No Rush

Time, by itself, does not heal all wounds.  

But of all the factors that promote healing, there is NO SUBSTITUTE for time–not in the physical world of surgery and broken bones and deep wounds and not in the inner world of  emotional pain and brokenness and sorrow.

Our bodies are made to be amazingly resilient.  

Most people don’t really think of surgery as an assault on the body, but it is.

The surgeon knifes through layers of flesh and tissue that are designed to keep intruders out, mucks about inside, does what he or she came to do, and closes up–hopefully without introducing bacteria into the wound. Some medication may be prescribed to promote healing, control pain and reduce the risk of infection.

Then the patient goes home to recover.

But it is really TIME and the body’s own healing powers that do the lion’s share of the work.

Our hearts and minds can be resilient too.

Frequently, someone who suffers an assault on their emotions may not bear outward signs and symbols to mark what they’ve  been through.  And well-meaning friends and family can forget that healing has only begun and is far from complete.

Sometimes broken people feel pressured to put on a brave face and to stuff their feelings.

For the body, ignoring doctor’s orders to rest after surgery can mean another hospital stay due to complications that might have been avoided if the patient had been given sufficient time to recover.

Emotionally wounded people can end up with complications from pressure to rejoin regular activities and engage society in ways for which they are not yet ready.

It takes TIME to heal from burying a child or any other traumatic loss.

There is no way to rush the healing.  It takes HOURS AND HOURS to think about, respond to and process the feelings that overwhelm anyone who is grieving or trying to cope with emotional upheaval of any kind.

ok to just breathe

So be patient with yourself.

  • Understand that there will be good days and bad days.
  • There will be forward movement and steps backward.
  • Sometimes it will be easy to do something or go somewhere and the next time it might be really hard.

And don’t be afraid to let others know you are still healing.

Deep emotional wounds require great care and an extended period of time to heal if the healing is to be sound and free from unnecessary complications.

You are not selfish to draw boundaries around what you can and can’t do, what you will and won’t allow and where and when you engage with others-you are being wise.  

For those walking with the wounded:  extend grace and be patient.

Thank God you are not bearing this burden and be mindful of placing demands or pressure on the wounded to heal according to a predetermined timetable.

Then support them in their effort to give themselves the TIME they need to heal.

smiling through tears

 

 

 

Identity Crisis

Yeah, so one more thing that grief has made  harder: empty nesting.

While my nest is not technically empty, I have long since finished raising and schooling my children.  I had the great privilege of staying home with my kids and teaching them all the way through high school.  And even in college and graduate school, mom was still editor-in-chief and head of the crisis management center of our home.

I spent a lifetime pouring myself into my family and now they are grown. Sure, they need me now and then, but they are well-established, functioning adults and quite capable without my help.

This is good–I always intended to work myself out of a job.

But losing Dominic, and the burden of grief I carry as a result, has made this transition from “hands-on” to “standing by” that much more difficult.

We all have pictures in our mind of where life is headed–where we imagine ourselves in five years, ten years or even further.  In part, those visions are what make hard days bearable, what keep us going when obstacles seem insurmountable, and what beckon us down the road when we can’t see exactly where it is leading.

I had those.

Now I can’t manage a plan or vision for a single day, much less a year or the rest of my life. I feel as if I am cast adrift in a sea of possiblities but none look inviting. It’s like I have one oar in the water and all I can do is paddle in a circle.

I’m not idle-I keep moving.  I have things to do, but I’m not sure they are things that make a difference.

And I have to admit, it’s a little frightening to think about the future given my recent past experience.

So I’m trying to learn to rest in the arms of the Father.  

Trying to tune my heart to His.

Trying to be patient with myself and with my own impatience.

For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of affliction, to give you an end and patience.

Jeremiah 29:11 DRA

 

Ambushed

I know that certain things will bring tears to my eyes or make it impossible to squeak out a sound.  So, when I can, I avoid them.

But sometimes I can be minding my own business and BAM! from out of nowhere a sight or a sound or a smell or a memory sneaks up and there I am, ambushed by grief.

The other day was one of those.

Waiting to meet my dad for lunch, I was wandering around Cracker Barrel, enjoying the cute kitsch when the song playing overhead caught my ear–

“I bet it gets so quiet in Heaven sometimes
Even God cries when an Angel’s hands are tied”

(Rodney Atkins – Angel’s Hands)

I started listening more closely.  And as I did, Bible verses and Sunday School lessons and sermons all ran together in my head:

“God sends His angels to intervene sometimes.”

“He sent an angel to try to stop Balaam from his folly.”

“Was there an angel there when Dominic had his accident?”

“Does God cry?”

These thoughts shot lightning fast through my head and straight to my heart until I found myself searching for a corner where the tears could roll and I wouldn’t have to answer anyone’s polite inquiry, “Are you OK?”

Foolish and perhaps theologically unsound questions that sent me right back to Day One.

By the time my dad arrived, not a trace of my grief attack was left showing.

Some days are like this.  Some days are filled with sadness still.

But not every day.

Thank God.

 

 

 

Better than?

We live in a world where rankings rule.

The FitBit craze, while a boon to healthy living, is also a testimony to our competitive nature.

You would think that in the pit of despair, the need to be “more than” or “better than” would disappear.  But that’s not the case.

I continue to judge myself in comparison to others.

I find it difficult to give up the inner tape measure that marks progress or regress in this grief journey.

When I’m having a bad day, I feel like a failure.  I feel guilty for not taking firmer hold of the promises of God in Christ.  I question my commitment to the truth and I wrestle with unbelief.

When I’m having a relatively good day, I congratulate myself on the distance traveled, the hurdles overcome and the positive progress toward pushing grief to the background of daily life.

This is unhelpful.  And it rests in a root of pride.

I am not in control.

My struggle to rate my “progress” in grief recovery is an attempt to exert my will over things I cannot subdue in my own power. And if I feel successful, then the glory goes to ME.

When I choose to practice spiritual disciplines like prayer and fasting, I am placing myself in a position to hear from God and to be receptive to His will in my life.

Likewise, when I choose to lean into the support of others and focus on truth revealed in Scripture, I encourage the healing process.

But if my restoration rests on my efforts, I’m doomed. I do not have the power  or authority to redeem my pain.

I cannot save myself.

I need a Savior.

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin [by which it brings death] is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory [as conquerors] through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord [always doing your best and doing more than is needed], being continually aware that your labor [even to the point of exhaustion] in the Lord is not futile nor wasted [it is never without purpose].

I Corinthians 15:56-58 AMP

 

What Fills Your Heart?

Jesus taught that “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What I value most is where my heart rests.

Burying a child has pushed that truth right in front of my eyes.  I am pouring my life into something–no way around it.

So two questions fill my mind most days:

What am I willing to die for?  What will I live for?

Dying for something or someone would be a moment in time, an unrepeatable and finished work.  A single act.  

It’s much more challenging to think about what I will live for.  

I have to decide and commit to THAT over and over.

My first journal entries after Dominic died were filled with prayers begging God to pour His love, mercy and grace into my broken heart and to make me a vessel of healing for othersto not allow me to become bitter or hard or uncaring–

It was the only good I could imagine coming from the horror of burying my child.

Years ago, my husband gifted me with the CD “Revival in Belfast” by Robin Mark.  And in these months after losing my son, it is the one soundtrack I can play over and over because it speaks to deep places in my heart and spirit.

One of the songs,  “When It’s All Been Said and Done” has become my anthem:

When it’s all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for you?

When it’s all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I have done
For love’s rewards
Will stand the test of time

Lord, your mercy is so great
That you look beyond our weakness
And find purest gold in miry clay
Turning sinners into saints

I will always sing your praise
Here on earth and heaven after
For you’ve joined me at my true home
When it’s all been said and done
You’re my life when life is gone…

When It’s All Been Said and Done (lyrics)

When It’s All Been Said and Done By Robin Mark

“Only what I’ve done for love’s rewards will stand the test of time.”

I want my heart to be filled with love.  

I want my treasure to be eternal.

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

I Corinthians 13:13 MSG

A Daily Struggle

I despise the platitude plastered across social media memes:  “Hard times either make you bitter or better”.

It makes it sound so simple.

As if all I have to do is make a single choice between two equally available paths.

Enduring deep pain and unchangeable circumstances requires continued commitment to face the fork in the road over and over, and to choose well each time.

Every day I am forced to confront my heart’s tendency to turn inward and embrace loneliness and isolation in an attempt to protect myself from further and perhaps greater pain.

Each moment I have to choose whether I will lean into despair or hold onto hope.

And I just don’t agree that there are only two possible outcomes of a life that endures hardship or grief.

Bitterness is certainly an option.

If I allow myself to rehearse the reasons why my son should not have died, why my family doesn’t deserve this grief, why my life is so much harder than it should be–then the case for bitterness grows strong and becomes attractive.  I can pack my briefcase full of evidence and pull it out at every opportunity when confronted with yet another “happy moment” splashed on Facebook.

Bitterness is always a temptation, and I must refuse it everyday.

But “better” implies that I lacked something that I have now gained.

Better diminishes my grief and gives the impression that I’d do it all over again because my painful experience has wrought amazing results.

Losing my son, regardless of what I have learned, is not the same as sticking to a diet or working up to a marathon run or getting a master’s degree.

The subtle danger in declaring myself “better” is that I can decide I’m a measuring rod for others to judge their grief journey.  Or I can become like the reformed smoker who forgets how many tries it took to quit or how hard it was to finally stop smoking and instead mocks those who are still struggling.

I am not “better”.

I am broken.  

I am bankrupt of any illusion that I am the captain of my ship.  I understand by very, very painful experience that there are no earthly guarantees life will turn out according to plan. I embrace with both hands the notion that the most precious gift is people we love and no matter how long we have with them, it will never be enough.

I can’t claim a final victory of faith over doubt, of good out of bad, of lessons learned from effort expended.

Instead I extend my empty hands and hurting heart to be filled with grace and mercy.

I choose love and refuse hate.

I continue to engage this broken world from my broken perspective and offer compassion and understanding to those who are broken too.

Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassions, and God of all encouragement; who encourages us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to encourage those who are in any tribulation whatever, through the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged of God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 DARBY

 

 

 

 

 

Not Quite So Dry Bones: Learning to Dance Again

I wrote this post several months ago–when falling autumn leaves turned my mind to how every living thing dies.  When the thought of another holiday season without a complete family circle pressed hard against my eyeballs and threatened to undo me.

I felt so very tired.  Some days I still do.  Some days are “dry bone” days.  But there are days when I hear laughter–look around and realize it flows from my own mouth.

I believe God is healing me.  He is restoring life to my bones.  He is redeeming my pain and resurrecting my hope.

It is a process.  So if you have only recently begun a grief journey, don’t despair.  It is hard and it is long.  But there is hope.

Grief has sapped the strength from my body and the life from my bones.  It has turned this forward-thinking planner into someone who rarely ponders even an hour from now.

I was a visionary.  

Now I’m a survivor.

I understand why Naomi changed her name to Mara-“bitter”.

When I read her story in the book of Ruth, I’m tempted to challenge her across time to “look on the bright side” and to “think of the future”.  But she felt her hope and her future had died and been buried with her husband and sons.  She was old.  She was spent.  She couldn’t understand what God was doing or imagine life beyond this moment or this day.

She was dried up all the way down to the bone.  

The breath of the promise of God had left her heart and she was barely there.

But God brought joy back into her life, He breathed life into her dry bones.

The book of Ezekiel records an amazing vision.  God shows the prophet a valley of dry bones.

Very dry bones.

No-life-even-in-the-marrow bones.  

And He challenges Ezekiel to prophesy to them:

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.  I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 37: 4-6 NIV)

I long to have the LORD make His breath enter once again into my own dry bones, so I read His word and prophesy to my dry bones.

He is the God of the resurrection, and He will redeem my sorrow and pain.  

He IS the breath of life.   

I am clinging to His promises and trusting His heart.

One day, these dry bones will dance!