121)

But this, again, is where I don't understand certain verses. Verses like 1Cor. 15:55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" Of course, I know that, ultimately, this verse is referring to the eternal victory Jesus Christ accomplished over death, but I'm thinking, “It stings all right.” If the victory has been won, then why do we still have to suffer the effects of death, the pain and hurt that separation from our loved one brings? (Don't answer that. I know the answer. Yet it doesn't change the fact that grieving and sorrow remain.)

Grieving is hard work. I never would have guessed that. Honestly. I had no clue what the grief-stricken went through. It is a struggle. It affects you, not only emotionally, but physically. It is a struggle to find the energy to do the most simple of tasks. It is a struggle to find the motivation to do anything. It is a constant battle with the mind and spirit, to stay focused on the eternal, rather than the temporal. It is a struggle to balance living in the “here and now” with the longing to be with Christ. (Phil. 1:23)

I've struggled this week with how to deal with my grief. I honestly wanted to run away. Which is, in a sense, what I did. :) We went to the farm. And instead of leaving today like planned, we are staying another couple of days. Unfortunately, Dh couldn't do that, as he has a paying job. (Thank God!) But you know what? Sometimes I think it's o.k. to run away. Just so long as you return.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Oh, God, You're so funny

So I cried out to the LORD yesterday and what do I find this morning? A blog post on my Google Reader from a gal whose blog I follow titled, "Sinking, Sinking, Saved!"

I know it's also no coincidence that I've now heard the verses "Be still and know that I am God" and "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You" several times in the past two days.

I also came across Kay Arthur's book When the Hurt Runs Deep. It looks like it would be a good read and it's only $10, but I really wanted it in Kindle edition, but it costs about $2 more!!! Argh. I also saw it for only $6 in the used section, but again, I wanted an e-version. :( Guess I will keep checking our library. ;)

On another note, Dh and I ordered the stone bench last night for the "memorial mound" we have in the front yard in honor of Matt's memory. So very tough. People only order benches because they've lost a loved one. And that is what sucks. Anyway - it will be beautiful. Gray stone, semi-circular, beveled edges, and with the inscription, "LORD, You Never Let Go." We will hopefully have it before July 29. 

Lastly, we'll be packing tomorrow for a trip to Grandma's this weekend. (I really want to say "and Grandpa's.) *sigh* Missing Grandpa, too. Looking VERY forward to getting away. Love visiting the farm. Love not having any "responsibilities" for a few days. It's a chance for me to think without the usual daily distractions. I am planning on *hopefully!* finishing the rest of the condolence Thank You cards...and if I have any time left after that, I need to start work on school planning for next year. I sure hope my expectations aren't too high!!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Got sucked out to sea big time today. The waves of grief came crashing in like a tsunami and had me a whirlpool before I knew what hit me. I hate this. I think the fact that next Tuesday is the 29th and ten months since Matt died is hitting me hard. I thought to myself, "It's actually harder now than when he died because I still have to live. I could possibly have another 40 or so more years before dying myself." I was just so utterly discouraged. I found myself wondering, "Why, God? Why do we have to live on this earth like this?" Crying on a dear friend's "cyber" shoulders, I sent her an instant message saying, "Why, oh, why, couldn't we have all died suddenly with Matt???" I just want to leave. Why are days like this so difficult? Why does God seem so far away? Why is He silent? Why is everything so hard? Why are even the simple, mundane tasks of daily life, things like menu planning, grocery shopping, and laundry just too much, too exhausting, and too overwhelming? Why does everything take SO much energy?

I laid on my bed and, though crying, couldn't make a sound. Silent tears falling, throat aching, eyes puffy, swelling shut, and my body jerking from sobs, I gave up. I gave up trying to understand and I gave up trying to fight the stupid wave. I thought back to July 29th, to standing in the hallway at St. Mary's and reminded myself of the words that came unbidden out of my mouth as I sank to the floor, my peripheral vision growing dark as the blackness rushed in before I fainted. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him."

God, help me to continue to trust You in the days ahead. Give me Your strength. Help me to rely on You and not on my own understanding. May I keep eternity in sight. May I stay my eyes on You, Lord. (Is. 26:3 "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.")

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A change in perspective

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

I struggle with certain Bible verses now. This one in particular. I can't help but question, "What about Matt's purpose? What about his hope and his future?" It was cut short. He died. What about that isn't harmful? My son died in a horrific car accident, thrown from the vehicle, though seat belted, colliding head on with a semi. These are just honest questions to a God whose plans I don't understand, questions from a grieving mother. 

I believe God is good. I know He is who He says He is, and I know circumstances do not dictate His character. But some verses I simply don't understand. The pain and suffering after the loss of a child is not, in the minds of grieving parents, a "light and momentary trouble." (2 Cor. 4:17)

I ask with the author of "Lament for a Son" the same question he does. "If creation took just six days, why does re-creation take so agonizingly long? If your conquest of primeval chaos went so quickly, why must your conquest of sin and death and suffering be so achingly slow?"

Thankfully, I don't have to understand. I take comfort in knowing that God is not offended by my questions or doubt. He is not threatened by my anger. I don't see the big picture, but God does. I once received a card with the saying, "You may not understand His purposes, but you can trust His promises." I am choosing to believe them. God says that He will never leave us nor forsake us. It says in John 3:16 "that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Jesus says He has a place prepared for us, a room in His Father's house. So while I don't understand the unfolding of this life, why it has to involve the painful realities it does, I trust the One who holds the blueprints.

My son's death has changed my perspective about this life. Again, author Nicholas Wolterstorff sums it up well. He says, "Let me try again. All these things I recognize. I remember delighting in them - trees, art, house, music, pink morning sky, work well done, flowers, books. I still delight in them. I'm still grateful. But the zest is gone. The passion is cooled, the striving quieted, the longing stilled. My attachment is loosened. No longer do I set my heart on them. I can do without them. They don't matter. Instead of rowing, I float. The joy that comes my way I savor. But the seeking, the clutching, the aiming, is gone. I don't suppose anyone on the outside notices. I go through my paces. What the world gives, I still accept. But what it promises, I no longer reach for. I've become an alien in the world, shyly touching it as if it's not mine. I don't belong any more. When someone loved leaves home, home becomes mere house."

The death of a child loosens one's grip on earth. Things that used to be so important aren't any more. A re-prioritizing has taken place. Hearing has sharpened to the things of eternity. The lyrics of so many wonderful songs come to mind because so many of them speak truth. Tim and I have clung to many of these songs because they remind us that this is not where we belong. There is a better ending for those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. God help us to remain faithful and patient while we wait for that ending.  


Ripples of grief

I hate what grief does. I never used to think twice about throwing papers away. I'm talking about the million and one scraps of paper your kids draw and color on. I always knew there'd be more the next day. Not to mention, with this many children, there's a TON of paper and drawings daily. It simply isn't feasible to keep every. single. little. piece. of artwork. But after losing a child, I now find myself thinking, "What if this is the last thing they ever draw? What if this is the last time I ever see his/her handwriting?" And I pause. I hesitate. The fear of losing another child is ever-present in the back of a bereaved parent's mind. And that sucks. And it's all Death's fault.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Salt in the wound

Of course, it being May, we're getting all the graduation invitations in the mail. You know, it really sucks. Because, for me, it's just a painful reminder that my oldest won't be graduating. Ever. And this isn't even the year Matt would have graduated. That will be next year...when two of his cousins also graduate. It sucks. (And yet, on the other hand, for other grieving parents, the lack of invites would be a painful reminder.) So what's a person to do? I suggest one consider sending a plain card saying that so and so's graduating and their family is thinking of us and realize it must be difficult. I hate this ****** roller coaster. Getting Christmas cards and letters was the same way. *sigh*

I came across a book titled "Lament for a Son." It's very short and an easy read. The author's 25yo. son died in a mountain climbing accident, and the book is comprised of his brief vignettes through grief, a personal journal of sorts. I also began reading "Heaven" by Randy Alcorn. It's a mere 560 pages. Thus far, it's powerful and highly thought-provoking. And I'm only on chapter three.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Grief lessons for those on the outside

Have you picked out a casket for your child?
Have you paid for their funeral?
Have you contemplated what you wanted on your child's headstone?
Have you driven by a cemetery and been struck by the thought that your child's body lies in there, beneath the ground?
Have you wept every single night wishing they were back, but knowing it was impossible?
Have you longed for their smell, but knowing that it is gone forever?
Have you realized that the only way you can speak about your child is in using the past tense?

I know you care.
I know you hurt for me.
I know you want to help.
I know you feel helpless.
I know you don't know what to say.
I know you don't know what to do.
I know I'm not who I was.
I know I don't make sense.
But if you haven't done any of those things, please don't tell me you understand or know how I feel.

While I know you mean well and are truly sincere, some of the most hurtful comments are the following: (And I've said them myself, btw, before I experienced such a loss, so please don't worry if you've said any of these.)
  •  I know how you feel.
  • You'll get over it.
  • It's something you never get over.
  • Children shouldn't die before their parents.
  • You have other children that love and need you.
  • You can have more children.
  • I can't imagine.
  • You need to move on.
  • They're in a better place.

Honestly, unless you have experienced the death of your own child, you don't know what I'm going through. To say "You'll get over it" implies that my grief is minimal or my loss wasn't significant. To say "It's something you never get over" is to say there is no hope and there will never be joy again. To say that children shouldn't die before their parents is a lie. The Bible is filled with many examples of children dying before their parents. This is a fallen world, and because of sin, death entered. And because of death, children die before their parents. I do have other children that need me and love me. I realize that, yet grieve the child that is no longer here. It's like telling an amputee "It's o.k., you have another arm." or "It's o.k., you have two other legs." It negates the loss. I'm not not loving my other children or appreciating that they are still here, but there is no replacement for the one that is gone. I would grieve the loss of any of my children just as deeply.

To say, "I can't imagine" is also not helpful. There is nothing productive or encouraging in that statement. There is also absolutely no timeline for grief. Each person's grief is their own. Obviously, if two months have gone by and the bereaved has not gotten out of bed or left the house, then, yes, they are probably stuck in grief and need to seek professional help. Again, telling them to "move on" implies that the loss was insignificant and should be left behind and forgotten. Moving forward, however, though painful, is acknowledging the loss and offering encouragement. Finally, while it may be true to say "They're in a better place" it is to imply that this place wasn't good enough and minimizes the longing we have for our loved one to be with us.

So what's a person to do? The one trying to comfort is "damned if you do, damned if you don't." The reality is, there's nothing you can say to make it better. Believe it or not, a hug is more powerful than you realize and will bring more healing than words. 

By far, however, the most hurtful thing anyone can do is to cease speaking about the one who is gone, not mentioning their name or reminiscing cherished memories of them. We haven't (and never will) forget that our loved one is dead! Mentioning their name does not cause more pain. In fact, it tells the bereaved that you haven't forgotten our loved one and is, in fact, very comforting. To refuse to speak of the deceased is like saying he/she never existed. Another act of great comfort is saying, "I'm thinking of you today" or "I'm praying for you" instead of, "How are you?"

Romans 12:15 says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." On days like today, Mother's Day, if you know someone who is grieving, instead of saying, "Happy Mother's Day," you might just want to tell them instead that you're praying for them and thinking of them. The same goes for their birthday, their loved one's birthday, and any other special day or holiday.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Understanding Grief....or not

I'm glad I had been forewarned through GriefShare about guilty feelings. Today I realized that, for two hours, I hadn't once thought of Matt. Made me sad and I cried, yet I knew from GriefShare that these feelings were normal. If I hadn't known this, I surely would have believed I was a horrible mother. This journey through grief is more complex than anyone could ever imagine.

The indescribable, searing pain of the first nine months has been displaced by indelible sadness. In some ways, our son's death only just now has begun to seem like reality. Dh and I will continue in another session of GriefShare, too. We are discovering that the path of sorrow continually changes as time progresses. Grief certainly doesn't end when the funeral does.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

This! Exactly.

STREAMS IN THE DESERT (Devotion from May 10)(Bolded mine)

Lie Still and Trust

"I had fainted unless...!"(Ps. 27:13)


How great is the temptation at this point! How the soul sinks, the heart grows sick, and the faith staggers under the keen trials and testings which come into our lives in times of special bereavement and suffering.

"I cannot bear up any longer, I am fainting under this providence. What shall I do? God tells me not to faint. But what can one do when he is fainting?"

What do you do when you are about to faint physically? You cannot do anything. You cease from your own doings. In your faintness, you fall upon the shoulder of some strong loved one. You lean hard. You rest. You lie still and trust.

It is so when we are tempted to faint under affliction. God's message to us is not, "Be strong and of good courage," for He knows our strength and courage have fled away. But it is that sweet word, "Be still, and know that I am God."

Hudson Taylor was so feeble in the closing months of his life that he wrote a dear friend: "I am so weak I cannot write; I cannot read my Bible; I cannot even pray. I can only lie still in God's arms like a little child, and trust."

This wondrous man of God with all his spiritual power came to a place of physical suffering and weakness where he could only lie still and trust.

And that is all God asks of you, His dear child, when you grow faint in the fierce fires of affliction. Do not try to be strong. Just be still and know that He is God, and will sustain you, and bring you through.

"God keeps His choicest cordials for our deepest faintings."

"Stay firm and let thine heart take courage" (Psa. 27:14, --After Osterwald).

Stay firm, He has not failed thee
In all the past,
And will He go and leave thee
To sink at last?
Nay, He said He will hide thee
Beneath His wing;
And sweetly there in safety
Thou mayest sing.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Our Wedding Anniversary

By the time I am done posting this entry, it will be May 8, our 19th wedding anniversary. Both Dh and I are heavy in heart. Maybe it won't make sense to anyone else, but we have always counted the years of our marriage by saying, "Well, Matt's "such and such" years old, so add two more, and that's how long we've been married." Just makes both of us cry now. It really sucks how much grief and sorrow affect areas of your life you never anticipated. We do have plans for dinner tomorrow, but decided to do something a bit different and invited some friends to join us. For whatever reason, neither of us (Tim and I) were looking forward to being alone. I think because we both know it may be difficult and are trying to stave off dark clouds of grief. Interesting how so many "special" dates are now being redefined. The past week has been incredibly exhausting emotionally. I know we are covered in prayer, however, by so many and I am unspeakably grateful.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May 2, 2012

We arrived at camp yesterday around 2pm and wouldn't you know, the very first camp staffer to greet us was a 19 year old young man named Matt. And his birthday was yesterday. I'd say that's a “God-nod” as a fellow GriefShare friend says. The next person we met was a gal whose husband died exactly two years ago on May 2. Another God-nod. Hmmm. We also played mini golf and saw the name Matthew in three different places on the “Hole-in-One” board. I don't think Matt's as far as away as we think. I, too, found myself wondering often if I was walking in the same places and steps as Matt had when he was here at camp. So very bittersweet.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The havoc that grief wreaks

I couldn't bring myself to blog last Sunday. It was the 9mo. mark since Matt's homegoing. Between the pain of it being 9mo. since losing my son and only days from what would have been his 17th birthday, I just couldn't formulate any words. The past week and the upcoming week have been dominated with thoughts of Matt's birthday, the 9mo. mark, our anniversary, and Mother's Day. Pain prevailed.

We have plans to commemorate Matt's birthday by spending it at Trout Lake Camp. (In fact, we are currently on the road now as I type.) Trout Lake was his favorite place to go and he enjoyed it immensely. Though it will be difficult, it helps to honor my son's memory in this way. It was truly God's hand at work, too, in making this happen. Trout Lake camp availability is extemely hard to come by. There are always groups in attendance, and reservations are booked far in advance with no vacancies. I had emailed them in January and, truth be told, held little hope that our plans would be realized. In fact, I hadn't even considered Trout Lake because I knew the possibility was slim to none. But after contacting several other places with no luck, I figured I had nothing to lose by asking. I was absolutely stunned when I immediately heard back from Trout Lake that, yes, they would accommodate us. How incredibly gracious of God to grant us our desire.

As we were packing and preparing to leave, I couldn't help but think that if Matt were here, I wouldn't be packing. I would have baked his cake yesterday and been frosting and decorating it today. It sucks. I grieve because there will be no more asking him what kind of cake he wants. No more buying him gifts. There will be no more pictures of him after the age of 16. I grieve because some day his younger siblings will be older than their big brother (Lord willing). There will be no prom, no graduation. We don't get to see him graduate from college. His dad and I don't get to watch him purchase his own first car. I don't get to meet his future wife or see him get married or become a father. We will never see what would have become of Matt's incredible computer skills and how that would have played out as a profession. Matt, in fact, never even got to experience the thrill of receiving his first paycheck. (We ended up getting it the day of the visitation.) We not only grieve the loss of our son, but we grieve all these other things as well. I also grieve because I don't have a choice of the verb tense used when I speak of my son. Grief sucks.

This whole past week has been spent trying to avoid the roller coaster, trying to swim back to shore. It has been exhausting. And the thing that really sucks with grief is that you're an unwilling participant. You don't get a choice. You don't get to leave or step out of the roller coaster line. You didn't sign up for this journey. You never had a clue that the death of a loved one would leave you as an amputee. The aftermath is more than you could have ever imagined. However, the amazing thing is that you are not alone. I am not alone and God has never left me. Death does not win. His victory is temporary. Hallelujah.