Be Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak

I’m pretty sure that every single grieving parent I know has gotten at least one private message, text or phone call that starts like this, “I know that I haven’t lost a child, but…” and ends with some sort of advice that seeks to correct a perceived flaw in how the parent is grieving (in public) his or her missing child.

I know I did.  It was the genesis of this post.

But before you hit “send” on that well-meaning missive, you need to know this:  

You have NO CLUE.

None.

Truly.

No matter if you lost a spouse, parent, close friend or favorite pet-it’s not the same thing.

It isn’t even the same thing if you have faced a season when your own child was near death due to accident or disease.

If your home has been demolished due to wind, fire or flood and all its contents lost forever-that is awful and tragic-but not comparable to watching the body of your child lowered beneath the ground.

Just like everyone else who uses social media, what you see in public does not reflect but a tiny corner of the whole picture.

I write every day about loss.  But loss is not all I experience 24/7.  I laugh, I love, I live. 

And while I may post my yearning for Dominic, I speak my heart to my living children every. single. day. 

kids at sea world 2017

My faith has been tried and tested.  I will not be false and pretend that just because I trust the finished work of Christ my heart has had it easy.  

But I’m still holding onto hope with both hands.  

My body has borne the brunt of anxiety and stress and grief.  You can see it in my eyes and in my hips.  

But I’m still standing.

My marriage has been stretched and strained.  

But we are still clinging to one another.  

beach hector and me and boys in sand

So before you suggest ways I might need to trim my sails,

just remember you aren’t sailing the same sea nor facing the same storms.  

before you tell a grieving parent to be grateful which of yours could you live without

Keeping It Real: It’s STILL Hard

When I started writing, Dominic had been gone nearly 18 months.  

Before I went public with my thoughts, I had filled six journals with page after page of ramblings, Scripture, quotes from books, questions and tears.  

Those are some of my most precious possessions because when I look back I can see how even in the very first hours (yes, I started writing that morning) God was already bringing truth and healing to my shattered soul and broken heart.  

In a couple months it will be three years since I started sharing here.  And while I rarely look back on the posts in any orderly way, I can see that God has continued His faithfulness when I do.

But just like I promised when I wrote the introduction to my site, I will always be as honest as possible when I share.  

So let me just tell you:  It’s STILL hard.  

Not in the same first, breath-robbing, soul-crushing, can’t-lift-my-head sort of way that makes a heart certain it can. not. survive.

But in a slow-leak, not-enough-air-in-my-tires sort of way that makes every road less comfortable to travel and necessitates lots of stops to make sure I can keep going.

I’ve just endured two weeks of one bad thing after another.  

All of them have a solution which (on my scale) makes them hardly worth noting.  

But each disrupted my life and will require significant time, energy and resources to address.  

And for a heart that has learned how to make it by going slow, choosing predictable paths and incorporating lots of stops along the way, those kinds of disruptions create stress and strain on an already taxed system. 

I will absolutely survive.  

I’ve already survived the cruelest and most difficult days of my life.  

But it’s no cake walk.  

It’s still hard.

track record for bad days is 100

 

Overcome, Overwhelmed and Undone

The past seven days have been anything but the lazy, hazy days of summer. 

There has not been a solid 24 hours where some kind of crisis didn’t find its way to my doorstep, across my driveway or into my living room.  

Seriously.  

tree on driveway edited

On a scale of one to ten, none actually rank high in that there’s not a solution or plan of action. 

But every single one of them raised my stress and anxiety to very uncomfortable heights.  

I have no idea why I keep thinking maybe-just maybe-there will be a season of rest when I can get my feet under me, get my mind settled (a bit) and get the laundry put away.

There are good days.  

But then there are bad ones right on their heels.

I’m 54 years old, raised and home educated four children, helped my husband with his career and a personal business, managed a small farm and cooked, cleaned and was the all around go-fer for my family while each one pursued his or her education and dreams.

But there has been no season as stress-filled and trying as this one: the season of grief, the season of missing, the season where I have had to admit that control is an illusion.

So many days I watch the sunset in defeat.

Overcome, overwhelmed and undone.

I know the new day will bring new mercies and that is how my heart holds onto hope. 

lamentations-3-22-23

What If I’m Angry* With God?

God’s grace meets us where we are, not where we pretend to be.
~Esther Fleece, No More Faking Fine

Yes, I know, the commonly touted wisdom in church circles is not to ask, “Why?”

It’s also bad form to admit that you might actually be angry* with God. 

But I can pretty much guarantee that over half of any congregation sitting in the pews on a given Sunday has had at least one moment when, with raised eyes they screamed, “Why?????” to the sky aimed at a God they didn’t understand but believed in anyway.

I know I have.  

David did.

Paul did.

Job did.

So what does a heart do if it’s upset with God?  Stuff it?  Reason it away?  Shame it to silence? Hope it fades on its own?

I think the only thing a heart can do with that anger and doubt and disappointment is take it straight to the Throne of Grace where we are promised to find help in an hour of need.

Hebrews-4_16

That’s what I did.  

I wrote hundreds of pages of journals with my Bible beside me.  When the Holy Spirit brought a scripture to mind as I was writing, I looked it up, read it and usually copied it into my journal right alongside my questions and rambling.

Sometimes I would write the letters large and decorate them or look up the meaning of words in a concordance or dictionary and write the definitions or synonyms out to help me deepen my understanding.

In the end, my heart was finally able to accept the truth of Who God is-my loving, omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent Heavenly Father-even when I do not like what He is doing.

Reaching a place of accepting His will while still acknowledging the pain it brings me (like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane) has given me a measure of peace.

It has freed me to walk on in this life and to take the good, the bad, the painful and the wonderful in stride.

Do I still have moments (days!) when I want to scream?

Absolutely. But I am submitted to God and bow my heart to His.

It took a long time.

The more I read and studied Scripture, the more I found evidence of anguish, tears, and the messiness of human emotion. When we are in pain, the pain we are facing is temporary, even though it never feels temporary. Pain can linger, and it will always be with us, but for the believer in Jesus Christ, pain is never the final destination.

~Esther Fleece, No More Faking Fine, p. 134

*I am lumping a lot of strong (often considered “negative”) emotions in with the one word “angry”-for me, it was actually disappointment-God did not live up to my expectations (which is not to say He should or that my expectations were accurate).  For others it might be distrust and for some it might be doubt (does God love me?).  I’m most certainly NOT suggesting that Jesus was angry with God in the garden but it is plainly stated in Scripture that He begged God for another, less painful way that would still accomplish the Father’s plan.

 

All The Color Gone

Pale.  Flat. Tasteless. 

Yes.

They’d crossed over to that continent where grieving parents lived. It looked the same as the rest of the world, but wasn’t. Colors bled pale. Music was just notes. Books no longer transported or comforted, not fully. Never again. Food was nutrition, little more. Breaths were sighs. And they knew something the rest didn’t. They knew how lucky the rest of the world was.

― Louise Penny

It was absolutely this way for more than the first three years.  

No matter how hard I WILLED it, I could not make my world any different than it was. 

But thankfully, slowly, the color has returned-dimmer still-but no longer only shades of gray. 

Music again touches my heart and the right words do bring comfort.

Sighing remains my second language.

And I still think how very blessed are those who have been spared this awful knowledge.  

 

 

The Danger of Rushing to Serve After Loss

There are all kinds of doubts that creep in and take up residence in a mind after child loss.

Most of them have to do with the child that ran ahead to heaven.

But many are also about me:  “What should I be doing? Where should I go from here?” 

For those of us active in church ministries, we wonder, When do I return to service?”

There can be a lot of pressure to “get back in the saddle” if you fill a large role in a particular ministry.

No one ever wants to find a replacement for an effective Sunday School teacher, youth worker or hospitality hostess.  It’s hard when you have months of warning and nearly impossible when the vacancy opens up suddenly and unexpectedly.

But does the difficulty in finding my replacement mean that the burden is on me to keep serving, even when I am utterly broken, empty and unable to do so?

I don’t think so.  

I’ve learned many things through child loss and one of them is this:  the world still turns and things still get done in spite of the absence of any single person.

God invites us to join in the work He is doing in the world.  It is HIS work, not mine.  And He will absolutely assure that it gets done.  If I am unavailable to fill a position, then He will raise up another to fill it.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  

His yoke is easy, His burden light.  

yoke-of-oxen

We are never to serve out of a place of exhaustion, weariness, emptiness.  

Grief certainly exhausts us, wears us down and depletes our resources.  

Take a season-as long a season as necessary-to allow the Holy Spirit to minister grace, mercy and love to your broken heart.  That is the calling of Christ on our lives.  To listen and follow our Shepherd-our Gentle Shepherd-who promises to bind up our wounds and tend our shattered souls.

heals the broken hearted

People who have not suffered the death of a child will not understand.  But it won’t be the first time you’ve been misunderstood if you’ve ministered for more than a minute.

Don’t let others’ expectations or your own fear of failure keep you from hearing the call of your loving Father to come to Him, to lean on Him, to rest in His arms as He sings over you.

rejoice over you with singing

There will be a day for ministry again.  

I promise.  

crown of beauty planting of the lord