Dad's been gone over 13 years, so it is hard to remember, but with Mom, the second Christmas she was gone was so hard I thought it was going to bury me. I spent most of the holiday feeling like I couldn't breathe. Last Easter, 5 1/2 years after her passing, I forced myself through the day. A lot of tears. Couldn't pull myself together.
My late husband? The kids' birthdays. I don't cry really hard the night before like I did the first year or two, but the birthdays are hard, knowing he isn't here to see our kids becoming adults. Our daughter is a beautiful 19 year old who loves music and movies like her dad, and our son is 16, and he is handsome and quirky and funny and looks a lot like his dad. And their dad is missing it, and they are missing him.
And we don't talk about it because we hit a point where we knew if one more person gave us some churchy answer, we were going to be anything but churchy.
Here is the thing about someone dying. Ready?
- They did not die because God needed another angel. He has plenty.
- We are not being selfish for missing them. I don't care what they died of.
- And, yes, prayerfully, they are in a better place, but we are still here and still dealing with the fact they are not.
- We agree God uses all things for the good of those who love Him and are called to His purpose. That doesn't make it not hurt.
- Time does not heal. God does.
- Trusting God does not instantly fix grief.
- We have hope of seeing them later, but the chair at the table is empty now.
And if you are one of those precious hearts who just read that last list and thought, "Thank God someone gets it," let me tell you something else.
Grief is vicious. It is unpredictable and real. You cannot let it bury you, but if you try to deny it, it will bury you.
Grief has no time limit because love doesn't die and it misses someone that is no longer here. The hole is real, and so is the pain.
There is no right way to deal with grief. There are days I cry most of the day because I miss someone, and there are days when I intentionally do something I did with that person because in remembering the good stuff, I am celebrating them. I am bringing pieces of them into now with me. A lot of the time it is kind of melancholy because I miss their being part of it, but I'm also incredibly grateful because at one time...they were part of it.
I let my faith walk me through my grief instead of believing my grief says my faith is failing.
I've been in church my whole life, and people throw out verses about God's faithfulness and everything having a purpose, and there is the suggestion that to grieve means you don't believe those things...or don't believe them enough.
Let me tell you what I held onto on my dark days and when I hurt so much I felt I couldn't breathe.
You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.--Jeremiah 8:18
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.--Psalm 23:4
...for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.--Psalm 86:7
May your unfailing love be my comfort...--Psalm 119:76
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.--Matthew 5:4
But God, who comforts the downcast...--2 Corinthians 7:6
The only thing that I found to make any difference is God. I poured my heart out to Him. I cried to Him. I told Him how much I ached. I told Him what I missed. I told Him how empty things were, and every single time, He responded the same way...with comfort. Real comfort.
He listened. He calmed. He was a presence even when grief was horribly ugly. He comforted in ways I do not know how to articulate, but I felt them. I felt peace. I felt hope that tomorrow would be less crushing. I felt hope that one day I would see pink and not see the roses on Mom's casket. I felt peace that some day family dinner would be filled with laughter and not the reality of who had been lost. And I felt loved, not because of how well I was handling my grief but because God was handling my grief with me.
The road is still hard, but I've become aware of a divine kindness and mercy in it. That is part of the comfort. It wasn't always prominent, but I never once prayed for it that God did not give it to me.
Today I know some people who are grieving. For some it is incredibly fresh. For some, not so much. For some, it just comes out of nowhere. I want you to know I am so sorry for your loss. I'm sorry for your pain. I'm sorry for how hard the road is. I'm sorry for the calls that don't come, the birthdays that pass without hearing a mom or dad say happy birthday...or that they are proud of who you are becoming. I'm sorry for the birthdays you won't have with your child. I'm sorry that you weren't married longer. I'm so, so sorry. But I am praying for you, for God to comfort you, for the hole to be filled, for your heart to beat without hurting like this.
I lift up those hurting today. I ask you to be the balm of Gilead, the healing balm, the soothing balm. Be the hand that they hold when their hand is horribly empty. Be the presence when the missing is engulfing, and be the voice when the silence is just too much to endure. Help them remember the joyful things, the memories, and help them to celebrate those things, to be thankful for what was instead of being embittered by what wasn't. And when they get hit out of nowhere, give them comfort that it is normal and they are okay and help them to let the wave move through instead of stumbling through it with frustration. And, Lord, for these lives that are grieved, the ones that have left these monstrous holes, thank you. Thank you for the gift of them. They are valuable treasures, and I am so grateful that you placed them here for the time you did. Thank you for being The Comforter, and thank you for your ever present aid. We could not endure, little less heal, without you. Thank you for all you are and all you do. In Jesus' name I lay my petitions before you. Amen