I recently read a young bereaved mother’s blog post and it saddened me. She had suffered two pre-term losses and in addition to bearing that pain, she had been pressured to dismiss her babies’ deaths as unimportant.
This grieving mama was told that she was “not defined by her tragedies” and encouraged to “rise above them” and to “move on”.
Along with the natural questions about God that arise in the wake of loss, her believing friends didn’t offer the support she needed to persevere in faith. She now defines herself as “faith-less”.
I told her I was so very sorry that this was her experience. And that we ARE defined by our tragedies, just as we are defined by our joyful moments, our exciting moments and our fearful moments.
Only people who have never suffered a great and deeply scarring loss can afford to say something as flippant as that.
I am a wife. I wasn’t always a wife.
But one day I went into the church in a white dress and walked out of the church a wife. No one would argue that the moment my husband and I stood before God and witnesses didn’t redefine both of us in ways we wouldn’t fully comprehend for years.
I am a mother. I wasn’t always a mother.
But one day a little life began growing inside me and nine months later, my daughter was in my arms. Three sons followed soon after. Even though they are all grown and one son lives in heaven, I AM STILL A MOTHER.
I am a college graduate, a Southerner, a shepherd, a follower of Christ–all parts of who I am that were declared in a moment, that define who I am today and will continue to shape who I am tomorrow.
So when my son died suddenly in an accident and a deputy came to my door to give me the news, it changed me. It modified who I am and who I will be.
Bereavement became part of the fabric of my life, altered the color of the threads and changed the pattern of the weave. It is impossible to pull out that thread without unravelling the whole cloth.
I can make choices about HOW tragedy will define me, but I can’t pretend it didn’t happen or that it doesn’t affect my very soul.
It’s easier to acknowledge pleasant milestones and moments because they affirm our hope that life will be joyful and happy. We wear symbols to remind us of them–wedding rings, school rings, crosses–and invite people to share how life has changed because of choices made.
It’s much harder to offer hospitality to the hurting heart. It takes more energy to listen to the tragic tale. It requires more understanding to allow a broken soul into our living room and bear witness to the pain.
But the most beautiful art is defined by contrast between light and dark. The most moving music contains major and minor keys. The most compelling story includes tragedy and triumph.
There are many things that define me and bereavement is only one of them. But it IS one of them. My life can only be understood by including them all.