Stronger Together

Remember Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz? She found herself on an unexpected journey with no one except her dog. Then she made a few new friends who were all looking for solutions to their needs. What did they do? They locked arms as they traveled the yellow brick road and encountered its hazards together. As a group, they pressed on toward the Emerald City.

Alone, they were overwhelmed; they succumbed to their fears and obstacles. But when they came together, they found the courage and strength they needed to keep going. They became a healing community sharing common pain and goals.

~Dena Yohe, You Are Not Alone

I’m not making a political statement.

Instead, it’s a very personal truth that I repeat often to myself: We are Stronger Together.

Because left alone in my grief, my sorrow and this dark valley I will give up and give in.  By myself, I will convince my heart that there is no hope. Isolated, I will lose sight of the tiny glimmer of light in the distance that can guide me home.

There are many brave women who have come alongside and joined me in this journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  

Some I know only from exchanged messages or posts on bereaved parents’ boards.  Some I have had the blessed opportunity to meet in person-share a meal or a coffee-and see the beautiful face that encourages me when I think I can’t go on.

Others are authors whose words breathe hope into my exhausted soul.

These linked arms make an unbreakable chain of love, support and affirmation that gives me courage to carry on.

And I am thankful for each and every one.

circle-of-women

Lessons From a Midwife on Life, Death and the Power of Presence

A fellow “waiting” mom wrote this and gave me permission to share:

“I coached my oldest daughter through natural labor and childbirth on Wednesday night. She stayed at 9cm for 3.5 hours.

Towards the end she looked at me and said ‘I can’t do this, I’m not strong enough!’

I looked at her and said, ‘You can because you have your husband and me right here with you to give you our strength.’

We held her up while she rocked back and forth moving her little guy down into position.

While I was holding my daughter through such physical trauma I thought about how God held me up after the loss of her sister.

I didn’t have the strength to stand. I felt like I couldn’t do it.

But He held me.

He didn’t take the pain away but He held me up when my strength failed me.”

Her words brought light to my heart.  

Here was a mama who has faced life and death and learned something she was willing to share.

Her experience reminded me of this Brene Brown quote I had read months ago:

Faith isn’t an epidural.  It’s a midwife who stands next to me saying, “Push,  It’s supposed to hurt.” ~Brene Brown

As I reflected on my friend’s words and this quote, I realized there were some lessons here-for birth, for death and for grief.

A midwife does not deny the pain.

It hurts!

It hurts to give birth.  It hurts to say good-bye.  It hurts to carry grief everywhere I go.

When someone comes alongside and denies the truth of my pain, I shut down and stop listening.

But when they enter in and acknowledge my pain, I receive courage to continue pushing.

A midwife does not offer false hope.

She knows that there is no way through but through.  A midwife bears witness and lends strength but she doesn’t pretend it will be easy.

There are no shortcuts to birth and no detours for grief.  I can only face the sorrow, missing and hurt and keep going.

But the journey is easier when someone is willing to travel with me, to listen and to help bear the burden.

A midwife understands that though the pain is great and the process long, it will end.

It hurts.  But it won’t hurt forever.

She doesn’t throw that truth in the hurting mama’s face.  She whispers prayers for mercy.

For the profound wounds of life, there are no quick fixes.  There is no easy healing.

We endure because God through His Spirit lends us strength.

We make it through because Jesus promises to redeem and restore.

And because friends remind us with their presence that God is near.

kindness

What a gift are those friends who stay near when life is hard,

who choose to stick it out when pain makes us both uncomfortable

and continue to love and lend their strength when mine is gone!

Astonished. Again.

For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?

But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?

How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

No matter how tightly I strap on my armor, grief sends arrows through the tiniest unprotected chink and pierces my heart.

Read the rest of this post here:  Not as Strong as I Look

 

A Strong Tower

 

In the  days when battle was conducted face-to-face, before missiles were guided from planes and ships and game consoles continents away-a fortified tower, a castle or a deep cave were places of refuge and safety.

Death could be imminent, but if a harried combatant could make it to one of these places he could catch his breath, regroup, plan a counter-attack.

Grief feels like a battle.

And I often find myself looking for refuge.  I need a safe place to find my strength again.

Praying is still very hard for me.

I know my Father is listening, I know Jesus is with me but I don’t really have much to say. The one great cry of my heart cannot be answered, my son will not return.

So I run to the promise that is His Name.

When I can’t even whisper a prayer, I speak peace to my soul by declaring  Who He is.  

Years ago I memorized this verse:

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.  Proverbs 18:10 NIV

And it has been a light in the darkest nights of this dark, dark journey.

I know many who read my blog are fellow bereaved parents and they are battling too. They are struggling to find a way to face another day without their beloved child.  They hurt and they long for the comfort of hearing God’s voice in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Prayer might be hard for them too.

I want to speak courage to your heart.

I want to whisper hope to your battered soul.  

When you can’t speak, when you feel defeated, when you are running for your life from the enemy who would have you believe that there is no safe place, remember that God sees you. He is your refuge.  

His name is powerful and He is mighty to save.

Many of us have memorized the twenty-third psalm.  We don’t see it in English, but these verses contain several names of God.

shepherd 2

At the start of this passage, God reveals Himself as Jehovah-Roi: “The Lord my Shepherd”.

He is the God Who sees, He is the God Who is present, He is the God Who guides me even here in this awful valley.

So I declare the truth that God is my Shepherd to whoever and whatever is chasing me.

I declare that God is with me to my weary soul even when I cannot feel His Presence.

I shout, “God is my Shepherd” to the darkness and run for safety to His arms.  

 

 

Fragile

If you’ve ever had major surgery you know that the outside looks whole way before the inside is healed.

That’s how it is with grief–those of us who have lost a child appear to be strong–we have to be, because life doesn’t stop.

Not even for burying a child.

No matter how tightly I strap on my armor, grief sends arrows through the tiniest unprotected chink and pierces my heart.

There is no defense against the sound, the smell, the wayward memory that sends me back in time to when Dominic was alive and with me.  And once there, to drag myself forward to today—where he is neither—is torture. 

Sometimes the process can be a matter of seconds, the only evidence a blank stare or a single tear.  Other times the memories and the forceful return to the here and now unleashes a flood from my eyes and ends my usefulness for that day.

Either way, it’s exhausting. 

I think that might be one of the most surprising aspects of grief for me.  When it strikes hard (as it still does sometimes) it robs me of energy and the desire to do anything.

I am a “get-it-done” kind of person.  But there’s no way to get grief “done”.  It works itself out in its own time and in its own way.

I can position my mind and my heart to heal by focusing on the promises of God in Scripture.  But I cannot hurry along the healing.

And healing, when it comes, will always be incomplete this side of heaven.

Please don’t mistake the fact that I can stand straight and look strong as proof that I am recovered. 

I am often frightened and sometimes I want to hide.

But vulnerable and wounded, I remain until God calls me home.

“In His feathers He shall deliver you and under His wings you shall have refuge; His truth shall surround you as a supply of armor.”

Psalm 91:4

When it Doesn’t Feel Like Grace

It’s been said that everything this side of hell is the grace of God.

But burying my child doesn’t feel like grace, it feels like punishment.

Or abandonment.

Or forgetfulness.

I cannot add my voice to the modern Christian chorus of “Everything happens for a reason”.

Is this my tree, set in the midst of my garden?  The one about which God says, “Trust Me”?

I am tempted to argue, tempted to try to frame the meaning of my test in terms my human heart can understand.

“God must not love me.”

“He must be hiding something.”

I am faced with the same question that mocked my first mother, “Did God really say?”

And, like Eve, I am tempted to give in to the fear that draws my soul to doubt the wisdom and goodness of God.

Why would He bring me to this place where I am forced to walk obediently in trust and without light?

But these are whispers of the enemy of my soul, luring me away from the only Source of hope and comfort that there is.

And he is skilled at turning my feelings against the truth.

I am powerless to fight the serpent in my own strength, too weak to answer what seem like reasonable questions.

So I throw myself on the mercy of Him Who made me, of Him Who brought me to this point of testing.

In my weakness I rest in His strength.

and finally He said to me, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on—I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me.

2 Corinthians 12:9 VOICE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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