Child Loss: The Question of Photographs

When I shared this post awhile back, it sparked quite a discussion among friends and an online community of bereaved parents to which I belong.

Pictures are a mixed blessing to those of us who have buried a child:

We love to see our dear one’s face beaming back at us but we also long to touch and hold the one represented by the two-dimensional image.  And when others share a photo on Facebook or Instagram, we are sometimes caught off-guard as our newsfeed scrolls by–There he is!  Our hearts stop for a moment.

I love to get pictures of my son through email or in notes and letters-many are ones I would otherwise never know about.  So if you have photos that a bereaved parent might like to see, think about sharing them.  And write a line or two about how our child is still part of your life.

We miss our children and welcome ways to connect with them through others.

“Pictures are everywhere today–much different than when I was a child and you had to go down to the local studio to get a decent family photo. Poloroids were fun and fast, but the number of shots you could take was limited to the film in the packet.

One of the challenges facing bereaved parents is what to do about photographs–both the ones that exist and the ones yet to be taken.”

Read the rest: Bereaved Parents and The Question of Photographs

Taking a Breather

The sun is shining in Alabama and I’m going to try to plant a garden again this year for the first time since losing Dominic.  I haven’t had the energy to invest in tending to growing things before this Spring. I pray it is good therapy and that seeing things sprout and bloom will encourage my heart.

So I’m going to share again a couple of posts that were popular. Some of you may have read them but there are a number of new followers that might have missed them.

I hope you are enjoying the warming weather too.  New posts coming soon!

One day a few weeks ago, I decided to simply make a list of the things grief is teaching me. I think I could add a few lines to this post, because I am learning something new every day…

To read more:

Things I’m Learning

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

 

 

 

God of the Day and God of the Night

I was afraid of the dark until I was almost forty years old.

My fear was rooted in scary childhood moments and even years of adult experience could not rip it from the soil of my psyche. I never could convince my heart what my head knew to be true: there was nothing in the dark that wasn’t also there in the light.

It was fear, not darkness, that controlled me.

There is great darkness in grief.  So many unanswerable questions, so much anquish, so much pain.

And there is darkness in many other painful, unchangeable circumstances.

The darkness can hide things that I see clearly in the light.  And if I’m not careful, I  can allow the darkness to foster fear and keep me from venturing futher.

In my own strength, depending on my own resources, I am afraid.

But when I call out from my scary place to the God Who made me, I can face the fear in confidence He hears and cares.

When I am afraid, O Lord Almighty, I put my trust in you.

Psalm 56:3 GNT

Sometimes believers in Christ can convince themselves that admitting their world is dark with pain or suffering or questions diminishes the power of God–that it speaks ill of God or that it means God is insufficient to uphold us in our weakness.

If I pretend that I’m never afraid, or that I never experience darkness, I am denying others my aid.

Even worse, I may be shaming them to silence, sending the message that if they are experiencing pain, something is wrong with THEM.

How many people are sitting in our pews with broken hearts and broken lives, afraid to reach out for help because–in addition to the pain of their broken life–they live under condemnation?

Life is full of pain and darkness.  Even for those who follow Jesus.

When I deny that truth, I also refuse to testify to God’s power to help me carry on and give me the courage to face my fear.

God is the God of the day AND the God of the night.  

I do not diminish Him by admitting that I experience both.

He invites me to lean into Him and to hold hands with His children as I journey on, even when it’s dark.

“Christians with this unflinching faith in the sovereign God do not deny grief. But even in their darkest hours, they borrow God’s strength. In their tears and pain they cling to God who will never let them go. What the Savior has done for others He will do for you. When you are shaken, and you know that life will never be the same again, you can trust and not be afraid. You can live in HOPE with the sturdy confidence that God will dry your tears and put you on your feet again.”

“Grief, Comfort for Those Who Grieve and Those Who Want to Help” by Haddon W. Robinson

 

 

 

denial

To deny the presence of pain is to diminish the power of the cross.  

Dying, Jesus honored His mother’s courage by acknowledging her pain. She was losing the Son she loved and it hurt in a way that only mothers can comprehend.  He didn’t tell her that it would “be alright” or that “the ending is ultimately victorious”.

Instead, He looked upon her trembling figure and saw her broken heart.

He made what practical provision He could by telling John to care for her. He knew it would not undo her sorrow.

Some in the church preach that pain and suffering are anomalies–that they are aberrations in the “victorious Christian life”.

And we place great emphasis on the idea that even though we may have trouble in this life–“We know the REST of the story! Jesus WINS!

Yes. He. does.

But some of our earthly stories-the ones we are living right now- do not have tidy, happy endings:

Some are burned in the fire.

Some die of cancer.

Some fall headlong into mental illness.

And some bury their children.

What to do when you are confronted by undeniable pain in your own or someone else’s life?

Acknowledge it.

Look with mercy on the broken heart.

Allow suffering to flow from the cracks unchecked and unjudged.

Be still and be love.

Offer practical aid without strings attached.  Be mindful of what is actually helpful even if it doesn’t make sense to you.  Come alongside for the long haul.

There is no greater gift to the one who is suffering than a faithful friend who refuses to be frightened away.

Loving burden-bearers help those of us living with no-happy-ending earthly stories cling more securely to the hope of ultimate victory in Christ.  

And by doing so, declare the power of the cross.  

For the message of the cross is foolishness [absurd and illogical] to those who are perishing and spiritually dead [because they reject it], but to us who are being saved [by God’s grace] it is [the manifestation of] the power of God.

I Corinthians 1:18 AMP

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