Doubt Is Not Denial: Journaling My Way Home

When I was asked several months ago to speak to a group of hospice care workers, I titled the presentation “Lifting the Veil on Grief”.

One of the topics I covered was how experiencing the death of a loved one-especially out-of-order or untimely death- can cause even the staunchest believer to doubt.

And the first thing I said was, “Doubt in the face of overwhelming sorrow and hard circumstances is absolutely normal.  But doubt is NOT disbelief.”

So often friends, family, clergy, social workers and others want to steer hearts away from doubt because they are afraid that entertaining questions or expressing disappointment in God will always lead to someone losing faith.

That is untrue.

When my son ran ahead to Heaven, I reexamined everything I believed.

But I did not “lose” my faith.

I never once doubted that God was still working, was still loving and was still in control.

But I most certainly had to drag out every single thing I thought I knew about how He worked, loved and superintended the world and examine it in light of my experience of burying my son.  It took a long time to work through all the pat answers I had been offered and myself doled out to others for years that didn’t fit with my new reality.

One of the ways I did that was to journal my questions, complaints, anger and disappointment.  I wrote it out.

Many of the Psalms are precisely that-David and others crying out to God, begging Him for understanding and for a sliver of hope.  As the Psalmist breathed out his doubts and fears, the Spirit of God breathed fresh life into his soul.

i wait for the lord

My journals are filled with strong words and strong feelings.  They are also filled with, what I believe, God spoke to my heart in response.  Sometimes it was in the form of a Bible verse, sometimes a memory, sometimes song lyrics or a prayer.  And sometimes the pages are simply a record of how my Shepherd gently led me through a particular hard moment or day or week.

So if you are struggling with doubt-let yourself off the hook. 

You can’t deny it. 

And you don’t have to. 

You’re in good company.

Grab a notebook and pen and start writing.  Just begin.  Don’t edit yourself in fear someone may read it one day.  God knows anyway.

When you’re done spilling, sit quietly in the Presence of your Shepherd.  Listen to what He may be speaking to your broken heart.

I have done this for decades through many hard things- child loss being the hardest.

The Lord is faithful to meet me right where I am and fill me with His Spirit.

He’s never leaves me without hope when I turn my heart toward Him.

but the lord stood with me and gave me strength

 

Child Loss: Setting Aside Time To Grieve Helps My Heart Hold On

One of the commitments I made out loud and in my heart the day Dominic left us was this:  I was not going to let his death tear my family apart.  

I was not going to let him become the sainted brother that stood apart and above his siblings.  

I was going to continue to give as much of my time, effort, love and presence to each of the three I had left as I had done when there were four on earth beside me.

I’ve been more or less successful in keeping this promise.

I have no doubt that if you asked my living children, they could give you examples when I’ve failed.  Some days are just too much.  Some events are too hard to attend.

Some moments I am overwhelmed

and undone

and there’s no way to hide it.  

But I’ve learned a few things that help me be present, attentive and joyful for the beautiful things that are happening around me.

One of those is to set aside time whenever possible to “pre-grieve” an upcoming celebration or gathering.

hand-coffee-roosevelt

I allow my heart to feel all the things it needs to feel.  I journal the questions and comments and (sometimes) anger that would otherwise overflow and ruin a moment.  I write to Dominic and tell him how much I miss him, how much I wish he were here and how very hard it is to mark another happy occasion without him.

I mentally rehearse walking in, greeting people, making small talk. 

I think ahead to any big moments that might tap emotions I need to hold in check.  I even plan an “escape route” should I need it. Just knowing it exists has always been enough so far. 

Sometimes I find a song that suits my mood.  

I cry.  

And then I choose a token I can wear or slip in my pocket to remind me that I’ve got this.

I can show up and smile (honestly) because I’ve already loosed the dam of grief and let the stored up torrent flow over the spillway.

engagement party group shot (2)

I’ve learned the hard way that memories are precious.  I don’t want the ones I’m making now to always be tainted by sorrow and loss.  

Dominic is never far from my thoughts and always in my heart.  

I’m not abandoning nor forgetting him.

I honor him by honoring his siblings.  

Love lives.  

happy birthday balloons no words

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is It Really MY Responsibility? Letting Go of What I Can’t Control.

I’m one of those people that will answer a stranger’s question in a store if I think I can help.  

It’s how I’m made.  

Sometimes, though, that sense that “if I CAN help, I MUST help” is a burden.

I end up taking responsibility for all kinds of things that I shouldn’t.  I step in when I should just walk away.  I try to make folks happy when it is not in my power to do so.  I clean up messes I didn’t make and rob the one who DID make them the opportunity to grow and learn through a mistake.

 And, to be honest, I empty myself of the limited energy and resources I have this side of child loss.   

I’m trying to do better.  

I’m trying to let go and let others take their lumps.

I’m trying to shoulder only my OWN responsibility.  Because in the end, it’s all that I can really control.  

MY words, behavior, actions, efforts mistakes, ideas and consequences. 

The rest is up to others. 

is and is not my responsibility

Repost: Is My Son My “Guardian Angel”?

It’s really hard to wrap my mind around what exactly Dominic is doing now that he’s not here with me.  Sometimes I try to create a narrative or a scene or a story line that gives me something to hold on to.

It’s not easy though.  

So I absolutely understand why some parents think of their missing child as their “guardian angel”.  But that just doesn’t correspond to what Scripture tells me about what happens after death.

I firmly believe that there is a heaven and that my son is there, in the presence of Jesus and the saints that have gone before.

Read the rest here:  Is My Son My “Guardian Angel”?

Rainy Days and Mondays…

I don’t have to leave my house to “go” to work.  

Most everything I have to do is on these 35 acres or within a mile of my home.  And my routine is pretty much the same seven days a week.

So Mondays aren’t really all that big a deal.  But rainy days?  Well, those make EVERYTHING more challenging.  

It’s been one heck of week here.  Heavy rain for at least an hour or more each day means that it’s so soggy I can barely tell the difference between the mud and the manure (and that’s an important distinction to make around here!).

My driveway is a river.  I haven’t had to fill water troughs for days because it rains as much as the horses, donkeys and goats drink.

rain and gully

Gray days infect my soul with a kind of weariness that’s hard to express.

I’m always just a breath or two away from overwhelming sadness, and when there is day after day after day of rain and clouds and mud and muck it often overtakes me.

I try so hard to buck up and ignore it.  But I’m not always successful.  

Mornings are good.  If I sleep well the night before, I can get going and momentum carries me through until a little after lunchtime.  Somewhere between three and four in the afternoon,  I usually lose the battle.

Willpower just isn’t enough to overcome the sense of “what’s the use” that nips at my heels like a terrier chasing a squirrel.  

So I usually give in.  Sometimes I even go on to bed.  

I feel like a failure.  

I used to be able to work hard for a good 18 hours out of every 24. 

Not anymore. 

Especially on rainy days…

 

Torches In The Dark

There are so many life circumstances that plunge a heart into darkness.  

Child loss is certainly one of them, although not the only one.  

And when you’re in the dark, stumbling around, trying to avoid the sharp corners and looking, looking, looking for a tiny sliver of light to guide you out, it is terrifying.  

If you don’t have a pocket full of matches or a flashlight or a lantern, you are at the mercy of whoever cares enough to come back for you.

I am so thankful for the friends and family who never tire of my fearful cries when I find myself in dark places.  

They come running.  

They don’t leave me there.  

Sometimes all they have is a tiny candle themselves, a sliver of hope they are clinging to.  But they raise it high , share its glow with me and together we take a step forward toward the brighter light of day.

I will never, ever forget the ones who come to me with a torch.

They help my heart when I can’t help myself.  

They refuse to leave me in the dark.  

 

you never forget a person who came to you with a torch in the dark

Photo of man with lantern by Marko Blažević on Unsplash

Grief Lasts As Long As Love Does

I know that before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I didn’t really think a lot about grief.  

I had lost grandparents and other relatives, but no one so close to me that the thought of how I was supposed to relate to them after death made a daily difference.  

I realized when Dominic left, that all the love I ever felt for him I still felt. 

All the parts of me that belonged to him still belonged to him and the parts of him that belonged to me still belonged to me.  

grief is the last act of love angel and candle

Love doesn’t die.  Love lives as long as the person doing the loving has breath.  

Grief doesn’t replace love. 

It IS love.  

all acts of grief are normal