It’s Been Years-What’s Wrong With You?

If you think that time makes a difference to a mama’s heart that’s missing a child who ran ahead to Heaven without her, you don’t know as much as you think you know.

Time does not heal all wounds-especially the kind that shatter a heart into a million pieces.

It takes time for the wound to scar over, but it doesn’t undo the damage.

So if you are wondering why your coworker still takes the day off on his child’s birthday or the anniversary of her child’s homegoing, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Years disappear when those milestones loom large.

It’s just as painful today as it was on THAT day when a bereaved parent has to face an unavoidable reminder that his or her child is gone, gone, gone.

I’m not diminishing anyone’s loss when I say this but child loss is unique.

If we lose a spouse, we cannot replace that person, but we can enjoy the same type of relationship with another one.

When we lose a parent, we cannot replace that individual or that relationship, but we all know age eventually makes a claim on every life. We anticipate (even if subconsciously) that younger folks will outlive the older ones.

A parent’s heart is not equipped to outlive their child.

And yet, some of us do.

“IT’S so WRONG, so profoundly wrong, for a child to die before its parents. It’s hard enough to bury our parents. But that we expect. Our parents belong to our past, our children belong to our future. We do not visualize our future without them. How can I bury my son, my future, one of the next in line? He was meant to bury me!”

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

So if the bereaved parents in your life need extra space, extra grace, extra accommodation on those days when the loss is unavoidable don’t be surprised.

What SHOULD astonish folks is that we are able to function as well as we do on all the other days of the year without additional help.

We get up.

We go on.

That’s the real surprise.

Hardest Prayer I Have Ever Prayed

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It is portrayed so sweetly in Christmas plays and Christmas movies:

Mary bowing her head in response to the angel Gabriel’s announcement that she has been chosen to bear the Saviour.

I don’t know what went through her mind before she answered.  I’m not sure she had a clue what submission to God’s will would look like as it played out across the months and years.

I only know that she was willing.

And God honored her willingness to bend her knee and her heart regardless of the unknown cost.

I’m not as noble as Mary.  I didn’t answer quickly when God allowed my life to be turned upside down.

I kicked and screamed and resisted as long as I could.

But who can fight Almighty God?

How can I carry on if I resist the Only One Who can carry me?

My heart still balks.

It. Is. Still. So. Very. Hard.

But I bow my head and heart each morning and ask for the grace to make it true:

“Behold, I am the servant of the LORD; let it be to me according to your word.” ~Luke 1:38

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Accommodating Grief

The doctor I see every six months or so for my rheumatoid arthritis always fusses at me.

One of the routine questions is, “How’s your pain level?”

I usually say, “About a three.”

And then she looks at my hands and my feet-at the swollen joints and twisted toes-and shakes her head.

But here’s the deal:  sure they hurt, sure I can’t do all the things I used to do, sure I have to do many things differently than I did them when my hands and feet were unaffected by this disease-but I’m STILL moving and doing what needs to be done.

I don’t really know how to do anything else.

And that’s how it is with this grief I lug around-it’s heavier some days than others-but I’m STILL moving and doing what needs to be done.

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This is not the life I thought I would be living, but it’s the life I have.

So I make accommodations for my sorrow just like I make accommodations for my hurting hands and crooked toes.

  • I try not to over-schedule my days.  If I have an appointment I mark it on the calendar and refuse to pile other commitments on top of it.  That way if I’m wiped out I have some built in down time.
  • I prioritize what needs to be done.  Whether it is for a week or a day, I jot down a list (still using paper-but a phone would work) and then decide what are the two or three MOST important tasks that must be done in that time frame.  If I find myself running behind because it’s a hard grief day (or week), I can quickly make choices that ensure the needful things are done and the others laid aside for when I have more energy to do them.  I’m less anxious about what I don’t get finished because I know I did the most important things first.
  • I build rest into my days.  When I’m overtired, I’m more susceptible to grief attacks. I pause every now and then to sit or take a quick walk outside or simply change my work from detail-oriented to broad strokes.  I have more flexibility because I work at home but even in an office it’s possible.  My husband walks every day on his lunch hour-sunshine and physical activity make his afternoons easier to bear.
  • I ask for help. When I’m drowning in grief, I reach out for a lifeline.  There’s no shame in asking for help.  I have a good friend that I can text or call anytime I need to and ask for prayer or a listening ear.  I belong to a couple of online grief groups and they are full of people who understand my pain and will lift me up in prayer and encourage my heart when it feels especially broken.
  • I accept my limitations.  My toes don’t allow me to wear beautiful shoes anymore so I’ve learned to wear what fits instead of what’s in fashion.  I am not the same person I was before I buried a child so I’m learning to live with the new me.  I don’t like crowds.  I don’t like unexpected change.  I feel anxious in unfamiliar places and around strangers.  I make choices that limit my exposure to those things when possible.
  • I shake off the really awful day.  I can’t help that some days take a nosedive into terrible as soon as I leave the bed. I admit that grieving is hard, that it will continue to be hard.  But I won’t let my worst days be my only days.

I am not in control of everything, but I can control some things.

I would not have chosen this life for myself, but I can make choices that help make it bearable.

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