How many times have you struggled to find the words to support and encourage others in the midst of life’s trials? Help is available. Follow the links below to check out the book and a selection of empathy cards.
I’m far more verbal than my husband, David. Should you meet him you will find that he has a dry wit, an interest in politics (shudder), and for some strange reason knows someone everywhere we go. His current boss picked up on that last fact one day when they were out and about on some job related task and turned to him and said, “Are you the Mayor or something?” She now refers to him as “The Mayor”. He has also been dubbed the “Dos Equis Man” based upon the “Most Interesting Man in the World” ad campaign for the Mexican beer brand. (That moniker is my personal favorite).
In public David blends in until one-liners and witticisms pop out and others take note. He is known for his sense of humor and fun and he’s well-liked for that reason among others. Aside from his interest in politics you might think he’s just an easy going guy who floats merrily through life not taking a whole lot seriously along the way.
Yet, unbeknownst to most, even close friends and family, he is surprisingly deep. It’s rare that one gets a glimpse of the man beneath the still waters, but on occasion he makes an appearance and the quiet man of faith is revealed. At heart, David is a servant leader. He loiters in the periphery as those with more gregarious personalities and outspoken tendencies take center stage. The depths of his faith are vastly underestimated and definitely under appreciated. He’s unobtrusive, ministering in quiet corners and as a result his thoughts and opinions are not frequently requested.
In the last couple of years we have gathered with two other couples for weekend getaways. We catch up and laugh and at some point settle in for a discussion of real life issues seeking solutions and encouragement from a spiritual perspective. That focus on the spiritual perspective is what makes those conversions unique because everyone involved has somehow had their world shaped by a need for faith.
We are, by unspoken agreement, searching for more than worldly advice and solutions to the challenges of our lives. David is an active listener for the most part. I have this memory of David doing dishes and quietly talking with one of the other wives following one such conversation. This is the setting in which David is most likely to surprise another with unexpected insight.
However, every once in a blue moon, David just puts it out there. Clink on the link below to see one such example:
Daily Battle was originally published on 6/22/16, one day after the 24th anniversary of the day our son, Cole, was stillborn. And David’s words . . . they are Cole’s legacy.
In twenty-five years I have yet to find a satisfactory way to celebrate the birth of my stillborn son. It’s not a day on which I can look back and remember smiles and laughter from days gone by. There are no photos to flip through with nostalgic pleasure. My son Cole, 25 years later, remains a mystery to me.
I used to think that maybe I might be able to discern at least a core personality trait simply from the way Cole moved within my womb . . . but that, of course, that was simply the musings of a mother who desperately longed for the child she never knew. I dare say I am not the only mother who has entertained such flights of fancy. And in the three years since Bethany and Katie joined Cole in their eternal home, the unknowns have been magnified.
When I cross that great divide will I meet my son as a babe in arms or will a full grown man, standing tall, shoulders back appear before me? Will Bethany and Katie be forever 20 and 16? Will I be an old woman, grey of hair and stooped of shoulder in their eyes or the woman I was when each one left me behind? Will Cole meet me as a woman not yet 30 and Bethany and Katie with the fifty year old mother they last saw?
I don’t know the answers to the simplest of questions in regards to my children. It is a fruitless pursuit to wonder who they would be today had the events that took each one from me not transpired. But there is one thing I do know. We will know (have memory of) and visually recognize one another. There will be no need for introductions.*
And so, as I find myself once again at a loss, restless and a bit frustrated by the unfulfilled longings of my heart, I also live in anticipation of the day when the waiting is over. When all my questions will be answered and all my longings satisfied.
Then my thoughts circle back to the more practical matters at hand. What to do in recognition of the child who is so much a part of my being . . .
Will there be cake?
Should there be?
Balloons released into the air?
Could we, the three of us who remain, enjoy either or would they just magnify the emptiness of the occasion?
And why can’t I answer this question after 25 years?
*See Luke 16:19-31 – The story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man clearly recognized both Abraham the Patriarch (whom he had never met as Abraham died before the rich man’s birth) and Lazarus remembering that he sat at his gate covered in sores hoping for scraps from the rich man’s table.
A fellow grieving mother, Sarah Marie, shared the following comments on a closed Facebook page in anticipation of the Heaven Going anniversary of her daughter, Christina Grace. I am publishing Sarah’s comments with her express permission.
Grief is far more complicated than missing your loved one and fearing they will be forgotten. Please take a minute to absorb the message Sarah shares below.
“This month marks one year since we lost our daughter. If I’m open about my pain, well-meaning people say things like, “She’ll never be forgotten,” or “Thinking of you as you miss your precious Christina.” I know they mean well, but their responses show how little they understand of what we experience.
Yes, I miss her. And if she was here, I wouldn’t have this particular pain and I’m thankful she’s remembered. BUT simply missing her isn’t what creates this emotional (and sometimes mental and physical!) paralysis.
It’s the scars of trauma. The anxiety. The loneliness of grief. The shallowness of petty people. The exhaustion that comes from insomnia, nightmares, and the exertion of conversation. The racking sobs I cannot control when I just want to be alone but the laundry pile is daunting and dinner needs made. The ever greater, experiential understanding that I have zero control and the way that changes… everything.
. . .
Come, Lord Jesus. Come!”
This morning I opened the Facebook app on my iPad and started scrolling through my news feed. A post from a grief site caught my attention so I ducked over to the loss of a child FB page and started scrolling. . .
And my heart broke all over again.
As I scrolled through the posts I read such raw anguish. . .
I heard my own thoughts echo back through the words of others.
How did this happen?
How could this have happened?
Why did this happen?
Who am I now?
What am I doing?
Why can’t I get it together?
How do I go on? . . . Do I even want to?
I’m so angry!
I feel numb. . . detached . . . lonely.
I have no friends left.
If I’m not happy others don’t want to be around me.
And so it goes. . . so many pain filled thoughts and feelings.
And I’ve put my emotional armor on.
I read these things and give a knowing intellectual nod to each one . . .
But I refuse to draw any closer.
I refuse to engage my emotions.
I can’t shoulder their pain along with my own.
I have nothing to give.
My arms are so weighted that I cannot reach back for the one who so desperately needs a hand to hold.
I’m still broken.
I feel guilty and ashamed that I can’t formulate words of hope, support and encouragement for another hurting parent.
The words just won’t come.
Maybe tomorrow. . .
But what of all those hurting souls that need a word today?
I am so thankful for the many bereaved parents who step up and in on the days I can’t. Those who are there for me and others with understanding, encouragement and sometimes righteous indignation.
I’d never wish another parent into the child loss community, but I am so very thankful that I’m not alone.
And on the days when I am weak – when the well is dry, others are stronger and extend the hand of courage to the weak and the wounded.
I need the Holy Spirit to fill me before I can be poured out once again for another.
We need each other.
How we need each other!
“It doesn’t matter how much I heal or how much emotional processing I go through or how much I pray or go to therapy, whatever, he’s still gone.” Said the young man whose older brother died eight years ago.
I can relate to those words on so many levels. They’re pretty straightforward, but I’ve found myself meditating on them. In some corner of my mind I recognize there is a nuance that is not so straightforward but is profoundly important.
And here it is hiding within these three words, “. . . he’s still gone.”
“He’s still gone.”
I have spent the last three years processing my emotions in the aftermath of the collision that killed two of my daughters. Those losses piggybacked onto the loss of my son almost 25 years ago. And then they were interwoven with the knowledge that my 21 year old daughter, my only surviving child, was born with a rare genetic degenerative neuromuscular disease. Believe me when I say that I’ve processed emotions.
I’ve prayed. Prayers of anger and despair. Questing prayers. Begging entreaties. Oh yes, I’ve prayed.
I’ve even tried trauma therapy and grief counseling.
I’ve tried finding meaning in some global purpose. Painted on a positive outlook. Whatever.
And they’re still gone.
Do we somehow, unconsciously assume that emotional processing, therapy, and prayer will change that unacceptable truth? Do we think it will fill the gaping holes left in our hearts when our children die? Do we think that grieving will make the loss of our loved ones okay in time?
And maybe that’s why “they’re still gone” echoes so hollowly through my heart and mind. Maybe I am living with the unrealistic expectation that at some point “they’re still gone” won’t hurt anymore. Is that the goal of grieving?
What expectation should I have? What will healing look like? Feel like? Is it even possible? And maybe that’s why his words, “he’s still gone” communicate a straightforward fact but if you really let them sink into your soul they communicate so much more. Resignation, sorrow, despair, and feelings far to deep to articulate.
He’s still gone.
She’s still gone.
They’re still gone.
And maybe that’s why I’m stuck. Why I can’t move forward or get better – whatever it is that society expects of me.
No matter what I do, my personal reality is that they’re still gone. Until the end of my days they will be missing from me. Maybe there are some wounds that sink so deep into an individual that they can never be healed this side of heaven. And unless I make peace with the immeasurable worth of an eternal future (not just acknowledge it-not just understand it-not just hope for it) and even if I do make peace with eternity, the wounds I have sustained will never fully heal. They will always hurt because they’re still gone.
Never will I be whole again.
Never will it stop hurting.
Never will I be okay with their absence.
It echoes and echoes and echoes through me. Those words hold an unquantifiable depth of meaning and they leave my heart torn and bleeding.