Friday, March 27, 2015

Trust without borders

My (grief) mom's group met the other night, and we talked about the ways grief has changed us. Wow. Where do we even begin? Three hours didn't even start to scratch the surface! However, one of the moms mentioned the song "Oceans (Where My Feet May Fail) by Hillsong. I pulled up YouTube on my iPad, and we watched the video. I had heard the song before, but had never paid attention to the lyrics.

"Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)"

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Oh, Jesus, you're my God!

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine 

We listened to the song with tears in our eyes, each of us struck in our own way by its profound message. I wasn't aware of how much I needed to hear this reassurance of God: "You've never failed and You won't start now." And, again, I was challenged with this line: "Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders." Where my trust is without borders. Wow. I'm still chewing on this one. Let me tell you that losing a child will most definitely reveal one's issues with trust.

My cyber friend and writing mom Kara Chupp (also a grief mom) wrote a post this week that related to our mom's group discussion and resonated strongly with me. She interviewed Keri Seavey, mother to American Idol contestant Daniel Seavey. Her post is here:

It was this question in the interview that drove the nail home for me:
3) What have been some of the struggles? Dangers? Fears you've had for him going into this process?
Keri: Let me start by saying idealistically and in theory, I would never want my fears to stand in the way of opportunities and experiences that God ordains for our children. However, realistically, my son's experience with American Idol gave dormant fear a chance to sprout and grow in my heart. There are a plethora of obvious fears regarding the industry, success, and Hollywood.  When Daniel made it through his first rounds, he began doing interviews and photo shoots at a dizzying rate. When my husband and I were alone in our San Francisco hotel room after a long and crazy day after Daniel had "made it through to Hollywood" I said, "I want to put Daniel in a basket and hide him far, far away!" My husband said something in response that is simple, yet profound. He said, "This is God's doing and His grace will be sufficient." This is gritty truth with teeth that has stuck with me and continues to stabilize me when I (often) feel weak-in-the-knees and panicky.

As Matt's siblings get older, I find myself faced with a multitude of situations in which my trust in God is put to the test. To say that fear lies dormant, well, let's just say instead that it's always at bay, always on stand-by. The temptation to keep Matt's siblings at home, not allowing them to travel far away or with others at the wheel? Yeah, it's there alright. That big lump in my throat when I left Matt's younger brother at the airport last week? I cried all the way home fearing for his safety, begging God to please bring him back home safely. (Not to mention the bad weather and poor road conditions due to snow on the drive home!) And when Matt's sister signed up for a missions trip with our church youth group this coming June? I wanted to do what Keri Seavey wanted to do with her Daniel.

Oh, how I want to control the circumstances in my children's lives. How I want to avoid going where I've been before (losing a child). I don't want to be ruled by fear, but fear has a way of jumping a person, assaulting fast and furious. Before I know it, fear has thrown me into the ocean. My head knows that I need to "take captive every thought" (2 Cor. 10:5), but all I can hear is my heart beating erratically, drowning out the voice of truth. I swallow salty water and gasp for air.

Thankfully, however, God's word is stronger than the current. He who calmed the storm (Matthew 8:23) calms His child. He beckons me to come, to trust without borders. He promises sufficient (adequate for the purpose; enough) grace. He reminds me that He "...wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee." (Isaiah 26:3) Trust without borders? Every fear in this grief journey is the opportunity to do just that. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

I carry a rock

The news headlines blare death daily. They're impossible to ignore. Hearts are weighed down with grief. I wish it weren't so, but this is reality on planet earth. When a loved one is gone and all that remains are memories, the bereaved are left to wonder. We wonder at the meaning of life. We wonder how we can make our loved one's life significant, especially if that life was short. We wonder at how to comfort ourselves when the pain of their absence daily confronts us. We wonder how we can keep a sense of their presence somehow with us as year after year passes. We search for something to fill the emptiness of our aching heart.

I am a part of "The Club No One Wants To Be A Part Of," and I've learned much. I've learned some great things and some not-so-great things. I've seen some amazing and beautiful spreads at the table of shared grief. There have been many sweet displays of comfort food, too, at the table of grief. It is a potluck of choices. Any dish that brings comfort is heaped generously onto our plate. One such helping is memorial stones. 

I discovered Engravable Images back in December. I ordered ten stones so that Matt's sisters and brothers could each have one, as well as grandparents and close family friends. The stones are beautiful. Any time I see Matt's name in print, it is heartwarming. (It's also one of the reasons I got Matt's signature tattooed on my hand.) Remembrance stones are a tangible way to bring comfort to the heartache of child loss.

While my son is not physically here with me, these stones represent his continued presence in our lives. Ways in which we, as bereaved parents, can incorporate our children into our lives are precious and help us to continue moving forward and help us to hold on to hope. More and more, I find myself looking for ways to remember my son's life. We have an engraved granite bench that sits in our "memorial garden" (which is really "Matt's Mound"). I have many cardinal decorations, as well, both inside the house and out. I also have a necklace engraved with Matt's name and the scripture verse reference of Revelation 21:4. I continually look for new ideas and share them with the hope of offering comfort to other bereaved parents, as well as give ideas to the non-bereaved who may have a friend or family member they would like to help.

Another helping of comfort food is the Facebook page Treasurestones. Marcie does an amazing job. I've wanted one of these stones with Matt's name for a while, but I have yet to order one. I've seen them firsthand, however, and they are beautiful. The picture below is the stone my grief mom friend has for her son Dustin.

These memorial ideas are ways in which I draw comfort in this grief journey. Yes, I carry a rock. I no longer have the privilege of seeing my son's face or hearing his voice, but I see his name and smile.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Why I blog about grief

I read Ann Voskamp's post this week. It struck such a chord with me. She talked about the wounded and how the church, the community, and even families pretend the wounded don't exist. Oh, I so get that. I so get that. Some just want to pretend everything's o.k. because, hey, it's over now, right? There are many still that don't bring up Matt's name for fear of touching the wound. Or perhaps it's because they fear themselves hurting. I don't know their reasons. But I do know that I don't understand them.

If there's anything a grieving parent wants, it's acknowledgement. One of the greatest fears a bereaved parent lives with is the fear that our child will be forgotten. We've already lost our child. We can't bear to lose their memory. Their memory is all we have left. Please, please talk about them. Whether that child was stillborn or 48yrs. old, we want others to ask about them, to wonder about them, to dream about them with us. They existed. They were a part of us.

The problem with child loss is that it is an invisible amputation. Our nature as people is to see an amputee and wonder what happened. But with child loss, the amputation isn't obvious. And once it becomes obvious, well, then it's just plain uncomfortable. Not for us, I mean. We're used to it. But for others? Well, they don't quite know what to do or say. That uncomfortableness is one of the reasons I blog. I want to educate those who haven't "been there, done that." I still shake my head in disbelief when I hear the misinformation about grief that continues to be touted. Misinformation such as bringing up the name of our loved one will cause more pain. Nothing could be further from the truth! Or the belief that child loss results in divorce. Where do they get these so-called "facts?" In my own experience, my marriage (which was good before) became even stronger, even more richer and deeper. There is no one who understands the loss of my child better than my husband. After all, Matt was his child, too. (Yes, there are some that do end in divorce, but I suspect it's because 1) the problems were there before the loss, and/or 2) because they didn't respect the way their spouse grieved and stopped communicating.)

I blog with transparency and honesty because I want others to know how to help the grieving. I want others to know what doesn't help the grief process. So many want to help, but don't know how. I write to offer "a window into grief," hoping that if it helps just one person, then it's worth risking putting myself out there. Our story matters. It matters because somewhere out there, there is another grieving parent trying to navigate a tsunami of grief. And somewhere out there, there is a friend or a family member trying to help those parents. It doesn't matter if the loss was three months ago or thirty years ago. What matters is that it's acknowledged. It doesn't have to be something brilliant said. It can be a hug or a hand on the shoulder or a squeeze of the hand. It can be as simple as, "I'm so sorry" or even, "I don't know what to say."

Grief is complicated, and dealing with the bereaved is complicated. It's messy. It's unpredictable. It isn't meant to be buried or ignored. Buried grief is toxic. But grief that is acknowledged? It's the body of Christ. It's love in action. It's salve for the wound. I get why some people don't want to see scars. Scars are ugly, even scary.  But without the scars, we aren't like Christ. No, it's not pretty. Grief isn't pretty. But it's an opportunity, the opportunity to lean hard on God. It's the opportunity to show others that our strength doesn't come from within ourselves. It comes from Him. It comes from others being willing to lift us up.

I saw this blog post about grief within the church on my Facebook feed and it, too, drew back the curtain on grief, inviting others to sit with the scarred, the broken, the messy. I know it's uncomfortable. I know it's inconvenient. I know it's scary. But it's what makes us better. It's what brings healing. Sit with someone today. Just be there. And thank you. Thank you for sitting with me.