Love in Action: Understanding “Acceptance”

Sometimes those that walk alongside the bereaved are biding time, waiting for that “final” stage of grief: Acceptance.

And some therapists, counselors and armchair psychiatrists are certain that if the grieving mother can simply accept the death of her child, she can move on–that she can get back to a more “normal’ life.

But this notion is as ridiculous as imagining that welcoming a new baby into a household doesn’t change everything.

Read the rest here:  Loving well: Understanding “Acceptance”

The Greatest Showman: The Power and Peril of Story

I went to see The Greatest Showman the other day with my daughter.  It was an amazing film-I was drawn into the story and my heart longed to see where it was going and how it would end.

greatest showman movie wide

I highly recommend it for two hours of uplifting entertainment.

But I’ve been thinking about it since.

So I did a little digging into P.T. Barnum’s REAL life story.

As you might imagine, several liberties were taken with actual history in order to create what I saw on the screen.  That’s really just fine.  I knew what I was getting into when I plunked my money down for the ticket.  I had no illusion that I was walking into a history lecture- I understood I was there to be entertained.

When I compared the actual Barnum life story to the tidy, beautiful, uplifting and wonderfully scored musical I had seen in the theater, I found gaping holes.

And most of the holes involved the hard and ugly parts of his story-the parts people don’t like to talk about, much less live through.

While leaving them out or glossing them over with a moment or two of wistful glances for the movie is exactly what I expect from Hollywood, it can condition hearts to expect the same kind of thing in real life.

But real life stories don’t skip over the hard parts.

Real people have to live through the ugly and the painful and the devastating and the doubt and the sorrow.  We don’t get to hop right to the happy ending (if there even IS a happy ending) nor do we get to whitewash the dark truths that inform our experience.

And because we prefer tidy (and happy) endings, bright and sunny days, encouraging and uplifting stories, when we are face to face with a challenging and difficult reality, we often turn away.

If we don’t hear it, it doesn’t matter. 

If we don’t look, it didn’t happen. 

If we wait long enough in our safe cocoon, someone else will deal with it.

Sometimes those of us in the middle of hard stories try to ignore it.  But busyness and distraction do not make bad times better.  Maybe for a moment, but not in the long run.

We’ve got to learn to experience it all, tell it all, be honest about how dark the path, how difficult the journey.

And those who are on the sunny side of the street need to learn to lean into friendship, cross over and offer compassionate companionship to those who are struggling.

Because sooner or later, it will be all of us.

we will all struggle and fall brene brown

I will not say, “Do not weep”

“Crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth it has always been a sign that you are alive.”

~ Charlotte Bronte

no need to be ashamed of tears courage to suffer

“There is a sacredness in tears, they are not the mark of weakness but of power.  They are messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love. “

~Washington Irving

never ashamed of tears dickens

 

“I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.”

~ J.R.R. Tolkien

tears-in-a-bottle-blue-bottle

True Truth

 

I will not get used to the fact that my son is beyond my reach.  I have come to a certain acceptance of it as fact, and acknowledgement of the truth that I cannot change that fact.

The pain hasn’t become less painful, only more familiar.  It doesn’t surprise me as often when it pricks my heart anew.

The world goes on.  I am a tiny speck in the greater scheme of things and my heartache hardly merits any pause in the machinery of the cosmos.

I have learned to put on the face I need for everyday tasks and to look the part of a functioning human being.  But just beneath the surface is a cauldron of emotion that can be exposed in a heartbeat.

I miss my son.

I miss the part of me that was reflected back from the mirror of Dominic.

I miss the family we used to be.

I miss the past when there could be a whole day of laughter without a single tear.

I miss the children I used to have-the ones who knew nothing about irrevocable loss and breathtaking heartache.

I know I’m indulging in selfish introspection and that I should be looking with faith-filled eyes to the glorious future God has promised through Christ.

But today I just can’t.

I won’t be guilted into trying to pretend that I don’t miss all this.

Because I do.

 

changed for life

Will It ALWAYS Feel Like This?

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.

tears-in-a-bottle-blue-bottle

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.

Johnny Cash

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.

faith is not an epidural

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.

 

 

Twenty-four Hours

I don’t know just when I figured it out, but somewhere in this Valley it dawned on me-NO day lasts forever.

Many feel like they do.  

The day I got the news stretched impossibly long in front of me as calls were made and people came to be wtih us.

But even THAT day ended.  Night fell, the earth turned, and another sunrise showed up on cue.

Remembering that truth is how I manage to keep going most of the time.  I remind my heart that no matter how hard today is, it will end.  I recite the mantra, “No day lasts forever.  No day lasts forever” over and over if I have to.  I refuse to look at the clock and count the minutes-instead I occupy my mind and hands until they pass of their own accord.

Some days are good.  I’m with people I love and doing things that bring joy.

Some days are unbearably hard.  The sorrow and missing that I manage to keep in check most of the time bubble up like lava and consume me with their red-hot pain.

It doesn’t matter.  

NIght falls,

the earth turns

and another sunrise will show up on cue.

sunrise brightest

 

Living Without Answers

We are a people who love a good mystery as long as it leads to a good ending-bad guys vanquished, questions answered, motives revealed and a tidy resolution.

But real life is rarely so neat and squared away.

Just consider your average doctor’s visit.  Diagnosis is often a result of trial and error when a simple blood test or throat culture is unavailable to confirm or rule out a particular malady.  Yet we blunder forward, trying this and that until something either works or the illness runs its course.

Relationships are even trickier.  We stand toe-to-toe with others hoping we understand what they are saying or not saying, feeling or not feeling-all the while forced to act and react in the space between.  It’s a wonder we aren’t all at war with one another.

And then there are the big “What ifs?” and “Whys?”

The cosmic questions that rock our world and threaten to undo us.

These are the questions that filled my mind and kept me awake at night after burying my son.  Questions I was free to ignore before they took up residence in my soul and echoed in my head with every thump, thump, thump of my beating heart.

It took a very long time for me to learn to live with them unanswered. And there are still moments when I scream aloud and raise my fist to the sky, demanding an accounting.

But most days, I can rest in that space between the asking and the answer-if not exactly at peace-then at least in a state of suspended animation.

And that may really be all God expects of me this side of heaven.

Job never did get any answers.

He stood before God speechless and in awe.

That’s pretty much where I am right now.

I don’t have to like it.

I don’t have to understand it.

I only have to be willing to admit that He is God and I am not.  

Job answered God:

“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.
    Nothing and no one can upset your plans.
You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water,
    ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’
I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me,
    made small talk about wonders way over my head.
You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking.
    Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’
I admit I once lived by rumors of you;
    now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!
I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise!
    I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”

Job 42:4-6 MSG