Friday, February 28, 2014

Living in the bittersweet

Bittersweet. It is the one word that encapsulates grief well right now. I was able to, for the first time, watch a video last week with Matt in it. Not only was I able to watch a video with him in it, I watched it without ending up in a pit of grief. I watched it with a bittersweet heart. Of course, it doesn't surprise me that Matt wasn't looking at the camera or talking. That just wouldn't be him. He hated getting his picture taken, and he was a "man of few words." (Hence, the nickname Mr. Stoic.) He rarely smiled, though his best buddies always got him to smile and laugh. If an adult got him to smirk, they were doing well, indeed! I always like to say that he is like "quiet waters that run deep." He was a thinker, alright.

One of his favorite songs was Million Pieces by Newsboys. Matt's "second mom" (also my best friend) posted on his FB page this week that she had heard the song playing and thought of him. It warms my heart whenever anyone remembers him, and even more so when they share it.

Bittersweet also describes this week as I've been filling out post secondary education option (PSEO) forms for Matt's sister. Bitter because I never got to do this with Matt, but sweet because I get to do this with "Sweet Stuff." It's been more emotional than I had anticipated (bitter), but not as overwhelmingly painful as life two years ago (sweet).

Bittersweet, too, was the dream I had of Matt last night. It brought the message that he is fine and doing well. He had matured and was a responsible young man, standing amongst a group of college-aged friends. He had changed, yet not changed. Bittersweet was the moment I woke up. He spoke to me in the dream, and I replied. I heard his voice. (sweet) I saw him and stood close to him. (sweet) But then the dream ended. (bitter)

Living in the bittersweet is difficult to describe. It feels a bit like coasting. It's not exactly exhilarating, but neither is it a deep and miry pit. At the beginning of the grief journey, I just desperately wanted the steep roller coaster ride to end, the jarring ups and downs to level out. However, now that it has, I'm not entirely sure I like this "flat" section of the ride, either. It's a different sort of unsettled feeling.

One thing I know, however, is that no matter how unsettled I am, God is not. He is a strong tower, a steady rock that girds this ride. He does not change, though the course does. (Psalm 18, Hebrews 13:8) And one of these days, I, too, will be kissing my cares goodbye, no longer living in the bittersweet.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Healing will come, I promise

I don't recognize how much healing has taken place in my own journey of child loss until I meet new members of this club that no one wants to be a part of. I see their devastation, the raw pain, the incomprehensible, shell-shocked look on their faces. I look at them and instantly realize that I'm no longer back there. I ache for these bereaved parents because I know the battle ahead of them. I know the fight they're facing, the fight to somehow be made whole again. I tell them softly that healing will come, I promise. But it won't be quick, and it won't be easy. In fact, it will be the hardest thing they will ever do, healing from the loss of their child. It will take a determined choice to believe God, to find joy, and to reinvest in life again. The beginning of the journey to healing will be a second by second decision to trust God, to remember His promises, and to stay focused on eternity.

After meeting many new bereaved parents in the last several weeks, I decided to make a list representative of the healing that's taken place in me over the past two and a half years. Some signs of healing, things that I thought I would never do again, are:

sleep through the night
make meals, plan the menu, and enjoy food
notice the sounds and color of nature
find things to be thankful for
look at pictures and videos of Matt 

I no longer:
cry every day
wish I had died
need sleeping pills or alcohol to help me sleep
cringe when I hear a helicopter
find it painful to go out or to go shopping
avoid people for fear of breaking down
meditate on the "if-only's" and "what if's"
take my husband for granted by assuming he'll always be here (The widows I've met at GriefShare are proof of this.)
expect that life is a given

Healing, however, does not diminish difficult moments. I still don't sing in church. I have no explanation for it, either. I can only surmise it's because church is one of the most obvious situation where not all of my children are present. I look down the row, or behind me at the sound board where Matt would usually sit, and I still catch myself counting kids and coming up one short. It's the one place where I continue to see "whole" families, but am reminded that mine is not. We've been at our church for 20 years, so it's reasonable to me that this would still be an area of difficulty. It doesn't mean I don't worship, by any means. I worship the LORD with all my heart, in my heart, but I cannot sing from the heart. I just don't know how else to explain it.

Neither does healing imply the end of grief. It is, instead, a melding of one's life "before" loss with one's life "after" loss. Healing is the sea into which the raging river of grief empties itself. I know, most assuredly, that there will be many more times when sorrow will roll in and drag me out to sea, yet I am so thankful for the healing God has accomplished thus far. He has calmed the storm, and when it raged, He kept me safe within His arms. I pray that these newly bereaved parents will find the same God-given comfort, strength, truth, and love on this journey that we have.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Don't waste your grief

I met with a dear, lovely woman for brunch several weeks ago. She is lovely, and she is devastated. She lost her son to cancer in December. My heart drops every time I learn of a new member joining "the club no one wants to be a part of." However, meeting these shattered women and giving them hope and comfort is, I believe, what we (those of us who have "been there, done that") must do.

I could never have imagined the large number of new friends I'd make along this journey of child loss. Yet meeting new friends isn't the incentive for reaching out to these new members of the "club." It is the fulfillment of 2Corinthians 1:3-4:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

As the LORD has brought healing and comfort to us over the past 2 1/2 years, I am now able to reach out to others who are in need of that same comfort I received at the beginning of the journey. Scripture tells us that God does not waste our suffering, but instead turns our mourning into joy, our weeping into laughter, our ashes into beauty, and our spirit of heaviness into a garment of praise. God has given me the treasures of darkness (Isaiah 45:3) in grief, and I do not want to waste my sorrow.

I've been told that the honest outpouring of my grief through this blog has been a source of comfort for many. I am humbled and so very grateful to God for giving me this outlet, not only for myself, but for others. My purpose in blogging is several-fold: 1) to point people to Christ/God, 2) to be completely transparent about the reality of my loss, and 3) to give glory to God for the healing, help, hope, and comfort that only HE can give. 

The very name of my blog, however, defines that those reading it are only getting a glimpse of grief (and healing) through the "window." A window is just that - a small part of a bigger picture. Blogs, by nature, give a very one-sided view. Obviously, 95% of the time I blog, it's in the tough moments, the moments when grief overwhelms and ambushes. I'm not blogging the 95% when life is good, when routine is humming along and the "daily" is happening. I choose to show the view from this "window into grief" because I believe that without honesty in grief, there is no validity to healing. Grief is a season, however. The view from this window will change, be it ever so slowly. As diamonds are mined in the dark with great difficulty, the journey from mourning to joy is traveled with great exertion through a dark and deep valley.

With painstaking slowness the black curtain of grief rolls back, revealing a sky laden with color. The Master Artist unveils the canvas of our lives with each stroke of His brush. He sees the whole picture, and there is a reason His Sovereign hand has allowed my loss. My loss wasn't my choice, but my response to it is. We all have a choice about what to do with grief. We can be like Job's wife and say, "Curse God and die!" Or we can be like Job, who "fell to the ground and worshiped...nor did he blame God." Jason Gray has a line in his song "With Every Act of Love" that says: "God put a million, million doors in the world for His love to walk through. One of those doors is you." I want to be that door. Or rather, a wide-open window.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Where is my God?

Psalm 42
1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
 Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.
O my God, my soul is in despair within me;
Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan
And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;
All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life.
I will say to God my rock, “Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me,
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
11 Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me? 
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.

The guests had all left, and the younger boys were finally in bed. The annual Super Bowl party that we've hosted at our home now for about ten years was over. While it was fun, and we had a wonderful time spent with dear friends, I couldn't wait to go to my bedroom, shut the door, and lie on my bed and cry unhindered. I finally gave in to the tears that I'd held back for weeks. I miss my son. I ache with longing to see him, to speak to him face to face, to hear his voice.

I find myself fiercely fighting jealousy and self-pity as I read FB posts from other parents about their 18 year old. I have missed two and a half years of Matt's life. The thought made me weep all the more. These are the moments where I feel as if God is nowhere to be found. It is as if my cries fall on deaf ears to a silent and invisible God. Again, I lamented, "Why, God? Why?" The pain of losing my son inhabits the very marrow of my bones. Again, it hits anew that a part of me has died. I feel empty, and I am broken. All that's left of me is a shell.

I remain an amputee and, two and a half years later, I still reject this reality. I don't want to be a bereaved parent, and I don't want to "get used to" my loss. Yet I know that it is futile. I am fighting with my Maker. As much as we all want to think we're the ones writing our story, we're not. GOD is. He writes our story. We, however, tell it. The question for me now becomes, "How well will I tell it? Whose perspective will I use? Mine? Or God's?" My perspective is tainted. Tainted with grief and the confines of time. God's perspective is perfect and eternal.

I can't see God in these searing hours of pain, but my heart knows the truth. He is here. I desperately need God to show up, to remind me of how much He loves me. I only know of two ways He does this for me: 1) through His Word and 2) through music. When I focus on His Word I see not my loss, but Jesus. I, like Peter, can choose to look at my circumstances or look at the One who overcomes circumstances.

Jesus, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross. He didn't deny His pain. He didn't pretend it didn't exist. He kept His eyes on a future joy. He had the hope of eternity. He had the love of the Father. He chose the nails...for that some day there will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain. Only eternal life. Because He loves us.