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Category Archives: Grief

The True Source of Grief Paralysis

Psalm 91 is a mixed-media work of art including the use of watercolor, colored pencil and marker by Sarah Marie


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!”

 
5 Comments

Posted by on June 19, 2017 in Grief

 

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Common Thoughts and Feelings of Grieving Parents 

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.

Despair.
Discouragement.
Defeat.
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.

Today, 

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.

And yet,

I feel guilty and ashamed that I can’t formulate words of hope, support and encouragement for another hurting parent.

Not today.

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!

 
7 Comments

Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Grief

 

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Still Gone


“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. 

Relentlessly. 

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. 

Still gone.

Still gone.

Still gone.

It echoes and echoes and echoes through me. Those words hold an unquantifiable depth of meaning and they leave my heart torn and bleeding.

Still gone.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on April 19, 2017 in Grief

 

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What Bereaved Parents and Those Who Care for Them Need to Know

“It gets worse before it gets better.” Those were the words the pastor offered to a newly bereaved couple whose daughter had died unexpectedly.

And you should know that he is right.

Bereaved parents are stunned when four months, six month, nine months down the road they find their grief remains overwhelmingly raw. 

The shock has worn off.

Their hearts have been flayed open and the wound is still bleeding.

It doesn’t help that those outside the loss community expect healing to be happening when the magnitude of the loss is still seeping into the soul.

The depth of loss has not been fully realized when the funeral is over. No, in the weeks and months and years ahead bereaved parents are confronted with the realization that they didn’t just lose their child but that they lost the hope, dreams and expectations they held for that child as well. They lost their child’s future, but they also lost their own future expectations (marriages and grand babies, to name a few) and they grieve for both what their child will never experience and what they themselves will miss out on.

Frequently bereaved parents squelch their grief as they try to remain strong for their surviving children. They can’t fall apart because they are so desperately needed by those too young to understand or to express their grief in healthy ways. That’s one reason why the average length of time it takes for parents to work through the grief process averages five years or more – the longest bereavement period of any loss known to man.

My daughter’s grief counselor told her that many teens don’t grieve over lost siblings for four or five years. They experience delayed grief which I think results from trying to be strong for their parents. The entire home is in upheaval. The sense of security that was taken for granted has been exposed for the fallacy that it is. Gone is the naïveté that we can protect those we love from harm. It’s a frightening experience.

It’s truly terrifying. 

And parents and siblings are often left dealing with problems that arise in the wake of the death. Financial pressure, legal issues, spiritual, emotional and health problems assault the family. Marriages and family relationships quake in the aftermath.

While the outside world expects healing to begin, bereaved families are often sorting through compounding problems. They are reeling from the fallout and haven’t really begun the healing process.

Bereaved parents and the outside world need to know and understand that grieving the loss of a son or daughter – regardless of their age – is the most devastating and destructive loss experience. Both the bereaved and those who care for them need to anticipate and make accommodations for a long and drawn out grieving process, because it definitely gets exponentially worse before it gets better. 

For those who care about the bereaved, grieve with those who grieve. Let go of the expected length of bereavement. Don’t reduce grief to a simple bid for sympathy or pity. And be ever aware that for the grief-stricken feeling bad feels bad, but feeling better feels bad too. It’s a psychological hurdle grieving families frequently face. There is a battle raging within the hearts and minds of loss parents. What they know to be true doesn’t “feel” true and they struggle to reconcile the conflicting messages received from the heart and mind. The solution is not as simple as mind over matter. 

People often ask me what to say or do for someone who is grieving. So many times I’ve heard others advise just be present and listen. Both those things are helpful but not necessarily healing. In my experience validating feelings is the single most healing thing you can provide the bereaved.

Grief, for a bereaved parent can be likened to a pressure sore, more commonly known as a bedsore. Pressure sores develop when an individual stays in one position for too long. Unlike other wounds, a pressure sore grows deeper instead of spreading wider as other wounds do. They can be deceptively dangerous because they rapidly eat through layers of flesh below the affected skin to the tendons and the bones beneath if not treated promptly. Treatment involves the painful scraping away of the dead tissue to reach the healthy tissue below. Ointments is applied, the wound is packed and covered and daily cleaning is required to prevent the wound from getting deeper. 

Likewise, grief gets worse and deeper when exposed to the pressure of society to project a positive outlook or to work through their grief in the timeframe others deem appropriate. Shaming and silencing the bereaved for failing to heal, wallowing in grief, or throwing a pity party deepens the wound by invalidating the worth of the loved one lost. Venting the negative feelings helps to clear away the infection but refusing to validate those feelings is tantamount to leaving the wound exposed to the dirt and debris floating in the air. The wound gets worse and healing takes longer as the grief-stricken seek the understanding of others.

Validation is the antibiotic ointment applied to promote healing. The presence of “safe friends” (those who don’t criticize or try to fix the broken) is the packing and covering which provides a barrier between the open wound and the influences of the outside world. Frequent validation and affirmation keep the emotional wound clean providing an environment that encourages healing. The bad must be flushed out before the good can replace it. Unfinished grief occurs when we slap a bandaid on without cleaning and disinfecting the wound. The wound may no longer be visible to the outside world but is quietly festering beneath the bandaid that it covers. 

For the bereaved, be gentle and patient with yourself. You’ve been deeply wounded and deep wounds heal slowly. As the old song says, “The road is long with many a winding curve.” Grief isn’t supposed to feel good. 
It gets worse before it gets better; but it can and does get better.

 
122 Comments

Posted by on March 20, 2017 in Grief

 

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Fears of a Loss Parent

Fears of a Loss Parent

This is my contribution to The Mighty. Maybe you should share your story too!

Fears of a Loss Parent – themighty.com

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2017 in Grief

 

Just Because . . .

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Bethany Joy Boxx 11/02/93 – 12/26/13

 

 

I recently saw a number of posts on a closed bereaved parent’s Facebook page that began with those two simple words, “Just because”. A picture or a series of pictures would be posted along with a short synopsis of the child’s life and personality.

It’s a roll call of sorts.

And it’s beautiful.

Why?

Because . . .

 

 

Bereaved parents lose the opportunity to post new pictures and brag upon challenges met, goals accomplished, and the hand of God at work in the lives of their deceased children.

The world demands bereaved parents forget, let go, or move forward but our dead children are just as much a part of our present reality in their absence as our surviving children are. Their absence is a tangible presence in our homes just like the college student living in a dorm room or a married child making their own home. The only difference is intense sorrow knowing they will never walk through your door again instead of the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your child is alive and well.

The absence of a child shapes family members just like the presence of a child does.

So, I am extending the offer to the bereaved to post a picture and tell the story of your loved one, be it a parent, child, sibling, friend or mentor. For grief is love bestowed upon an absent recipient and we are told, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

We, Believers, claim every life is worthy—sacred—be it the born or unborn. Should not we value just as highly the deceased as we do the living?

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Katelyn Marie Boxx 10/19/97 – 12/26/13

Just because . . .

Every life . . .

Anticipated,

Longed for,

Unwanted,

Unappreciated,

Born,

Unborn,

Living,

and . . .

Deceased. . .

Carries an eternal legacy.

So post a picture (as a Facebook comment wherever this post is shared since I haven’t figured out how to add a picture to WordPress post comments), celebrate a life, demonstrate your unending love, respect, and devotion

just because . . .

Every

Single

Solitary

Life

Matters. . .

To God, the creator of life, and to the grief-stricken loved ones left behind.

We were created for eternity more than we were created for this world. The legacy left lives on. Death is not the final chapter—it’s the introduction—the prologue to a loved one’s living legacy. That legacy is an epic novel and it’s only just begun!

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 25, 2017 in Grief

 

Hope for the Hurting

In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah the prophet says . . .

21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. 22 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. 24 The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. 25 The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. 26 It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.

32 But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. 33 For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men. ~ Lamentations 3:21-26, 32-33 (American Standard Version)

Please, please, please, don’t rush by verse 33! In fact, below are several different translations of this verse. Meditate upon it. We do not love and serve a cruel a God! We love and serve a righteous and loving God! Look for the nuance, the subtle differences in translations below: 

For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. (NIV)
For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow. (NLT)
For He does not enjoy bringing affliction or suffering on mankind. (HCSB)
For he does not deliberately hurt or grieve human beings. (ISV)
For he is not predisposed to bring affliction or suffering to the children of men. (NHEB)
For he does not afflict nor grieve the sons of men from his heart. (JB)
For he hath not willingly afflicted, nor cast off the children of men. (DRB)
For He hath not afflicted with His heart, Nor doth He grieve the sons of men.(YLT)

These translations speak to the character and integrity of God Almighty. They are in direct contradiction to the allegations leveled against God and His Word in the world today. 

God is not predisposed to willingly, or deliberately, hurt human beings. He does not enjoy bringing affliction, sorrow, pain or suffering to mankind. Neither does He cause grief nor cast off anyone from a heart filled with evil or cruelty.

Understanding those truths are so important to the grieving because the why question always begs to be answered and rarely is. The very foundation of a Christian’s faith is built upon the character, integrity, and power of God. And that power, oh, it trips us up! Because God didn’t intervene—and He could have. He could have but He didn’t protect the body of the deceased. He allowed the incomprehensible—the inconsolable to happen. But as Paul Harvey famously requested day after day on his radio broadcast, tune in for the rest of the story.

Before you vilify God when death comes calling consider Isaiah 57:1-2 in the Amplified version,

The righteous man perishes [at the hand of evil], and no one takes it to heart;
Faithful and devout men are taken away, while no one understands
That the righteous person is taken away [to be spared] from disaster and evil.
He enters into peace [through death];
They rest in their beds (graves),
Each one who walked uprightly [following God’s will, living with integrity].

And while our hearts stubbornly refuse to be comforted, the truth remains—there is a measure of consolation in understanding that your loved one has been spared future disaster and evil. There is consolation in knowing they are at peace, that Heaven is their home and reunion awaits.

But . . .

Hear this well!

Heaven and reunion are far off concepts for the parents, siblings and other individuals with a close, personal relationship with the deceased following the funeral when living with loss becomes a daily journey through the valley of shadow of death. The heart wants what the heart wants and the heart wants their loved one resurrected now!

There is a time to lament—to mourn and in Biblical days sackcloth and ashes were an outward manifestation of the inward heart. Consolation and comforting thoughts can never completely mitigate the anguish of loss.

Messages and reminders of hope feel oddly hollow in the face of life-long separation from your loved one. However, messages that reinforce the inherent and incalculable worth of the deceased, the great depth of loss for the grieving, and acknowledge that their lives have been changed in significant ways forevermore are well received.

Don’t rush past the hurt to extend hope. The grieving need to fully process and struggle through their pain and consistent validation and affirmation are the best gifts you can bring to the bereaved.

I know, hope, hope, hope. We have to have hope! But while the bereaved believer may feel hopeless it’s not true. It’s not reality because hope lies within the believer. It’s not something we have to strive to generate. Hope resides inside the heart and soul because the Holy Spirit is always at work.

Be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Let Him nudge you to remind the bereaved of future hope when the time is right. In the meantime, and by that I mean months, and depending upon the intimacy of the relationship, years—years—plural people!—the bereaved will be desperate to have the value of the deceased and the natural sorrow that follows validated.

When you rush to extend hope, when you try to point out the positive, you inadvertently dismiss the worth and importance of the one lost—and that is entirely unacceptable to the bereaved. And the general response in such circumstances is to dig in their heals and refuse to be consoled and frankly, struggle longer and deeper in their grief, as they feel offended and righteously justified in mourning the great depth of their loss.

Hope can be friend or foe.

Hope inspires anticipation and patience, but it also frequently results in disappointment.

The bereaved are already residing in the land of sadness and sorrow as their hopes have been crushed. And therefore, it can feel absolutely incomprehensible that anyone would encourage those living with deferred hope to invest their hurting hearts in more hope. In fact, I dare say, that the bereaved would enjoy playing whack-a-mole with hope. Great satisfaction would be derived from whacking the crap out of the mole of hope every time he dared stick his head above ground.

Three years have passed and my hopes these days are invested in eternal things. My hopes of Heaven and all it promises won’t be deferred, of that I’m convinced. But it’s taken me a long time to make peace with hope. After the funeral, in the long days of suffering after friends and family had returned to the normalcy of their intact lives, validation was more valuable to me than hope. That was true for a very long time. 

I’ve turned a corner. Thank God I’ve turned a corner in my grief, but it was a hard-fought and time intensive battle. Time may not heal but it does allow the Holy Spirit to perform His meticulous work in the heart of a bereaved believer. We must always yield the right of way to the Holy Spirit. God is the Great Physician. We merely serve as His hands and feet.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2017 in Faith, Grief

 

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