Language of Grief

Language of Grief

Fellowship of suffering has been described as a combination of those who have suffered and those that are suffering. Recently Andy Stanley spoke about this during a message called Comfort Zone. In fact, I wrote about this in a previous post called “Cloud of Witnesses”. I have found this to be true from the moment I met my first mom who had lost their child. There is an undeniable bond that happens and I think it is because we understand the language of grief. We understand the pain, not their pain, but the pain loss brings when you hold your child while they cross over. Collapsing over their bodies and praying to God, screaming out to God because the pain and anguish of that moment is so horrific. It still brings tears to my eyes each time I revisit that moment October 13, 2006 at 6:55 am.

Comfort from those who’ve been comforted is life-giving to those who need comfort. – Andy Stanley

So that quote really spoke to me because it took me back to those early days and weeks after Brit died and had it not been for those who came and sat with me, sometimes not saying a word, but spent life-saving time with me – saved my life. Sharing the same space in time, no demands, and no expectations – just sitting side-by-side meant more to me than I could ever put into words. I was blessed beyond measure for those who did not give up on me. Their comforting made me feel like someone cared.

That being said now that I consider myself a seasoned griever, I have experienced life-giving purpose in writing this blog, in hearing from my followers, meeting moms in person and lastly praying for those who I do not know, but understand the journey they are forced to live out.

I don’t believe I have the answers, nor do I claim to be an expert in offering advice, but what I do know is that grief and I know each other well. It has visited me on many occasions and for a variety of reasons. God has worked in me to allow my pain to be a voice for others and I take that role very seriously.

I don’t want to sugar coat anything here on this blog. It is not my intention to give the impression that the death of my daughter was any easier because of my faith. It was not. It takes a mountain of faith to get through loss. My faith has been questioned, shaken and put to the test, but I have not lost my faith, in fact my faith has grown exponentially in spite of my losses.

Finding purpose to honor my daughter’s memory and to help me heal by helping others has been crucial to my healing. It will always be a work in progress. Eight years since the death of my daughter is different than it was at one year or two years and so on. Each year it changes it evolves into a mature grief. I still cry, sob and yearn for my daughter. I still question why. I still find tears well up in my eyes when I spend a moment thinking of my Brit. The pain is still relevant in my life. My faith has been tested, but not broken. I rely on my faith in God to help me find the purpose in all of this mess.

He comforts us in all of our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled,
we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. – 2 Corinthians 1:4

So on the days when I feel I can’t make it another minute, I remember the advice I got from someone many years ago in the early years of my grief. “Close your eyes and imagine you can crawl up into the lap of Jesus and allow Him to comfort you”. While that seems a little odd, it works. Spending time with God in prayer or in the fellowship of church – has been the very nourishment and comfort that has helped me get to this moment.

Our capacity to comfort is determined by the degree of which we have suffered. – Andy Stanley

I encourage you to watch the video link below from Andy Stanley. I get something new from it each time I watch. He also mentions my story and says my daughter’s name which I found touching. The whole series is also listed below.

 

http://northpoint.org/messages/in-the-meantime/comfort-zone/

MeantimeSeries.org

Until next time,

M

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Holidays and Grief

Holidays have always been a torturous time for us grievers. A time of happiness and family get-togethers becomes a time of sadness, loneliness and feelings of despair for the griever.  There is also an added amount of pressure from well-meaning family and friends to “be happy” or it’s time to “move on” during this time of year.

This is the time of year that grievers often take to keeping to themselves. Not being too social. Almost to the point of being recluse. That happens in part because one it’s easier than dealing with the “well-meaning” family and friends who think they are helping and two because showing your pain and grief somehow makes it more real. It becomes your private friend. The one you don’t want to introduce anymore to anyone.

It’s hard to for a griever to imagine that their broken heart can mend or that love will ever feel the same again. But love doesn’t end when your loved one dies. The love left in your heart is still there. It’s the emptiness, the void left from their absence that makes your heart hurt. But the love – always will it be there to hold your heart together.

On one hand the holiday season brings beautiful decorations and lights. Wonder singing and praises to our God and then there are the lonely moments when the pain of your loss overwhelms you and all those sweet memories that you hold so dear to your heart remind you that your loved one is not there again to enjoy the holidays with you. And despite the good intentions of others, no one can take away the hurt you feel. All we can do is find ways to cope with the holidays.

Healing through the holidays can happen, but only if you allow yourself to experience the season. Feel the goodness of the season. See the beauty of the season. For Christians it is Jesus’ birth that we truly celebrate. All the other “holiday stuff” is just that – stuff. If you get your mind on the true meaning of why we celebrate Christmas – you can truly move beyond the pain of the holidays.

Don’t be afraid to talk about how you feel or to express your feelings of grief. Pain doesn’t go away on its own. It must be given a voice, whether it be vocal or written expression. I’ve always been a big fan of journaling as I can honestly say it has allowed me the vision to see my journey laid out on paper to see the progression from early grief to the grief I have today, three years later.

When you are experiencing an increase in grieving, it can make you more tired, physically and mentally. So take the time you need to slow down and get the rest you deserve. Don’t try to keep up with everyone else. Learn to say no when you need a break. But also say yes when you need to have someone around to talk with.

My biggest lesson that I’ve struggled with from the get go has been learning to say no. Stretching myself beyond my limits. I do it because it keeps me busy and then when I’m busy I don’t think about how painful I feel. It’s a cover up. It actually can increase your grief because it is increasing your stress. Stress on the body lowers your ability to cope.

Surround yourself with people who understand that the holidays can be difficult for you. That holidays increase your awareness and sense of loss – so much so – that you may avoid holiday activities. Spending time with people who understand and that allow you to talk openly about your feelings is one of the most important gifts a family member or friend can give a griever at the holidays.

I know personally for me it’s hard to find people who want to hear my story or to hear about Brittany. But it’s crucial to the healing process to include them, the memories of them in the conversations without having someone roll their eyes at you or change the subject all because it’s too uncomfortable for the. It’s not their loss – it’s not their pain – it’s not their life. It’s your life, your pain, your loss and it has to be acknowledged for as long as you need.

A plan for anticipated moments where you may feel overwhelmed by a thought or memory should be in place so if it does happen you can leave the room or take a break without feeling embarrassed.

The most important part – is our memories of our loved ones are legacies that exist. They are a part of who we are and apart of who they were in our lives. Holidays make us remember these times more than any other time of the year. Go with it. Let it come. Journal it. Embrace it. Don’t ignore it. I have found over the past 3 years that the memories now bring smiles more than tears. But the tears still do come. Your memories are the love you had with that person and will forever remain in your heart. No one – No one can take that from you.

Create new memories by spending time with people. Try not to isolate yourself thinking you can avoid the holiday season. You can’t and it’s truly not good for you. I try to spend time with friends, family and other people to create a new definition of holiday for me. But with that in mind, these people I spend time with know my story and know that my story is what makes me who I am today.

Most of all love yourself during the holidays. Express yourself by giving and receiving love from others and from God. Surround yourself with loving people and you’ll see that your journey through the holidays will take on a new and different light. But always with a distant glow that remains in your heart from the love and joy that came from having loved someone so much.

Until next time

M

Fellowship of Suffering

So today Andy Stanley closed out his series called In The Meantime and for me this has been one of the most personal series that I have connected with in a long time. I have written about the importance of “fellowship” in prior blog posts and cannot stress enough that having a “mentor” or “friend” to walk along side you during your dark time is vital for both parties.

When I blogged through Jerry Sittser’s book “A Grief Disguised” Chapter 14 – A Cloud of Witnesses I found that this chapter was a great example of the importance of understanding how we as experienced grievers need to surround the people who have joined our journey to lift them up and keep the focus on God’s comfort and grace. As Andy mentioned today in installment six of his series that giving comfort is life-giving to not only the person it’s intended for but for the giver as well. That has been so true for me. I understood very quickly what my purpose was in all of this mess. Losing Brittany and going through this devastating loss I would not have chosen. What good could possibly come from that?

I remember in the wee hours of the morning around 2-3 am I was sitting next to Brittany’s bed praying hard to God. Praying for healing. That God would heal her and she would wake up. Understanding that my faith was strong at this time and I knew God could and would save my Brittany had that been His plan. But, it was not. That at first was hard to swallow. I was so upset with God because I couldn’t reconcile why. Once I understood that it was not His plan and that Brittany had done her work here on earth I began to see that at some point along my journey I would understand my role and purpose.

I’ve had the honor and privilege of speaking with several mom’s post Brittany’s death. Moms who lost their daughters or sons and who found themselves in unfamiliar territory of moving through the stages of grief. Through my writing I was able to put some sort of perspective on why I found myself on this journey and how I chose to take a path that would require a great amount of energy and fight. You see for me finding a meaningful way to live my life without my daughter has not been easy, but I understood I had to find a way otherwise I wasn’t honoring her life here on earth. It just wasn’t an option.

For the remainder of my days I will find a way to honor my daughter’s life and God’s desire for me to be who He made me to be. My purpose has been laid out before me and the path has been well defined. I have been supremely equipped to comfort those who need it and to be comforted that my story has helped others. I want to thank Andy Stanley for elevating this topic and for helping to see that even while we are in the midst of our “meantime” experience we can choose the path that leads to God.

Until next time,

M

Resources:

https://mysoulspeaks.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/the-cloud-of-witnesses/

http://meantimeseries.org/

Waiting on God

I don’t know about you but waiting on God can sometimes be difficult to do. It can also mean something very different if you are waiting during seasons in your life. A season of waiting for something to change like a relationship, job change, life change or loss. Waiting on God has looked very different to me during the various seasons in my life. Waiting on God requires a great deal of patience but it also requires that you find time to stop all the noise in your life and quietly open yourself up so that you can hear God speaking to you.

When I say hear it doesn’t mean what you traditionally think of hearing with your ears. It means listening to God in the many ways He chooses to communicate with you. I know I’ve experienced God’s word in many forms. Through reading the Bible; an email from a friend with the answers to the questions I had just prayed for the day before; a friend stopping by just when I cried out to God feeling alone; a nudge to do something even if it felt weird. God chooses to communicate to us in many ways, we just have to be open and willing to receive it regardless of the avenue.

In recent posts I’ve written about Andy Stanley’s recent series #InTheMeanTime and how that resonates with me and my journey through the loss of my daughter. Grief doesn’t just up and decide to leave one day. Grief stays with you forever, it just looks and feels different. It may not come as often, or as hard, like waves crashing around you, but it will always be a part of your journey. That is why it is vitally important to understand grief and respect it. Learn to reach out for help when you need it and pray often. I talked to God often, sometimes, hourly, during my initial journey. I wasn’t sure how to deal with all the emotion that came crashing down on me. I didn’t know then what #InTheMeanTime meant then. As the years progressed I have learned that while I many not always “feel” God around me, in my faith which is grown, I have comfort that He is here with me. It just may not be how I envisioned it.

Being mature in my faith or on my walk through this valley of darkness, does not mean it isn’t painful nor does it mean that I am “over” the loss of my daughter or the other members of my family that have died too soon. It just means that I can continue my life with the certainty that God is always present, but not always visible in the ways that you and I understand. Daily conversations with God can help us to sense His presence and I know that because on the days when I don’t frequently communicate with God, I feel a little lonely for Him. The comfort He brings to my broken life has made all the difference. It is how I can keep going each day. How I get up and face the world when all around me are constant reminders of what I have lost. It’s not easy, but it’s easier when I remain focused on God’s promise that He will never leave.

Encourage you to visit Andy’s #InTheMeanTime series and I hope that it provides you the encouragement as it has me.

http://northpointonline.tv/

Until next time,

M

 

Sustainable Grace

The quote below from the bible is one of my all-time favorite. I wrote it on a piece of paper and carried it with me for months after Brittany died. When I would have moments where I didn’t think I could carry on, I’d get it out and read it. Or I’d reach in my pocket while at work and just grasp it and know it was there and repeat it over and over to get through the moment.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted / and saves those who are crushed in spirit” – Palsm 34:18

Sustainable Grace

I came to know and see grace differently after Britt’s death. I don’t think I ever really knew what having grace meant before even after my mom’s death some 18 years earlier. Grace was a foreign concept to me even being a Christian which I know might sound odd.

What does grace look like? It looks like someone noticing you are having a moment and they come and comfort you. They take you by the hand and say “go take a break I’ll cover for you”. You get a card or letter that day that makes all the difference. An email arrives with a message that has been heavy on your heart. It’s all coming from God through others. It’s called Grace.

Recently I heard Andy Stanley speak about “sustainable grace” and it struck me that he could have been talking about my story. Which brings me to the second scripture I carried around in my pocket and placed strategically in several locations throughout my house.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

I felt God’s grace throughout the weeks and months after Brittany’s death. A grace like none other. I did not experience after my mom died. So in some way grace seemed foreign to me and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Grace shows up in various ways and can create this cocoon over your life to help soften the hard blows of grief. Not sure I would have survived my daughter’s death without the grace of God. Grace helped me move forward even when I wasn’t sure I wanted to.

Some days moving forward has meant progress and some days it has meant moving backwards. Just when I thought “I got this” – it all came crashing around me and I felt as though I was fooling myself. I realized at some point that I am a survivor and I am here for a purpose. Although a piece of me is gone forever. The poem I wrote about missing Brittany speaks to that missing part of my heart. That hole that will forever remain. But God’s grace has placed a patch over it and the ache isn’t as bad today as it was in the early days.

I’ve learned that today is a gift and tomorrow is not guaranteed. Some days I’m better at surviving than others, but I am surviving and as painful as that is sometimes it is better because of the grace God grants me each and every day.

Until next time,

M


 

3 Questions We Ask Ourselves

This morning I watched Andy Stanley begin his series “In the Meantime”. As I watched and listened to the message tears fell from my eyes and onto my notebook like a flood. A huge release of grief washed over me as I related to what he was saying. What I have found over the past eight years since the death of my daughter is that grief knows no boundaries and it never ever goes away. Everyday life gets in the way and blocks it from being released, but when you sit quietly and listen you can hear the three lies we tell ourselves:

  • I’ll never be happy again
  • Nothing good can come from this
  • There is no point in continuing

I know I have written about this before and in the early days and weeks of my grief I asked myself those questions often. I wrote in my private journal how I didn’t think I could make it another day. What was the point? When the very reason I lived was taken from me – what is the point in continuing? So you can imagine that Andy’s words today resonated in a way I haven’t spoken much about or acknowledged for a long time. I know I often questioned God’s presence during that time (still do today), but I was also deep enough in my faith that I understood He was present. But I sure did not feel it at times. So I can’t even imagine what it must be like for those who do not have faith or their faith is so young that it has not grown enough to support their loss.

Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me. – Matthew 11:6

God blesses those who do not turn away from me. – Matthew 11-6 (New Living Translation)

Andy mentioned the above scripture in his message and explained that while we cannot always feel God’s presence – that does not mean He does not care or that He is apathetic. While my mind comprehends that, my heart hurts because when I don’t feel His presence I begin to stumble. I begin to question if He cares about my situation. In looking back, I know that God was so very present in my situation. He was present by bringing the right people into my life at the time I needed them. He sent specific messages through them that let me know He was listening to my prayers.

As I sat an cried through this message today I realized the reason I don’t feel God as much is because I don’t spend as much time with Him – talking to Him, reading passages from the Bible and mostly surrounding myself with people who keep me centered. Each time I have wondered away too busy to stay focused on Jesus – I have stumbled. Finding purpose is critical to answering the three questions above. It’s also the hardest to find. I’m still not sure I know what it is yet, but while I pray for guidance I will continue to help those who have lost a child because it is a pain I know and can relate to.

Grief is a journey down a long, twisting road and there are many paths that can take you get you lost if you don’t have a focus of answering the three questions above. Yes you can find happiness again, it’s just a different type. Yes, something good can come from your loss if you just look beyond it and see that there is someone who needs you. Needs your story. Needs your guidance and support. That my friends is how you answer the last question – your purpose.

Here is the link to the series and encourage you all to listen to Andy’s encouraging words on this topic.

http://northpointonline.tv/

Until next time,

M