Friday, November 29, 2013

When you wish it would all go away

I so thought I was going to be o.k. And I was. Until Monday. Then a wave of grief came pounding over me. It threw me down. I got back up, but I was mad as hell. Sometimes I just get so tired of crying, it's easier to get mad. Only anger doesn't stay contained. It hurtles a rapid-fire succession of bullets everywhere, on anyone within it's vicinity. It impales shrapnel on innocent victims. I did what I said I would never do after Matt died. I yelled at the children. I chuckle as I write this, however, because it isn't the first time I've yelled at them during the past two years. But I realized that my anger was because I was grieving. AND IT SUCKS! It still sucks. I so desperately wanted to deny it. I wanted to deny the hurt I was feeling. I didn't want to end up lying in bed crying, sinking into the pit of despair. I was not going to let grief win this one.

In a desperate attempt to reach the surface before drowning in the sea of grief, I grabbed hold of the only tangible buoy I Christian music brings comfort like nothing else. It speaks truth and ministers to hurting souls. Music doesn't deny feelings, but allows you to give way to them. It affirms that this life hurts, but God is bigger than the pain.

I've heard this song repeatedly over the past week, and the reason I love it is because it reminds me that this pain is temporary. I may have pain right now, but there will come a day "when I wake up in a land of glory." (Big Daddy Weave - partial lyrics to Yours will Be (The Only Name)

I wanted so badly to go elsewhere this year for Thanksgiving, but this song reminded me that I have all I need. I have God's love. Everything else is icing on the cake whipped cream on the pumpkin pie. (And though we didn't go anywhere for the holiday, we were blessed in staying home by ministering to another broken family. Dessert was followed by throwing dozens of raw eggs at a board set up outside in the back yard. Thankful for eggs!)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanksgiving #3

I received an email from the facilitator of our local Compassionate Friends group this week as a reminder for our monthly meeting. She wrote (in part):

"Hello Friends,
We are poised on the brink of the holiday whirlwind.  Shoppers have started buying, decorations are up, and some are lighted.  Some of us would like to pull a quilt over our heads and wake up January 4.  Since that probably isn't feasible for most people, we will try to give you tools to help you get through the next few weeks as well as possible.  We want not only to survive, but to provide a nice holiday season for those we love who are with us, as well as time to remember and honor the ones we love who are celebrating in heaven this year." 

My first thought was, "How did she know that I wanted to pull a blanket over my head and wake up Jan. 4?" Then I quickly remembered that she's been there, done that, too. As another bereaved parent, she knows. Yet she and her husband are much, much farther down the road of grief. (20+ years, in fact.) It's exactly for this reason that I am so thankful for the Compassionate Friends group and the wonderful people we've met through it. Because of their transparency, compassion, and dedication to minister to other bereaved parents, I am able to see that life without my son is not only possible, but can be joyful and meaningful. These parents are a tremendous source of encouragement. They are people who do not limit grief to a specific amount of time and are always willing to listen as we struggle through ambushes of grief, even if those ambushes are years down the road. 

The Compassionate Friends meeting this month couldn't happen at a better time. While I have much to be thankful for, the reality is that grief and joy now coexist. Holidays are a mix of apprehension and settled assurance(joy). Apprehension because there's no dodging the bullet, the empty chair at the table remains empty. Assurance because what remains is deeply appreciated and not taken for granted.

So while I want nothing more than to pull up the covers over my head and wake up Jan. 4th, I know that's also not an option. I will look to God for strength and hope, and I know He will not disappoint. As we gather around our table for Thanksgiving, I will remember that He has been good. His grace is sufficient, and we are blessed. May your holiday be filled with comfort, peace, and joy from the One true source of all comfort, peace, and joy.

P.S. - Don't forget! The Worldwide Candle Lighting Ceremony is Sunday, December 8, 7-8pm. This is to commemorate and honor the memory of all children gone too soon.

2013 WCL logo 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Giving thanks - fake it 'til you make it

Psalm 13

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

When I had a miscarriage between my first child and second child, I clung to this psalm. I still do. Back then, however, it was easier to say, as in verse 6, that the Lord had been good to me. Though I was devastated by the loss at the time, I remember giving thanks that the miscarriage happened early in the pregnancy. In fact, it was only hours after I got the call from the clinic saying the pregnancy test results were positive that I began to bleed. It was a Friday, and I lost that baby over the weekend.

Giving thanks, however, has been so much harder to do with the loss of Matt. Thinking about the impending Thanksgiving holiday fills me with dread. Matt's absence at the dinner table is never overlooked, but it becomes glaringly obvious on special occasions. It's easy to identify with verse two of psalm 13, but not always easy to transition to the praise in verse six. Verse six forces me to call to mind what God has done, to remember that He has been good to me.

More and more I'm realizing that giving thanks not only takes intention, but sacrifice. (Heb. 13:15) I have to lay my sorrow down(sacrifice), lift up my hands, and give praise with my mouth. It means I have to take my eyes off myself, my own hurt, and see the multitude of other hurting people in this world. It means giving thanks with purpose, not for the "things" God gives, but for who He is, for what He does, and for what He has done and will do. 

It doesn't come easy when all you see is your loss, and it is exactly why it's so important to know Him. Circumstances do not dictate God's character. I may not find anything to give thanks for, but I can give thanks that He never leaves me nor forsakes me. I can give thanks that His word is true, despite what circumstances look like. And sometimes, that means you "fake it 'til you make it" because, eventually, the truth pierces the darkness and shines brilliantly.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Living well

I read a blog post this week from a mother who experienced the loss of her infant son through stillbirth. She is bitter, beyond bitter. I hurt for her because I believe that bitterness, left unchecked, will grow like a slow-spreading poison that will eventually contaminate every one of her relationships, but most especially, her relationships with her remaining children. I understand how she can be bitter, I do, and I pass no judgement on her. Families are complicated. Communication is challenging. Grief in the midst of both is an intricate, delicate dance.

Her post served to again strengthen my resolve that my son's death would not be in vain. I can ensure this by changing the way I interact with Matt's siblings. One of my deepest, most painful regrets is that I did not do this with Matt. Our relationship was beyond strained in the weeks and months before he died. In a phone conversation with my best friend just a few weeks before Matt died, I uttered words I never thought I would say in my life. I told her crying, "I just want him out of my house." It is my "dirty little secret" that Satan fires relentlessly at me in order to condemn me and to bind me in paralyzing chains of guilt.

Satan's goal is to kill and destroy, and there is no better means to accomplish it than using condemnation, guilt, and lies. If it were not for the truth of God's word, I would have surely drowned in a pool of guilt by now. GriefShare was my life preserver. The truth is that I am forgiven and, had Matt lived, we would have worked it out. I'm not proud of the way I handled things with him and, while I don't get a "do over" with him, I can commit to see that I don't make the same mistakes with his younger brothers and sisters. It is one of the best ways I know of to honor his memory and to not let his death be in vain. With God's help I will be a better parent.

Matt's second youngest sister is so much like him, though she is the extroverted, "party" version of him. It, too, can be a cause of much friction and disagreement. I realized early on after Matt died that things needed to change or she and I would possibly be headed down the same road of difficulty. I have prayed fervently for God's wisdom and help. This week, I believe I received an answer to prayer when I obtained a copy of the newly released book Love and Respect in the Family.

For several years my husband and I have benefited from applying the principles put forth in the Love and Respect study materials, and I had actually yearned many years ago for something similar that would address the same issues between parents and their children.

As soon as I got the book, I started reading the acknowledgement page (Yeah, I do read that page!) and was struck by what Emerson said about his parents being in paradise. When I am tempted to lament the loss of these temporary, joyous occasions with Matt, I need to remember this: My son is in paradise! How could I not want that for him? While I am sad for me (and for his dad and Matt's brothers and sisters) and it makes me cry, I am comforted in knowing that paradise (and reunion) awaits for all of us who have trusted and believed in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

I also have hope because God heard my prayer and is bringing beauty from ashes. He is weaving good in the midst of sorrow. I will live life well because it is yet another way to honor my son's memory and honor God. 


Friday, November 1, 2013

Removing the bandages

It's been 27 months since our son died. The past month was yet another paradigm shift in grief. I believe I finally made the transition from emotional remembering to historical remembering. It was, quite honestly, a brutal and agonizing process. It was a laying down of my loss, an acceptance that this is the way it is. It came a few weeks ago when I allowed myself to scream. With everything in me, I screamed. And with the release of that scream came surrender, the surrender to God's will; to be obedient to live fully the rest of my life here on this earth without my son.

The switch from emotional remembering of our loved ones to historical remembering is much like removing the amputee's bandages. The removal of the bandages reveals that, though the limb remains missing, healing has been attained; enough so that a surety of life is pronounced.

Removing the bandages happens only after significant healing has taken place. Healing takes time, and time to heal means waiting. It requires being under the supervision of the Great Physician. He alone knows when it's time to remove the bandages, and it requires trusting Him to know when that time is right even if we're unsure of it. I've been waiting on and hoping in Him with these words from the Psalms:

 Psalm 62
My soul waits in silence for God only;
From Him is my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold;
My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him. 
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold;
On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. 

To come to this place of acceptance doesn't mean that I don't still grieve, but that I am no longer defined by it. Though grief and joy run like parallel train tracks, I know now that there is no moving forward without letting go of the past. (The past being the event of Matt's death.) I cannot stand in the train's engine compartment while holding on to the caboose. It is the choice to either stand in the caboose, looking wistfully at the past, or to stand in the engine car looking with anticipation toward the future. It's not a denial of the past, but a gratefulness for it. It's an appreciation for the journey I've traveled and a settled confidence that I will reach the desired destination in due course. I am accepting the present, finding joy in it and cherishing it while viewing the wound as it is - scarred, but closed and no longer bleeding, yet pulsing with the blood of life.