Bereaved Parents Month Post: Have I Lost My Mind?

Here I am four years into this journey and I still have days when I think I have utterly lost my mind.  

Not because of internal cues but because of external pressure by family and friends to conform to some idea THEY have of what grief after child loss should look like.

I have to remind myself that they have NO IDEA what this is like and that if I am managing to move along-even at a snail’s pace-I’m just fine.

I wrote this a couple years ago in response to a private message sent to me by a friend:

“It was just over a year after Dominic’s accident and a friend forwarded an article about odd behaviors of those who were “stuck’ in grief.  Along with the forward was a little tag, “Reminds me of you.”

It hurt my feelings.

And it was inappropriate.”

Read the rest here:  I am NOT Crazy!

Death is The Enemy, Jesus Our Victory

We live in a culture where we see death often but experience it rarely.  

Movies, video games, cartoons, news stories all flash images of death across the screen so frequently that most of us either ignore them or they register only as numbers, not as human beings.

Of course many of the images are manufactured-the actors don’t REALLY die, the characters in video games are not real-but how often do we wait for a news report to tell us how many AMERICANS died in a plane crash or terror attack?

As if only those affiliated in some way with our own heritage “count”.

But when death comes knocking at your own door, walks in and settles down, that changes everything.  

I can no longer sit and consume death like a meal, meant to feed my appetite for entertainment.

And every single time I hear a report listing casualties I think of the families ripped apart by the absence of a life they loved.

Death is the enemy.  

When Satan tempted Adam and Eve he said, “You shall not surely die.”  

He was wrong.

A single sin ushered in all kinds of sorrow and woe and the ultimate sadness was death.  It meant separation from breath and life, separation from those we love and, without the atoning blood of Christ, separation from God in eternity.  

My ninety-nine-year-old aunt died this week.  She lived a long, useful and fairly healthy life (until the last couple of years).

You’d think that in light of my own son dying at only twenty-three I’d be more OK with her leaving this life and moving to Heaven.  

But I’m not.  

Somehow her death-more than all the other souls I’ve known and loved that have left us since Dom ran ahead-has knocked me to my knees.

mel and mattie lou sahara

Maybe it was how hard and how long she fought against our common enemy.  

Maybe it was just the time of year.  

I don’t know.  

But she reminded me again that death is always sad.

And that Jesus is the only One Who can save us from death’s power.  

jesus the shepherd the i am

Did God Take My Child?

This is a question that comes up all the time in bereaved parents’ groups:  Did God take my child?

Trust me, I’ve asked it myself.  

How you answer this question can mean the difference between giving up or going on, between turning away or trusting.

So this is MY answer.  The one I’ve worked out through study, prayer and many, many tears.  You may disagree.  That’s just fine.  I only offer it because it might be helpful to some struggling and sorrowful soul.

I believe that God is the Author of life and the arbiter of death. What that means (to me) is that He is ultimately in control of everything and could (if He chose) intervene and stop the death of any person if He wanted to.

Nothing and no one is stronger nor more powerful than God.

However, we live in a fallen world where sin has tainted the original creation God declared “good”. So there are natural disease processes, genetic malformations, undetected birth defects (that may go unknown until well into adulthood like heart defects) that lead to death.

God does not intervene each time-but He could.

People make sinful and foolish choices that have natural consequences. My son was going way too fast in a curve on his motorcycle. God did not override my son’s free will (just as He does not override our free will all day every day) and my son ran off the road.

There are universal physical and biological laws that most of us are thankful for each day that then took over in my son’s case and doomed his motorcycle to certain paths and his body to certain death when it impacted the ground.

God didn’t intervene but He could have.

Job was ultimately protected by the fences God placed around his person. I believe each of us are too.

Yet God is weaving a bigger tapestry, writing a bigger story than only the part that includes me and my family.  So my son’s death and the changes it has wrought in me, in others that knew and loved him and even further out into the world are part of God’s big story.

I have made peace with the fact that I do not understand nor like what God has done in my life by allowing my son to die, but I will trust His loving character and wait to see how it will be redeemed in eternity.

No, God did not TAKE my son. But He allowed his death.

I gain more comfort in a God Who could have saved my son but chose not to, than a God Who does not have that power.

His word declares that He keeps my tears in His bottle. 

I believe it. 

And I believe that one day He will redeem every one and restore what my heart has lost.  

you keep track of all my tears

Nothing New Between Us

Why are the photographs of him as a little boy so incredibly hard to look at? Something is over. Now instead of those shiny moments being things we can share together in delighted memories, I, the survivor, have to bear them alone. So it is with all the memories of him. They all lead into blackness. All I can do is remember him, I cannot experience him. Nothing new can happen between us.

~Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

 

dominic and siblings little children at nannys

Death is never welcome.  

It is always a reminder that I live in a broken world where sickness and time, accidents and sinful choices press the life out of bodies and I am left behind to mourn.

But when people die at a ripe old age, I look back fondly on what they’ve done, where they’ve been, the legacy of work and love and family they leave behind.

No one lives forever.

In the back of my mind I can make room for that fact, even though I don’t like to bring it out and consider it very often.  Those that are much older than me will (all things being equal) leave this world before us.

I joined them. 

There is part of their lives I know nothing about.  And there will be part of mine they will not share.

But my child?

I have known my child since before he entered the light of this world!  I felt him in my womb.  I experienced who he was before anyone else met him.

I never, ever expected for my life to outlast his!

I always thought there would be new experiences between us, new memories to tuck away, new adventures to look forward to.  

Out of order death is unexpected, unnatural, unbelievable.  

“Nothing new between us.”  

Breaks my heart every time. 

handprint on my heart

 

 

Why I Say, “My Son Died.”

Died.  

It is a harsh word.

I understand completely that some parents don’t want to use it to describe their child and I respect that.

I have chosen to use it often (not always-sometimes I say “left” or “ran ahead to heaven”) because what happened IS harsh. I don’t want to soften it because there was nothing soft about it for me or my family.

It is heartbreaking, lonely, heavy, hard and utterly devastating. 

grief bubble

As a believer in the promises of Scripture, I use it because I want to paint a stark contrast between hopelessness without Christ and the hope I have because of the blood of Jesus applied to my heart and the heart of my son.

Without that assurance, the hopelessness would continue for eternity.

romans 10_9

But because of Jesus, while this reality is harsh, hard and heartbreaking, I have an eternity of rest, renewal and redemption to look forward to.

not ashamed

I think each of us finds our own path through this Valley and should say or use whatever word is best for our own heart.

This is simply one choice among many.  

I’m so sorry that we need ANY words to describe our child’s physical absence in this earthly journey. 

no evil can conquer grace forever

Child Loss is Not a Single Event

Child loss is not a single event. 

Of course the moment when the last breath leaves a body is noted and duly recorded because the law requires such.  I can pull out Dominic’s death certificate (what an ugly thing to have to say about my child!) and it reads:  Time of Death:  1:10 a.m. April 12, 2014.  

But I didn’t know about it until 4: 15 that morning when the deputy rang the bell.  

So for me, his death came then.  

For family members away from home it happened when I called them.

Others found out later that day or the next.

Yet hearing the words and swallowing them down deep where my heart could comprehend them were two different things.  I think it wasn’t until I saw his body that it truly dawned on me he was not coming back.  This was not a dream or a mistake or happening to someone else.  It was very, very real.

That was just the beginning.  

I continue to experience loss every time there is a moment when Dominic SHOULD be here but he isn’t.  Every time one of his peers gets married, has a child, makes a career move, celebrates a promotion-I think, “Dominic would be doing this if he were still here.”

When our family gathers for photos and the gap where he should be standing is closed in by another body, squeezing his presence from the record of our lives, my heart sinks.  I smile-that’s what you are supposed to do for pictures-but my mind is working double-time to keep the tears in check.

My living children touch base with me nearly every day-a habit they had before Dom left us but one reinforced by the knowledge that no one wants to regret the phone call or text they didn’t make.  But just like the photographs, his absence is highlighted by their intentional presence. 

When extended family ask for updates on my kids, I have to mindfully skip Dominic and land on Julian.  They don’t notice the tiny pause but my heart marks the place and mourns the lack of news for my third born.

I know for other people Dominic’s death was a date on the calendar.

This realization was very painful at first because my wound is so deep and my sorrow so great.  I’ve made peace with that now.  I understand why folks can move on and forget.  The loss happened-past tense-and their lives are full of new people, new activities, new connections and commitments.  That’s how it should be.

But for me, the loss is an everyday event.  It continues to happen.  It will continue to happen.  

I’m not “dwelling” on my son’s death anymore than I am “dwelling” on my living children’s lives.

They are my children.  

Loved and remembered-every one.

ALWAYS.

mother and child painting

 

 

 

 

Holy Week Reflections: Why Good Friday Matters as Much as Resurrection Sunday

Bury a child and suddenly the death of Christ becomes oh, so personal. The image of Mary at the foot of the cross is too hard to bear.

I trusted Jesus at an early age and I have lived my life beneath the shadow of the wings of the Almighty God.

But I never-not really-grasped the horror of the crucifixion until I watched as my own son’s body was lowered in the ground.

Death. is. awful.

Read the rest here:  Remember: Why Good Friday Matters as Much as Resurrection Sunday