The church at Thessalonica was confused about some fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. They were frightened that they had missed Christ’s second coming and they were concerned about loved ones that had preceded them in death. So Paul wrote this letter to remind them of truth and offer comfort in their emotional distress:
And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus. I Thessalonians 4:13-14 MSG
This verse is quoted often to believers who have lost a loved one. At first, gently, sweetly–as an invitation to remember that God is in control, that He has a plan, that the grave is not victorious and that burying the body is not the end.
And, in the early days and weeks after the funeral, it IS comforting–I chanted it to myself like a mantra and it drew my heart from the brink of despair.
But at some point, this verse begins to feel like a rebuke–the well-meaning friend says, “Don’t you know, that Jesus followers don’t grieve like those who have no hope!”
And I turn, dumbfounded, to the person saying this, and wonder, “Have you buried a child?”
Read the rest here: Grieving With Hope
I must remind my heart every day that Jesus Himself declared the blessing in mourning. I must remember that there is comfort available at His feet. Not in running from my pain, but in embracing it and trusting Him to redeem it.
What blessing is there in mourning? What comfort in distress? What good can come from pain and brokenness?
Questions I have asked God.
Read the rest here: Blessed are Those Who Mourn?
It’s always a delicate balancing act when I’m with my living children and missing Dominic. I never, ever want to elevate their brother to a level that says I love him more than them-because it isn’t true.
I didn’t love him more when he was living and I don’t love him more now that he’s dead.
But I do love him differently.
I can no longer DO things for him. I can’t buy him a special Christmas gift, send him a thoughtful text when he’s having a tough day, make his favorite dish because he’s coming home for the weekend.
I can only testify to the love I continue to carry in my heart and to the impact he made on my life.
THAT’S why I won’t hide my tears.
I won’t pretend that some things don’t sting, some moments don’t overwhelm my wall of defense against the grief waves that pound relentlessly against it, some smells or sights or memories don’t bowl me over and knock my heart to its knees.
Because not only am I testifying to the love I have for Dominic, I’m also testifying to the love I have for each of my children.
They can see with their own eyes that death will never sever the ties I have with them nor cut the bond of love that stretches like a silken cord between my heart and theirs.
As families gather around tables and in backyards to celebrate fall birthdays, Thanksgiving and (soon!) Christmas, my heart longs even harder to hear Dominic’s name.
Of course I remember him-he’s my son-and of course others do too.
But it is especially helpful this time of year to have friends and family speak of him aloud.
Of course I may cry.
I cry often anyway.
But if I cry because you remind me of the good friend Dominic was to you or because of a special memory you shared with him, they are tears of joy as much as tears of longing. ❤
We try to separate the two.
We want to draw a line that marks when one ended and the other began.
But it’s impossible. Because grief and love are of one piece.
Grief isn’t what comes AFTER love, grief IS love.
Grief is love with no place to go.
It’s what a heart is left with when the person upon which that love would be lavished is no longer available to receive what is offered.
We celebrate lifetime love. We make much over marriages that survive the years. We applaud the lost pet that pads his way home in spite of miles and misery to lay at the feet of his master.
Yet we want grievers to give up their sadness and bottle their tears because it makes US uncomfortable. It reminds us that next week WE could be the ones left with unspent love in our hearts.
But grief can never be small where love is large.
I’ve never really been much for lots of tears.
Most of my crying before Dominic ran ahead to heaven consisted of silent tears slipping down my cheeks and onto my chin. Every now and then I would have a good, old-fashioned sob.
But between April 12,2014 and that October or November, I cried every day. I cried so much I thought surely I would run out of tears. I cried so much I needed to drink more water to remain hydrated.
Then it stopped.
The ache settled deeper into my bones and tears no longer came as an easy outlet for the pain I was feeling.
I still cried a few times a week, but not as long or as loud as those first months. I could tell (most of the time) what had triggered the tears-a photo, a song, an item his hands had touched, a memory or even a whiff of someone who wore the same cologne walking past in a crowd.
Then THAT stopped.
I got so good at stuffing the immediate emotional response I hardly ever cried anymore.
Except that sometimes-random moments-the heavy lid I keep screwed down tight on all those feelings comes undone. And I am helpless as the sorrow, missing and horror of child loss creeps up my spine, raises my heart rate and settles as a silent scream at the back of my throat.
A sob escapes. The tears flow. Usually I’m done for that day-left a quivering mass of emotional jello, unable to pack it all up and get on with things.
And that’s OK.
I don’t cry every day anymore, but when I do, it’s a necessary and important part of the healing process.
I won’t apologize for my tears.
“Crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth it has always been a sign that you are alive.”
~ Charlotte Bronte
“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. “
“I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien
My parents live in another state so I call each morning just to check in and say hello.
We usually chat about what we have planned for the day, what we did the day before and share any important family updates.
Yesterday my dad mentioned that he had been to the grocery store, came home and when putting away the food he bought decided to clean out his refrigerator. He joked that he found some things from years ago tucked in the back where they’d been forgotten.
I laughed and said, “Yeah-I did that sometime last summer.”
And then my heart froze as I remembered another fridge I cleaned out three years ago.
I went on to say, “I threw out all the old stuff except what I took out of Dom’s fridge when we cleaned his apartment.”
And then the tears broke loose.
I don’t know if it was Mother’s Day “hangover” or something else.
The full weight of the FACT that my son will never share a meal with me again, that the jars of food I saved still had his fingerprints on them, and that it is oh, so, so WRONG I had to clean out his apartment to begin with just fell on top of me and crushed my ability to stop the tears.
Papa asked me what was going through my head.
I told him I was thinking no mother should ever be saving old jars of pickles and jelly as some kind of keepsake of her child. That this is a terrible burden and that even three years later it is just as heavy-although I am better able to carry it.
I am still surprised sometimes by what opens the floodgates.
I won’t be tossing those jars anytime soon.
It happens when I least expect it.
I try hard to manage life so that I’m not blindsided by grief-that I don’t find myself in the middle of people when I can be sure some trigger will start the flow of tears
But you can’t prepare for what you have no way to predict.
So even three years down the path of child loss, there are times I am overwhelmed by a wave of grief and cannot stop the tears.
I used to try to hide them. I don’t anymore.
I will not be ashamed of my tears.
They are proof of my love.
They are evidence of a heart that refuses to grow cold, hard or bitter even though the frost of death has blown hard across it.
They are testimony to the promise that God is collecting them in His bottle and that one day all this will be redeemed and restored.
I will wear them as a badge of honor until I see Dominic again.