What I’ve Learned About Grief: A Bereaved Dad’s Perspective

I belong to a number of closed online bereaved parent groups.  

I’m not sure if it is a function of gender or not, but the moms seem to be a bit more willing to share their feelings and to respond to the feelings of others.  

Every now and then, a dad speaks up. When he does, I usually pay close attention to this male perspective.

Wes Lake is a bereaved dad in our group who often has thoughtful posts that help my heart.  This one in particular was a beautiful, true and helpful reflection so I asked him for permission to share.

He graciously agreed.  

” [I was] just thinking about 5 years down this road and some of the things I’ve learned:

Grief doesn’t usually kill you.

For a long time I wished the Lord would take me but apparently he had other plans because I’m still here. So if I’m still alive what choice do I have but to pick up the pieces of a shattered life and learn to live again. Yes, I’m severely disabled but I need to make the best of what I have.

It is not the hand your dealt, it is about how you play the cards.

world-doesnt-stop-for-your-grief

I have learned not to trust my emotions.

I will have the blackest of black days and a day later the world will look like there is hope. Nothing in child loss good or bad is forever other than the loss of our child.

On the bad days I hold out hoping for a better day.

good day bad day god is in all days lucado

Time does heal but not in a way that most people think.  

Time shows you all the sides of grief. Time teaches you your limitations.  Time helps you to stuff the grief so you can function again.  Time shows you how to interact with a non-grieving world.

You don’t grieve any less, but your life gets easier.

it has been said that time heals all wounds rose kennedy clock

One other one not part is of the OP [overall process]-I had to come to grips with being happy.

For a long time I felt that experiencing the slightest sliver of joy was somehow being unfaithful to my daughter. I’m here to tell you that is a huge lie of grief. Just because you are experiencing good things does not mean you miss your child any less.

Being a martyr gets you no place good.”

~ Wes Lake, bereaved dad

grieving person is going to laugh again

 

Lessons Learned

I don’t believe for one minute that child loss is a test or curriculum or punishment.  

But I  do believe there are things I can learn from it. 

I absolutely believe there are things I HAVE learned and am learning in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.

What are some of those lessons?

I know life is hard.  Not just for me or for those who suffer my particular tragedy or difficulty.  Life is hard for everyone.  If I can’t see the burden someone is carrying, that’s either because they are good at hiding it or I’m not looking closely enough.

I know many things remain broken for a lifetime.  They simply can’t be fixed, put back together or patched up to even resemble what they used to look like.  And there’s no shame in that.  Brokenness is not failure.  For most of us, the brokenness is a result of what has happened TO us, not choices we made ourselves.  For those whose brokenness is magnified by poor choices,  it’s no less devastating.

I know people give up on you.  Some folks simply cannot bear to see another person’s pain so they leave.  Others are too self-absorbed to make room for long term compassionate companionship.  A few turn away, disgusted because they are convinced it can’t happen to them and if it did, they’d handle it so. much. better.

I know people stand by you.  If you had asked me to write a list of the ten people (outside my family) that would still be walking with me over four years later, I’d have only gotten two of them right.  People I would never have imagined have stepped up and stepped in and refused to run away no matter how ugly it gets.  They are gifts from God and I treasure them.

I know that time is not on our side.  We think that tomorrow is the perfect day for sending the card, writing the note, making the phone call.  But tomorrow may not come-not for me or for the person that means so much to my heart.  Bless today.  Give today.  Be present.  Today.

I know that, for me, my faith has been shaken but not destroyed.  I have dragged out every single thing I believe and held it up to the glaring light of child loss.  It burned away the superfluous, decorative and/or foolish things but has left the rock-solid foundation of my faith intact.  I am as convinced today as ever that God will redeem, restore and resurrect what the enemy has stolen.  I am not forsaken.

I know that love lives.  I never imagined I would have to love a child of mine from earth while he or she was already in Heaven, but I do.  And I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter whether I have his physical companionship because all the love I’ve ever felt is still there.  I miss him like crazy.  I can’t wait until we are together.  I hate our broken family circle.  But the circle of love we weave in and out through our hearts and our stories cannot be broken.  It is eternal.

I’ve learned that I can hold out and hold on. 

I can keep moving forward even with a limp or at a snail’s pace. 

I’ve learned that if I lean in and latch on to love, life can still have beauty and purpose. 

learned a lot this year deer

A High Price to Pay

I have learned a lot in these four years since Dominic ran ahead ahead to heaven.

But what a price to pay for wisdom!

It’s certainly not one I’d have agreed to up front.

Yet, here I am, older and oh, so much wiser, than I would have been if I had not buried a child.

Sometimes I resent that I wasn’t given the choice.  I would trade any wisdom, no matter how beautiful and valuable for the life of my  son.

No contest.

But since I cannot have him back, I’m trying hard to pay attention to the lessons grief is teaching me.  I try to embrace the insights sorrow is showing my heart.  I will not treat lightly any wisdom I may find in this Valley.  I won’t dishonor my son’s life by making little of the things his death has revealed to  me.

And I will not stay silent.

I will shout from the rooftops, from the hillsides, from any bit of altitude I can gain that the most important thing in life is love.

Love of God.

Love of people.

Nothing else really matters.

love God love others rocks

Everything else can be bought and sold.

But love cannot be traded for money-it is priceless, eternal and immortal.

Our bodies don’t last forever, but love does.  

Our hopes may be dashed, but love lives.

Our breath may be exhausted, but love never runs out.

the answer is still and again love

Trade With the Gifts God Has Given You

Sometimes it seems more trouble than it’s worth to try to tease out truth from antiquated language.  

But may I encourage you to find at least one quote a day that makes you stop and think? 

It’s good exercise for the mind and the soul!  

Here’s one I ran across just recently (with modern “translation” between stanzas):

Trade with the gifts God has given you.

Lend your minds to holy learning that

you may escape the fretting moth of

littleness of mind that would wear out your souls.

Be who you are-don’t spend time lamenting who you are not.  Do the thing God has given YOU to do.  Work the field God has given YOU to work.

Fill your mind with Truth from Scripture and from trusted sources.  Enlarge your vision by embracing an eternal perspective lest the struggle of daily life eat holes in your hope like moths in a sweater.  You might not realize it until you need it most, and then it won’t be serviceable.  

Grace your wills to action that they may

may not be the spoils of weak desires

Train your hearts and lips to song which

gives courage to the soul.

Learn to act according to principle and not desire-rise above the moment and lean into the long view.  Don’t give in to every lust that pops into your head-that only leads to sorrow and addiction.

Sing in the daylight when it’s easy and you feel like singing so that it’s a habit. 

You will need it in the dark.

Being buffeted by trials, learn to laugh.

Being reproved, give thanks.

Having failed, determine to succeed.

Homily of St. Hilda, Abbess of Whitby, 657-680 A.D.

You are going to be knocked down, learn to laugh about it-or at least to smile.

You will be criticized, learn to receive it with thanks-there is usually some truth in it.

You will fail. 

Don’t give up. 

Try again and again and again.

May we never tire of doing what is good and right before our Lord because in His season we shall bring in a great harvest if we can just persist.

Galatians 6:9 VOICE

 

I’m Not, but He IS

Even when I can’t see Him, He is near.

psalm-34-18.jpg

Even when I don’t feel it, He is loving me.

nothing-separate

Even when my strength is gone, He is sustaining me.

fear-not

I am not strong, or smart, or brave.

But He is Strength

ephesians-6_10

 

and Wisdom

the-lord-gives-wisdom

and Courage!

psalm-27-1