Grief Is As Individual As A Fingerprint

It’s a nearly universal human tendency to try to fit another’s experience into our own.

Even though I try hard not to, I still often find myself saying things like, “I know just how you feel” or, “This worked for me, it ought to work for you”.

Trouble is, grief is as individual as a fingerprint.

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The life that was shared before loss, the circumstances surrounding the loss, family structure, support systems (or lack thereof!), age, social connections, faith, friends and fears all shape how a particular person experiences and processes loss.

  • Some of us have safe people in our circle and can talk things out with them.
  • Others need a professional counselor to work through specific trauma associated with loss.
  • Still others are internal processors and require lots and lots of time alone.
  • One heart finds comfort pouring over old photographs and watching old videos.
  • The next can’t bear to look at any of it.
  • Exercise strengthens him but drains her.
  • Social situations paralyze some of us and help pull others out of our shell.
  • Frequent graveside visits are a means of connection for one person and only a reminder of death to another.

The list could go on and on.

So I’ll say it again:

However you make it through this Valley is just fine. There’s no right way or wrong way to grieve.

As long as you are not harming yourself or others (physically or emotionally) then carry on, dear heart.

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The Penalty and Gift of Love

Love is risky business.  

There’s no way to guarantee you’ll escape unscathed.  

And a broken heart can make us oh, so afraid to try again.  

I get it.  

My heart was absolutely, totally shattered when that deputy knocked on my door and delivered the news. 

But I refuse to lock my love in a vault so my heart can be safe.  

Because life without love isn’t life.  ❤

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Ain’t Got Time (Or Energy!) For That

I wouldn’t describe myself as an optimist. 

It’s not really that I always see the glass half-full, it’s just that somewhere, early in life, I learned to be thankful I had a glass.

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So when faced with a challenge or problem or even devastating circumstances, my first thought is, “What resources do I have available to address this?”

I used to be able to take Negative Nellies in stride. 

I could brush off their comments like gnats in the summer. 

Annoying, but ultimately powerless to do me harm. 

And I used to spend a lot of time cheerleading for others-trying hard to help them see that whatever situation THEY were in was not as hopeless as they thought.

I tried to encourage friends, family and even acquaintances to use their own deep resources to tackle a problem.  

But somehow, in this Valley, surrounded by high mountains and with an unlit path winding long before me, negative talk, action and attitudes are on my nerves.

Instead of merely being an annoyance, it feels like these folks have tapped into whatever strength I have left and are draining it through a straw.

If I stick around too long, they will drain me dry.

So I turn and run when I can.  

Call it cowardice.  

I call it self-preservation.

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“Don’t try to win over the haters, you are not a jackass whisperer.” ~ Brene Brown

 

Not What I Had Planned

I don’t get to choose.

I don’t get to plan the way life is going to be.

Oh, I bring out the calendar and mark down the days:  birthdays, holidays, special events and obligations.

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But then one dark morning a knock stops the clock and makes the world spin faster all at once.

I’m suspended and plunged under in the same breath.

Frozen.  Broken. Horrified.

How did this happen?

How is this my life?

My head and heart explode in pain.

Months pass.  The days march on.

I still don’t get to choose what sunrise brings.

But looking back I’m grateful that when my circle was whole we chose love.

That when the days were unfolding we chose faith.

That even as the night closed in and the days grew dark we continued to cling to the one Hope that proves true.

I’m thankful that my heart was full of praise songs and Scripture and that when I couldn’t lift my hand to turn the pages of my Bible the Spirit used them to whisper courage to my soul.

This Valley is deep and the sun is often hidden by the towering mountains on either side.

I have learned two things:

I can’t determine how life unfolds,

but I can decide where to place my hope. 

“I admit how broken I am in body and spirit,

but God is my strength,

and He will be mine forever.”

Psalm 73:26 VOICE

 

 

 

Living With Unanswered Questions

It’s been nineteen years since the Towers fell.  Hard to believe-no matter how great the tragedy, life goes on.  

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Like many, I was watching things as they happened that day.

My husband, an architect and engineer, saw the wobble in the first tower and knew, he knew, it was going to collapse.  Horrified I began to understand that whoever was still in that building was running out of time.

And I cried, oh, how I cried.  It was awful.

Since then I’ve lived my own tragedy.

My son was unexpectedly and instantly taken from us in an accident.

So when I’m reminded of 9/11 my heart takes me right to those left behind.

And while politicians and pundits can debate the reasons for the attack, can argue about what could have been done, should have been done and why and when-they can never answer the real question in the heart of every family who buried a loved one because of the events of that day.

Why MY husband, wife, daughter, son?  How do I make sense of this senseless tragedy?

The answer is, “You can’t.”

You cannot know why one person chose to go this way and lived and another went a different direction and died.  It’t impossible to understand the series of events that made someone late for work that day but lead another to show up early.

Last minute travel plan changes saved some from being aboard the fateful planes and put others in a seat.

I can’t know exactly why my son lost control of his motorcycle that night.  I will live the rest of my life without an answer to that question.

It’s an ongoing challenge to face the discomfort of things NOT making sense. It goes against human nature to acknowledge that the world is far less predictable than we like to believe.

It takes courage to greet each new day with knowledge that ANYTHING might happen-not only beautiful and wonderful things, but ugly and awful things as well.

If I let my heart dwell on the questions of “why?” and “control”, I am paralyzed, unable to take another step.

There’s no clear path through a world filled with the rubble of broken lives and broken people.

So I turn my heart toward Christ and His promise to never leave or forsake me.

And I am emboldened to take the next step because I know He is already there, even in the dark.

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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.

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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.