Friday, March 28, 2014

That moment

I ran into an old client of mine last week from back in the day when I worked as a cosmetologist. I hadn't seen her in about 13 years. In just a matter of seconds, however, I was slammed against the wall by the bully Grief with just one simple punch. A jab to the gut with an innocent inquiry. "How old's Matt now?" she asked.

You'd think that after 2 1/2 years, I would get used to this, that an answer would glide smoothly off my tongue and that it would be me comforting her. Only it was that moment. The moment where you're caught off guard, where you figured you were safe because a) everyone you know already knows of your loss or b) you meet new people and you get to steer the conversation.

I stumbled backward in my mind, frantically trying to come up with something that sounded good, but the long pause before I uttered my standard response of "He'd be 18" gave me away. I croaked out my rehearsed reply anyway, but it fell flat. Then, to my surprise, I started to cry. Because I recognized something. She was actually one of those who listened. She had caught the subtle side-stepping I had done. Most people don't catch it. But she did, and instead of me comforting her, she comforted me. 

Thankfully, I found my footing quickly and stepped back into the ring. Grief rarely knocks me out any more, and I recovered well. As I left, I smiled to myself because I realized the bully Grief wasn't going to win. Not that day. Though he ambushed, he failed to drag me away or take me out. I determined that I was not going to wallow in what I had lost and reminded myself again of the truth.

 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The truth about grief

My daughter cried herself to sleep the other night. A white mountain of crumpled tissues lay on the floor beside her bed like the piles of snow outside; evidence of the blizzard of emotions that swirled relentlessly all evening long. I know the pain she feels, but I can't relieve it. I know the fight ahead of her, but I can't fight it for her. I know what she needs to believe, but I can't make her believe it.

I can, however, lift her up in prayer to the Only One who knows her heart, her pain, and her sorrow. I can validate her pain. I can comfort without words, platitudes, expectations, or lectures. I can love her unconditionally.

Grief from the death of her brother is an experience that she will revisit more than once throughout her life. I wish it wasn't so. But it is a fact. Children grieve differently than adults in that their grief comes in bits and pieces, in spurts. As their brains develop and they grow in wisdom and understanding, new layers of grief will be exposed. I trust that this is the way God has ordained it. After all, it only makes sense. They're children and, as children, they don't have the capability to handle or understand grief like an adult because they're not adults. It is a good thing, really, else they would not survive such a blow. God made their grief to occur in spurts for their protection.

As a parent, I'd give anything if I could take this away from her, but I can't. It's another layer of grief for me as I watch my daughter struggle with her own grief. It is a horrible helpless feeling. I am, however, deeply thankful for GriefShare. The videos reiterate the truth of God's word and reinforce what healthy grieving looks like.

Lesson ten from GriefShare last Monday night was a good one, though it spoke some hard truths. Speaker Paul David Tripp spoke of two lies that we tend to believe when faced with the death of a loved one. The first one is that something has been taken from you that you can't live without. The second is that there's no way out of what I'm experiencing. Wow. Hard, right? What parent wants to believe that? Our hearts scream that it just can't be true, and our minds can't fathom how. But he also went on, clarifying the first lie by the reassurance that your loved one who died is precious, but not essential to you living. He cautioned against believing the lie that God would take something essential from you. Second, though you can't change the circumstance, you can be different in the circumstance. As I've blogged about before, it's the difference between Job's answer ("Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him...") and his wife's answer ("Curse God and die!"). Our situation doesn't change; our loved ones remain gone. But we are comforted and filled with hope. We experience God's grace, strength, and peace.

I continue to hurt for my daughter, but ultimately, I know that she, like all those who grieve, must trust God with her loss. The truth about grief is harsh. None of us are exempt from the troubles of this world. (John 16:33) But the truth about God is this: He loves us with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31)

Friday, March 14, 2014

The ties that bind

Losing a child is a parent's greatest fear. This fear was realized when I lost my son, and it was realized for my bereaved mom friends when they lost their children. Our worst nightmare came true. We did lose a child. The only thing that could make it worse is losing another child. Last Friday evening, my dear friend Deb lost a second child, her 20 year old son, just 9 months after losing her 24 year old daughter. I have no words to say, except to lament with her, to mourn with her, to grieve with her and her family. Please pray for the GOD of all comfort to comfort her and her family, to grant them strength and peace. May they be reminded of His great, overwhelming love for them. May they lean hard on Him and on the truth of His word. May we be the hands and feet of Jesus for Deb and her family.

Deb is a part of our mom's group, as she calls it. (Because, really, what do we call ourselves? We don't want to be defined by our loss, so we don't call it our "bereaved moms" group even though loss of a child is exactly how each one of us got connected. We met, too, for many months doing a book study, but we don't call ourselves a book group either; because our getting together is about so much more than going through a book.) We are a group of women who know what it's like to experience a parent's greatest fear and live to tell about it. We are women who are stronger today than we could have ever possibly imagined. We are a group of women whose lives are forever changed. We are a group of women whose faith has been more shaken, yet more solid, than we ever thought possible.

I attended the funeral yesterday for Deb's son with some of the women from this "mom's group." We carpooled together, this unlikely quad. Four women about as different as the deaths that claimed their children's lives. Four women whose paths crossed only because we each have a child alive in heaven. Some might say that these friendships were the result of bad luck, but we know that's not true. They were forged by the loving hands of an Almighty God. Though we don't profess to know His reasons or even come close to understanding His purposes, we rest in knowing that He has a plan; a good, perfect, and pleasing plan.      

God's grace is always abundant and always for the moment. He granted Deb the grace to stand before hundreds of grieving people yesterday and proclaim His truth, the truth that this world is not our home, that Jesus Christ died for each one of us and has gone to prepare a place for us. 
John 14:1-3
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 
In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; 
for I go to prepare a place for you. 
If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, 
that where I am, there you may be also.

Shared sorrow is the tie that binds this amazing group of women together, but it is ultimately our faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross that unites us and gives us the hope that one day soon we will not only see our precious children, but we will see our Savior, and there will be the death of death. Until then, may we be found "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..." (Heb. 12:2)