In my last post I shared the difference between mourning and grief. While the outward ceremonies have long passed, the inward struggle to embrace and understand the pain and sorrow of losing my son continues.
If you love someone who has lost a child, perhaps these thoughts might help you understand a bit of their pain and how completely it changes the way bereaved parents encounter the world.
Please be patient. Please don’t try to “fix” us. Please be present and compassionate. And if you don’t know what to say, feel free to say nothing–a hug, a smile, an understanding look–they mean so very much.
A bereaved parent’s grief doesn’t fit an easy-to-understand narrative. And it flies in the face of the American “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality.
You can’t beat it–it’s not a football game-there is no winning team.
You can’t lose it–it’s not the extra 10 pounds you’ve been carrying since last Christmas.
You can’t get over it–it’s not a teenage love affair that will pale in comparison when the real thing comes along.
You can only survive it. You can heal from it, but it will take a lifetime and require very special care.
I have a young friend whose first child was born with a life-threatening heart defect. At just a few months of age, her little girl received a heart transplant. Without it, she would have died. With her new heart, this sweet baby will live-but her parents must observe careful protocols to protect that heart and she will never outgrow the scar from the surgery that saved her life.
Burying Dominic wounded my heart so deeply that while I know it will heal–it is beginning to, I think–it will bear the scars and require special handling as long as I walk this earth.
So when I thank you for an invitation, but choose not to go…I’m not rejecting you, I’m protecting my heart. Please ask again–tomorrow might be a better day, and going somewhere or being with someone could be just what I need.
If you call and I don’t pick up…I might be crying, or about to, and I choose not to burden you with my grief. Call in a day or two or next week–keep trying.
A text or email or card is so helpful. I can read these when I’m ready and respond when it’s easier for me to think.
And please, please, please don’t look for the moment or day or year when I will be “back to my old self”. My old self was buried with my son. I am still “me”–but a different me than I would have chosen.
I know it makes you uncomfortable–it makes me uncomfortable too.
But because I trust in the finished work of Christ, I know that one day my heart will be completely healed.
I hurt but I have hope. This pain will be redeemed and my scars will be beautiful.
“For just as Christ’s sufferings are ours in abundance [as they overflow to His followers], so also our comfort [our reassurance, our encouragement, our consolation] is abundant through Christ [it is truly more than enough to endure what we must]” 2 Corinthians 1:5.