Just over two years ago I left one son buried in a grave, and Sunday night I left another *son at college. Two completely different griefs, yet both a grief of separation; one son separated by eternity and the distance between Heaven and earth, the other son separated by geographic location and budding adulthood. Whoever would have thought it possible to experience such grief, and yet such joy simultaneously?
My heart is in a precarious state. I wrestle with my thoughts, longing to unite my firm faith in God with my tentative trust in Him. My head knows that, as the worship song in church on Sunday stated, "He is mighty to save," but my heart and life experience knows that sometimes He doesn't. I am left with trying to reconcile those eighteen inches from my head to my heart.
It's all too easy to entertain bitter thoughts when these "milestone" moments arise. It's a temptation I wish I didn't have to face, but I wouldn't be honest if I said they didn't exist. I recognize them easily enough, and I know that they are really a choice to scorn thankfulness and a determined decision to focus on what I don't have. It's just another opportunity to choose between being bitter or better.
Has your loss made you bitter or better? Getting to a place of acceptance isn't easy, but it's necessary in order to live a life that honors your loved one's memory. I've "met" many bereaved parents online through reading their blogs. It doesn't take long to know which ones are bitter. I am sad for them. Sad because they have rejected the comfort God gives. I understand this, though. There have been many times along this journey that I, too, didn't want to be comforted and pushed His hand away. But I also know that if I stay in the corner licking my wounds, not allowing the Great Physician to do His work, it also means that healing won't happen. If I am bitter, it does not honor my son or his memory. I can't live with that option. I refuse to do that.
In grappling with bitterness I have sought to find it's remedy. Bitterness is only conquered by thankfulness. Bitterness focuses on what has been lost, but thankfulness focuses on what remains. It's not easy, either, because reminders of loss remain constant. You don't get used to your loss. You learn to live with it. You
accept it because there is no other choice. The searing pain that used
to take your breath away and knock you unconscious eventually becomes just a catch
in your throat. Scar tissue, thick and ugly, takes the place of the scab.
Giving thanks, like grief, takes work. It requires humility and transparency before God and a submission to His Sovereignty. When the hurt is overwhelming, it's not easy to do. But bitterness will never lead to healing. Bitter sees only what isn't. Better comes when we look ahead and choose to give thanks. Bitter or better? I want better.
*son - Our Brazilian exchange student who came to live with us last year and has stayed to attend college. (He was birthed in my heart.) ;)