Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Two and a half years

The half year mark hit me hard. As is typical of grief, it's the days and weeks ahead of "milestone" dates that are the most difficult. This was no exception. I wish I could say I handled it well, but I didn't. It's been almost two weeks of anger, yelling, and impatience. Like a wounded animal, I just want to be left alone to lick my wounds, and I snarl, snap, and bite at anyone who tries to help. It's also why grief is so very humbling - because it requires the wounded to not only reach out, but to accept help.

My best friend listened as I cried on her shoulder yesterday. She didn't try to fix me, make it better, or offer platitudes. She simply listened as I cried. She sacrificed the middle of her busy day to "sit in the dust and ashes" with me. I certainly haven't been easy to deal with, and I am so humbled by my friends and family who have stuck by me through the loss of my son, giving me grace and forgiveness, ever offering up prayers on my behalf to the Only One who can bring healing.

The closer the 2 1/2 year mark approached, the more I wanted to just leave, get away. But life doesn't stop when grief shows up, and there are still bills to pay and responsibilities to fulfill. I asked God to provide and somehow get us through the 29th. He is so good. He knows our needs even before we ask and provides in gracious and merciful ways. Quite unexpectedly, my husband received a generous gift card. It is enough for us to be able to get away for one night at a hotel...and that best friend?? She'll be spending the night with the kids at our house. I am eternally thankful. I was hanging by a thread on Tuesday. Looking forward to Thursday at the hotel is the hope I needed in order to hang on.

Another friend, a mom who joined "the group no one wants to be a part of" shortly after us, sent me the link to this song:

It couldn't have been more timely. Music is an incredible gift, even for those of us who aren't musically inclined! It's been as much a lifeline to me as the truth of God's word has been, perhaps because the lyrics of so many songs speak His truth as well.

Another recent song, new to me, is Michael W. Smith's "You Won't Let Go." Thanking God for the ministry of music and the reminders of His love and truth as we endure 2 1/2 years without Matt.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Stuffing grief

Ask anyone who's lost a child, and they'll tell you that grief makes no sense. Grief doesn't play by the rules. We want to put grief in a box and make it behave. Well, it doesn't. For every 100 people grieving, you have a 100 different ways to grieve. My daughter is still struggling deeply. For whatever reason, I'm not sure she ever allowed herself to express her grief. And that's the thing about grief. If you don't face the bully of grief, he will simply a ticking time bomb. He is an expert at planning attacks and an expert at waiting. It doesn't matter to him if it takes two years or ten, he'll explode eventually.

Though my husband and I have done our best to model grieving in a healthy manner over the past two years, I still feel guilty (responsible) for her struggle. I question myself wondering if I missed something, wondering if I should have tried harder to get her to talk about Matt? I hurt for her, yet I can do nothing but stand by watching her in pain. She hurts, and I hurt.

What really sucks, too, is that the resources for children and teens are pathetic. It's hard enough finding resources for adults, much less kids. It's like finding a needle in a haystack. Most sad is the fact that the resources I've found for adults have only been found through word of mouth. And of those, very precious few are from a Christian, eternity perspective. Books, too, are just as disappointing. Of the very few children's grief books available, I have yet to find one for teens.

I am, however, forever thankful to our funeral home, not only for the amazing support they gave me and my family, but for the information they provided about Children's Grief Connection and Hearts of Hope Camp. They were instrumental in helping our kids deal with their grief and in educating me and Tim about how children grieve. The volunteers and staff at Hearts of Hope camp are simply amazing, incredible people.

As frustratingly helpless as I am that I can't take away my daughter's pain, I will be relentless in finding her help. Death may have claimed one of my children, but I'll be damned if I stand by silently while grief claims another. I will continue to pray to the LORD who knows our every need. I will continue to speak the truth; that though Matt died, he is alive. I will keep reminding my girl of the hope we have in Christ, of the hope of eternity.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Weeping with those who weep

For a week now, one of our daughters has been struggling deeply. She misses her brother terribly. She asked if it was always going to be like this, if it would ever get better. She said she was afraid that she'd never stop crying. She doesn't want to go anywhere or do anything or see anybody. I remember feeling exactly that way in the beginning, as well.

I cried with her. I hurt with her. I hurt for her. I feel helpless. Helplessness is a horrible feeling, for I know there is nothing I can do; I can not take away her pain. I can, however, point her to God, who is our comforter. I can speak truth to her. I can offer what little comfort I have to her with the comfort which I myself have received. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

I told her that it wouldn't always be this painful; it will get better, but it will take a long, long time. I told her that the tears will eventually be fewer and farther between. I told her that God understands and because He understands, we can be honest with Him. (Isaiah 53:3) Then I asked her if she would like to wear my eternity necklace that has Matt's name engraved on it. She's been wearing it since. I also told her she could sleep with his blanket/comforter (the one he used to have on his bed) if she wanted, which she has. She went to GriefShare with me on Monday, as well.

All I can do is pray for her, speak God's truth to her, and give her the right tools for how to deal with her grief. She's painted this week, too. What writing is to me, painting is to her. I'm thankful she has an outlet. In the meantime, I weep with my daughter.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Living intentionally

I was reading this blog post last week and paused when I came to this question: "What were the most important events of 2013 and how did they affect me?" I realized I couldn't remember any significant events from 2013. In fact, I couldn't remember anything of 2012, either, due to the shock of losing my son, and the reason I don't recall anything of 2013 is because I was simply too busy trying to get back into life, into living.

To be sure, there were important, and even joyful, events in 2013, like birthdays and such, but recovery from grief is an agonizingly slow process. The effort it requires to get back into life is simply astounding. I look back to where I was two years ago and still can't believe I survived. But I don't want to just survive. I want to thrive. I want to overcome. Things will never be the same. I am forever changed, and my family is forever changed. We will never be the same. We will never go back to the way we were, and things will never go back to the way they were. Healing is now about moving forward and trying to define the "new" me as well as my "re-defined" family.

The loss of a child makes you question everything, most especially your purpose in life. Additionally, when your child's life ends suddenly, without warning, there's no chance to say sorry, to make amends, or say good-bye. I have enough regrets about Matt's and my relationship that I most definitely don't want any more. I can't change the past, but I can purpose to do better in the future. The death of a child is a wake-up call, a call to live intentionally.

I want to know, too, that I lived intentionally, not just over the past year, but throughout my life. I receive Ann Voskamp's emails, and the one from this Monday struck a chord, as well as the Proverbs 31 ministry email from Tuesday titled, "The God Moment That Changes Everything." (Yes, I'm back to reading!) What stood out to me was the realization that I wanted to fly again. I want joy again.

Ann talked about memorizing Scripture, specifically the book of John, through what she called "The Jesus Project." I shook my head and chuckled. John is the Precept Bible study I'm currently attending. I love when God does stuff like this, speaks to us first one way, then another, all with the same message. I believe His message to me right now is to seek joy.

(Photo from Ann's website - the Jesus Project printables)

Tuesday's email from Proverbs31 Ministries also reiterated to me that my son's death was a wake up call, and I could either shut the alarm off and go back to sleep or I could get up and get ready. This sentence from the devotional said it best: "But here’s what I’ve discovered: the effectiveness of any alarm is in direct correlation to how much you don’t want to hear it. In other words, until your desire not to hear the alarm outweighs your desire to keep sleeping—you’re not going to wake up." I can listen to what God is telling me or I can choose to ignore Him.

In the beginning, the pain of losing a child is so great, you just want to die. You search for anything that will take it away. Finding even just one thing to be thankful for seems an insurmountable task. It's why I believe it's crucial to turn to God and focus on His character, as well as find a grief support group. I truly think your very life depends on it. How you respond to your loss those first few weeks and months determine, I believe, the course of your healing.

I don't want to just survive the loss of my son, living the rest of my life never experiencing a depth of joy that equals the depth of grief that I've experienced. I have to believe that that's not what God wants, either. God is a God of intention. He never intended for death to be the end. Never. God's story has always been a life, death, life story. (This is just one of many truths GriefShare reveals in their 13 week session.) I want to live, and run, this race of life intentionally as the apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 9:24-27. God gave us Jesus, not only to redeem us, but to enable us to live a life of intention through His strength, for His glory, and by His grace.

Friday, January 3, 2014

In the new year: What I am certain of

I am certain that:

1. I will always be a bereaved mother.
As parents, our children are a part of us, and when a child dies, we lose a part of ourselves.

An amputee will always be an amputee. Limbs do not grow back, and though healing happens and joy returns, our children do not. 2 Samuel 12:23b "...I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

2. God will get me through.

He is faithful. I already have proof that He has gotten me through some pretty horrendous days, months, and years. He does not change. He will not suddenly fail me.

3. Life is short.

If loss of a loved one doesn't make you realize life is short, then I don't know what will. Less than a year ago, we also lost my grandma. She was two weeks away from her 90th birthday whereas my son was only 16yrs. old. However, Gretchen Rubin was right when she said, "The days are long, but the years are short.” They went by in the blink of an eye, like the snap of my fingers. 

4. Trials are what grow faith.

A faith that is tested and tried is a faith that grows. Yet faith does not grow bigger. It grows deeper. My faith was sincere, and I sincerely thought it was deep, but it was not deep. It's no wonder the Bible uses the analogy of trees and water when it speaks of one's life in Christ. Trees are made strong only through adversity, and roots grow longer only when forced to dig deeper by hard circumstances. Jesus tells us that He is the living water. Sorrow is the catalyst that sends us searching for eternal springs.

5. Joy and grief can coexist. Joy is not the absence of grief. It is the choice to worship and trust God in spite of it. Grief is not the absence of joy, either. Kay Warren defines it best when she says, "Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life; the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right; and the determined choice to praise God in all things."

What I am certain of in this new year is that God is with me. He loves me. He loves my family. He is faithful. He will never leave us nor forsake us. There will be hard times in this new year, but God has promised that we will have His presence and His strength to see us through. We will overcome because He has overcome. Of that, I am certain.