Grief is a cruel companion. There are continual reminders of our loss, and it is these reminders with which I struggle. Reminders like reading blogs of moms who are sending their sons off into the world. Or reading about how just yesterday their son was born and now their boy is a young man leaving home. There are reminders of Senior year activities such as dances, yearbook pictures, and graduation planning. I still catch myself at times thinking, "This can't be real. Surely this isn't reality." and "This has to be some sort of horrendous nightmare." Thinking about the things that will never be, however, leads to the depths of despair. It is a surefire way to end up back in the pit of the lion's den. I.can.not.go.there.
But neither can I ignore the facts. A bereaved parent is, as I see it, much like a paraplegic wheeling into a room full of able-bodied people. Try as hard as people want, the paraplegic included, they can't ignore the wheelchair or wish it away. It's a reality. Same as the death of my child.
The reminders are what make grief a constant balancing act. It's a precarious teeter-totter that falters between grief as my identity and grief as my experience. My son died. How does that not affect who I am? And how can one simply say that the death of their child was an "experience?" I get that grief cannot be one's identity, that to be "stuck" in grief is not good. I understand and know that one can not allow their child's death to be their death, the end of their life. One cannot allow grief to paralyze them, yet, in a sense, that is how grief leaves you, as a paralytic. The death of one's child is the wheelchair in which a bereaved parent must now navigate their life.
It is perplexing, is it not? It makes me think of the apostle Paul when he says, "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;...(2Cor.4:8-9) I am startled at times even when I look back and realize I have survived. And I wonder how I have, yet I already know the answer. It is God. He has sustained me, comforted me, carried me (and my family). "The Lord himself goes before you and
will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be
afraid; do not be discouraged.”
(Deut. 31:8) The LORD does all this, but it is up to me to make a conscious choice when grief throws these loss reminders at me to choose to trust God, to remember His character, and to keep His promises at the forefront of my mind. It isn't necessarily easy to do, but it is what honors God and allows healing to come.