Thursday, August 18, 2016

When grief takes a back seat. And it will.

I can’t begin to count how many times over the past five years I’ve heard the phrase, “It never gets better.” I instinctively cringe when I hear it. And trust me, I’m not a “Happy-Go-Lucky” person by nature. I’m not one to see the glass as “half-full.” No, I tend to be a realist. (Or, as some might say, “Complainer.” Ouch.) It usually takes me a bit to find the “silver lining.”

But I do find it.

I find it because, honestly, I’ve trained myself to find it. Please don’t read that as prideful. It certainly isn’t. In fact, it’s been a work in progress. It’s been work. Period. As a natural complainer, I’ve had to retrain my mind, to think the things God thinks.

Especially when it comes to grief.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Phil. 4:8

“It never gets better” comes from the lips of both the bereaved and non-bereaved. From the non-bereaved, it is a death sentence. It is perhaps one of the most unhopeful things that can be uttered. And the bereaved who have spoken this? They are possibly the most hopeless people I’ve met.

Before our son died, I knew some of these people. And I didn’t want to be one of them. I didn’t want a lack of joy and bitterness to characterize my life. When Matt died, I refused to believe that “it never gets better.” Everything in me repulsed at this idea. I simply could not, would not, accept that.

And God knows the deepness of this pain. He knows the bone-marrow depth of grief. He understands our pain because He has been there.

God’s word, however, has always been about redemption. His plan from the very beginning has been to rescue us from this sin-filled, grief-stricken world. He will not leave us here in the broken places. He intends to bring healing.

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3
This journey of grief? We are not meant to stay focused on our grief.
"...a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,..." Ecc. 3:4

When grief hits, we are floored. Literally. Some of us cannot fathom, or even desire, to get up, to go on. And this is where I grabbed hold of His hand, the hand that is always outstretched, always offered. God wrapped His hand around mine and pulled me up "out of the miry clay.” (Ps.40:2) His word sustained me.

I didn’t “move on.” I moved forward. Every grief-stricken, painful step of the way, I moved forward. With Him, In Him, and Through Him. Healing doesn’t just happen. It isn’t incidental. It is purposeful. It is doing the hard work of grief: crying out to the LORD, making your needs known to others, and holding onto hope.

Hope is symbolized in Christian iconography by an anchor. And what does an anchor do? It keeps the ship on course when wind and waves rage against it. But the anchor of hope is sunk in heaven, not on earth.
Gregory Floyd, A Grief Unveiled

Grief is a chauffeur in the loss journey, but I have learned how to drive now. Grief no longer sits in the front seat navigating this journey. (Sure, he takes over at the wheel occasionally still, but not for long.) Grief is a good teacher if you pay attention and learn what he teaches. I’ve studied forgiveness and compassion and learned much about being humble. I have not welcomed these lessons, but have discovered that they aren’t taught by any teacher other than grief.

I’ve also discovered this: Eventually, grief does take a back seat.

It doesn’t mean he exits the vehicle. No. But he does slip into the back. “It never gets better” is transformed into “It gets softer.” 

I think of my son daily, countless times throughout a day. But Fridays are no longer dreaded, and I have long since stopped counting his absence in months. The pain that once seared now lies like cool embers, occasionally fanned into flames on those “special” days (his birthday and death date) and holidays. (As well as the random “grief ambush” days.)

But as for “It never gets better?” Oh, my. Yes, yes, I can say it gets better…because love grows stronger. Love sits in the passenger seat where grief once sat. Grief now sits in the back. Love guides this journey, navigating the way. Love is greater than grief, for it is eternal. 

Take heart. Take hope, dear friends. 


**NOTE: I've prayed for many, many months about when and how to "close" this blog. This post is it. I have begun blogging at a new blog. I will continue writing and hope you'll join me in looking through the window of "The Life I Live, Crucified with Christ" blog. Thank you, friends, for joining me in the journey!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

God showed up

We each have things in our lives, experiences, we wish we could forget. If only we could take an eraser and wash the slate clean. We long to have a “do-over,” for things to be different.  But no amount of wishing changes some things. Death isn’t something we can fix. Burying one’s child isn’t something one can forget.

On this day five years ago, we buried our 16yr. old son, our firstborn.

But on this day five years ago, God showed up in so many ways. 

From the second death showed up at the door, God stepped into the room. He was there when our neighbor drove by at exactly the time the State Troopers told me we would need someone to drive us to St. Mary’s. He was there at exactly the time we discovered our son did not make it. He was there when one of my best friend’s showed up at exactly the time I needed her. He was there at exactly the time when I flipped to the last page of the funeral home’s program book and finally found “the right one.”

He was there when my husband’s best friend from childhood showed up at exactly the time we were to enter the sanctuary of the church to begin the funeral service for our son. He was there when the beloved people of our church served Matt’s favorite dish of goulash for the luncheon. He was there at exactly the right time when everything I kept hearing at the cemetery service was “You are loved.

God showed up in every cardinal I saw, always at the bird feeder during meals. He showed up at Hearts of Hope family grief camp when we learned that throwing eggs is, indeed, a wonderfully healing exercise. He showed up at exactly the right time by providing people who prayed for us on the days when we could not.

God showed up for us then.

And He is still here for us now five years later.

Psalm 18: 1-2
I love you, Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.