I belong to several bereaved parents online communities and this question comes up again and again-it was the first thing I asked a bereaved mom just after Dominic ran ahead to heaven:
“Will this suffocating pain remain sitting on my chest, smothering the breath and life right out of me? Will I ever be able to stop crying? Will it ALWAYS feel like this?”
The short answer is, “No, it won’t.”
For those of us who follow Jesus, we know that eternity with Him will be filled with inexpressible joy and peace. Whatever pain and sorrow we have carried down below will be swallowed up by redemption and restoration. He has promised both to collect our tears in His bottle and to wipe them away.
The longer answer is, “It depends.”
If I cling tightly to my sorrow, focus my eyes and heart only on what I have lost, then I will continue to feel overwhelmed.
How can it be otherwise?
I have lost more than I can comprehend-both what WAS and WHAT WILL BE. My son is gone, gone, gone. And that is not going to change on this earth.
I can’t play mind games and trick myself into thinking it will. My heart knows the truth and it won’t be fooled no matter how hard I try.
BUT-if I turn and face the pain, embrace it, feel it and work on healthy ways to carry it-then I can begin to breathe again.
There is no way through but through. I have to let my heart feel all the feels. Stuffing or ignoring them is not an option. They will not be ignored forever.
There’s no way around grief and loss: you can dodge all you want, but sooner or later you just have to go into it, through it, and, hopefully, come out the other side. The world you find there will never be the same as the world you left.
I can choose to equip myself with tools for working through them. Counseling, journaling, learning to lament, sharing with a trusted friend are all healthy ways to process pain.
And because I believe in Jesus, the most helpful thing I can do in this Valley is look to my Shepherd. When I focus my gaze on Him, on His character and provision, my heart is strengthened.
Make no mistake-the missing and sorrow are still there-faith is not anesthesia! But there are other feelings that take up residence alongside my pain-hope and courage and grace.
I have to choose.
Am I going to work through this pain or simply be crushed by it? Will I allow my Savior to heal my heart or will I refuse His aid?
My heart is still beating either way.