Friday, February 20, 2015

What pain does

At the beginning of this grief journey, I think I had the idea that my sorrow would eventually be completely gone, that the pain would someday end and be done with. I thought I'd only have to deal with grief in the beginning, and then it would eventually go away. I didn't expect to be ambushed by it years later. I've been ignorant and hopeful.

However, as the years (I still can't even believe I'm using the word "years.") add up, I'm realizing it's a life-long learning process. The pain and grief now doesn't look anything like it did in the beginning. (Though it remains as profound.) And I suspect that it will be much different in twenty years than it is now, too. Perhaps what's thrown me the most is the unexpected ways in which it still shows up. Additionally, I had no idea, either, how much pain revealed one's character.

If pain has taught me anything in this grief journey, it's that I can't survive by my own sheer will power. It has caused me to rely on God. It has shown me my weakness, my powerlessness. It has taught me perseverance. It has humbled me. It has loosened my grip on this temporary world and has made me long for heaven in a way I never thought possible.

The pain of losing a child (and then continuing to live without them year after year) is indescribable. It goes to the very marrow of one's bones. Pain refuses to be ignored, drowned out, or dismissed. Pain is persistent and screams for attention until it gets it. It is unavoidable. It requires a response.

Pain, however, has a purpose. Pain tells us that things aren't right, that something is beyond our control. It begs our attention and forces us to take action, to seek relief. I've said from the beginning that there are two choices in this whole grief journey thing. We either choose to be bitter or better. I want, of course, to choose better. But that doesn't mean I'm not tempted, at times, to choose bitterness.

Though the pain of losing my son has subsided significantly from the early days, and the frequency of the "bad" days is few and far between, there are still occasional times when the "missing moments" hit hard. Really hard. Hard enough to be overwhelming and temporarily blind my mind to God's truth. In those moments, I don't always choose well. Whew. Those days are rough. I take comfort in knowing, however, that they are short-lived. Hind-sight proves that I have, indeed, gotten through days I never thought I would. I remind myself frequently that tomorrow is a new day.

The remedy for pain? I believe it lies, not in ignoring pain, but in acknowledging it. Acknowledgement means we seek not the why for our pain, but the what. What do I do with it? How do I manage it? Who do I turn to for help? I can definitely tell you what the remedy isn't. It isn't focusing on the accident, thinking about every detail of that day. It isn't reciting "could'a, should'a, would'a" or "if only" to myself. It isn't counting the losses.

The remedy involves honesty, both with oneself, with others, and with God. It requires the deliberate choice (moment by moment, day by day) to trust God even when the understanding isn't there. It calls for thankfulness. Thankfulness is the pain pump that delivers relief. And trust me, I know it doesn't come easily. I remember I couldn't find anything in the beginning to be thankful for. It was tough. But I persisted, even if it was just giving thanks for meals provided. (I could have cared less about eating, much less cooking, but having food provided for the rest of my family was, indeed, something to be thankful for.)

Shamefacedly, I admit that thankfulness does not come naturally to me. After the devastating loss of my 16yo., it was even more challenging. It has been hard-fought, but well worth it, however. Moreover, I certainly couldn't have done this without my grief mom's group. (We've done a couple book studies: Kay Warren's "Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn't Enough" and Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts.") Together, we have stepped slowly into joy and softly into thankfulness. And for every step we've taken, the joy and thankfulness have multiplied, our steps becoming more firm. The painful days are still painful, but counting the blessings, the things I'm thankful for, allows me to see God's goodness in the midst of it. Pain is the megaphone of this world, but thanking God for the simple, as well as the profound, brings me to Him. Him, whose voice is above the pain.

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