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.