Friday, August 22, 2014

When you are helpless

The day after the three year anniversary of Matt's death was tough, to say the least. It felt like the fallout from a bomb detonation. I see the devastation and wreckage left behind after losing a child, and it still astounds me that we survive.

As a parent, seeing my children struggle with the loss of their brother is like watching shrapnel soar. I can't stop it, I can't dodge it, and I am powerless to save them from it. I miss my son even in my dreams. I long to hear his name spoken daily, to see his handwriting, hear his voice, and watch him walk through a room. I know what it is to ache in the very bone marrow of one's being. I know what it's like to lose a child, but I don't know what it's like to lose a brother.  I can only view their loss as a spectator, witnessing the aftermath.

However, I emphatically agree with Theologist/philosopher Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig when she says that "suffering together matters." And while her post is referring to suicide (referencing in wake of Robin Williams'), there is an astounding parallel in dealing with the grief-stricken. Stoker Bruenig says, "It made us tired, too, this constant striving, trying to get him to eat, to shower, to come sit with us. Sometimes it was easier just to let him alone, which was something we only entertained because we were so tired of trying."

One of Matt's younger sisters now struggles with deep anxiety. Before losing her brother she was a happy, highly social, and outgoing girl. She appeared to be handling the loss of her brother as well as could be expected. However, two years after the loss she suddenly "fell apart." She quit her job, refused to leave the house, and would no longer socialize with even her best friends. Panic and anxiety arose with any and all social activity.

We had been proactive, too. We went to grief camp where we threw eggs. We participated in a memorial walk. We talked about Matt. We encouraged the kids to share their feelings. I did what I could and knew to do as far as helping her deal with her grief. I took her to GriefShare, gave her Matt's blanket to sleep with, shared appropriate grief books with her, bought her a journal, and gave her a memorial necklace. But it wasn't enough. Her anxiety didn't go away.

Aside from losing a child, I think the next worst thing for a parent to experience is to watch them suffer. I wish with all my heart that I could take this away from her. When her anxiety rears it's ugly head, I hurt deeply for her. I want to fix it. I want to take it away. I want to make her better. I am angry at death. I'm angry at what the loss of her brother did to her, to us. I'm angry because I am helpless.

But helpless is not hopeless. We sought counseling as a next step. The first counselor wasn't a good fit, so we found another. Thankfully, this one is a good fit. And while there is no magical cure, there is progress. I am helpless to help my daughter, but I can, at least, give her the tools she needs to deal with her grief and anxiety. Now, I can't make her use them. But I can speak truth to her. I can continue to trust the LORD for her life. I can continue to cling to the God of hope. I can show her what it means to be real with her grief. I can encourage her friends that the best thing they can do for her is to keep inviting, even if she never says yes. That if we "suffer with" in times of sorrow, then we shall also eventually "rejoice with."

"There is no high hill but beside some deep valley.
There is no birth without a pang." - Dan Crawford

Helpless, yes. Hopeless? Not on your life. I pray that my daughter will replace the anxious thoughts in her mind with the truth of God's word. I pray that my example will point her to Jesus Christ. I pray that she will see hope.

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