Grieving on Mother’s Day.

“The pain we feel is a reflection of the love we have for the person we lost.”

A day just for Moms? It may be possible that this is the one time of year when eye rolls are replaced by hugs, cards and homemade gifts.

However, for those of us who have lost children, Mother’s Day is one of hardest days to endure.  It’s actually an excruciating day for a lot of people.

It hits me when spring arrives in Iowa. As much I look forward to and love this time of year, it also serves as a reminder of the events surrounding my son David’s death on June 6, 2010. He took his life that day after smoking a synthetic drug called K2. He was 18.

Cruise control kicks in, chasing away any thoughts I may have. I figure I have plenty of time to be sad during this season. I can put it off awhile and I tend to, but this defensive mechanism can only continue for so long. Eventually the coasting cycle begins, leaving me more vulnerable. The ache that’s been lurking under the surface slowly starts to demand my tears.

We feel pain because we loved. I may be stating the obvious but it’s worth digging into further. The pain we feel is a reflection of the love we have for the person we lost. Our tears are not wasted. Why would we want to avoid showing this emotion? Ultimately our tears honor those we lost. What a personal, intimate way to express our love for them! Let the tears come when you feel the dam giving way. Don’t ever hold back.

If you have other children, guilt can invade during this time too. You may not feel much like celebrating. You may want to crawl in a hole until the day is over. I’ve sure been there, especially that first Mother’s Day, but if we let that happen, we deny our family members the opportunity to express their love and appreciation for us. It’s important for them. They may need this for their healing. They’re hurting too, so we need to let them. More importantly, we need to receive it from them. Don’t deny others the opportunity to make you feel special.

I’m so thankful for God’s protection. He’s holding me together, without a doubt. Even though eight years have passed, I still need Jesus and our family needs each other to get through what will be a lifelong journey-the pain of losing our precious David.

How are you doing? Are you on cruise control, or are you coasting downhill at this point?

I know the emotional scenarios that fall under the umbrella of Mother’s Day are too numerous to count.

We find ourselves in one or more devastating camps; you may have lost your Mom or you never knew your Mom. Maybe you’ve struggled with infertility, are currently in the middle of a lengthy adoption process, or have had to release children whom you temporarily fostered. Maybe this day has you dwelling on what could have been, had you not made the choice you did years ago. Or maybe you’ve lost a child to miscarriage, SIDS, illness, accident, or suicide. I’m sure I’m missing some here.

Whatever your experience, my heart goes out to you. The aftermath from any one of these losses are devastating every day of the year, but there’s something about Mother’s Day…

I don’t have all the answers. I just want you to know you’re not alone. Put one foot in front of the other. Acknowledge what your heart can’t deny, then engage with family and friends who love you.

God is with you.

Psalm 34:18

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

God Bless you and Happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

How Easter encourages those who mourn

“…we don’t mourn as though we have no hope.”

Shopping for Easter dinner. Done. Dusting off that china you use once a year. (Good thing you put this on your wedding registry!) Done. Filling all of the plastic eggs with candy for the Easter egg hunt after church on Sunday. Done. Praying it won’t rain during the Easter egg hunt. Done. Making sure you have plenty of wine. Done. I’ll just let this one steep for a while. Don’t judge.

I’ve heard the Easter message repeatedly since I was a little girl and I’ve always thought I had a pretty good handle on it. It’s pretty clear-cut right? Jesus dies on the cross, they bury him and three days later he’s resurrected. End of story. Bring on the ham, cheesy potatoes and chocolate eggs.

When someone we love dies it forces us to re-evaluate what we think about life, death and everything in between. You think you know what you believe until you’re forced to face it straight on. Suddenly we’re thrust into a cyclone of options and opinions; what does society tell you to think? What about past family traditions? What does Oprah say? It’s hard to zero in on one solid truth. Enter Easter.

Easter picks up where Christmas left off. Technically 33 years have passed, but by this time Jesus had lived his life, teaching all who would listen about what would inevitability happen; his death on the cross, his resurrection and what our lives will look like as believers in the wake of it all.

After the death of my son David almost eight years ago, I found myself drawn to the Easter message. He didn’t die on Easter. He died in June. Weird huh? But every single time I tried to reconcile David’s death, and I’m talking repeatedly for years, it became more about living than dying.

I found myself having this inner dialogue because David was gone. I never thought about losing my children. I didn’t think it would ever happen. I figured I would go before them. I think it’s universal. Most of us don’t think too deeply about death.

I must have missed something profound in the Easter message.  Why else did I continually come back to it? I had to explore this, and I did. This is what I learned; while the message of Easter begins with Jesus’s death, it doesn’t stop there. It’s continual. It never ends.

John 14:25-27

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you: my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Ephesians 1:19-20

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised him from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”

We have in us the same power that raised Jesus from the grave.
Jesus knew his life would end but he also knew we would never have to live without him.

While I was searching for a deeper knowledge about God’s spirit in me, I was simultaneously being guided by his very spirit. Wow! What a great example of how his Holy Spirit has worked through my loss, pointing me to the message of the cross and the resurrection. Yep, he knows what we need and I am so thankful! Amazing!

Our family will always mourn David’s death, but we don’t mourn as though we have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

Today you’re either encouraged, confused, indifferent or just plain angry, and maybe, just maybe it’s because you haven’t soaked in the life changing message of Easter that follows Jesus’ death. Hope for the future can be found here. Hope is here. It never ends.

Happy Easter!

 

 

 

Is it time to unlock your grief room?

“It’s a place we visit from time to time, but we’re not meant to live there.”
 

When is it appropriate to move out from your grief room after someone you love has died? Every one has an opinion on this. It’s more of a state of mind and emotions than a room of course, but you get the idea.

I believe going through all of our emotions is important. Its necessary, but there comes a time when remaining here for too long can be harmful. We need to be able to engage outside it.

Maybe this means finally getting the counseling you’ve been avoiding. Having coffee with a friend. Going to a movie. Calling that friend back whose left you a million messages. Addressing that stack of laundry. Yeah, those yoga pants? You should wash those. Going to church on Sunday. Volunteering at church. Going back to Bible study again, or accepting the various invitations to join one.  Doing things you used to. Trying new things. The list is endless.

We have a million excuses.

It’s overwhelming and even harder to explain how such a place of pain can become a safety net. We find ourselves spending more and more time in it rather than outside it. Only you have the power to unlock your grief bubble and peer out into the world where life continues on.

We’ll never get over our loss but we need to work toward our healing, without taking out a second mortgage on our grief room. It’s hard work. Really hard. Have you struggled with this? I have.

I know I will always need to be healed from the inside out as I continue to miss my son David, and the synthetic drug battle also continues to rage on. This just adds yet another layer of grief.

Despite this indescribable anguish that grips us, God’s mercy is stronger. Where there is anguish there is also healing, and where there is healing, there is also living. Right now.

There comes a time when any good father gently guides his children forward. It’s a sign of his love.  Over the years, ours sons played sports. My husband and I were always there to root them on.  Mike may have told them to “rub dirt on it,” “shake it off,” or my personal favorite, “stop playing with bugs in the grass!” If the boys let themselves get side tracked, they wouldn’t be able to focus on the next play, let alone the next game. Mike was simply giving them the extra push they needed to move forward.  God does the same.

God wants to reshape, renew and redefine us. He is with us each and every time we muster the courage to venture out of our comfort zone. It’s a big deal. It’s a check mark.

I don’t know about you, but at some point during these cycles I just get tired of it. Don’t you ever want to engage in what’s going on ‘on the outside?’

Dear Friend,

No matter how recent your loss, spending time in our grief room is normal. It’s a place we visit from time to time, but we’re not meant to live there.  God meets with you here to be sure, but he also wants to lovingly ease you out into the land of the living. 

Some of you have spent far too long in this cramped space. I pray you will trust God nudging you toward the door. Crack it open, air it out a bit. Walk outside and feel the sun and wind on your face. 

Promises

Joshua 1:9

 

 

 

 

 

The Repetition of Seasonal Grief

“While these ‘invasions of pain’ appear to prevent us from moving forward, they actually play a large role in our growth, renewal and recovery.”

The most brilliant greens have taken over the Iowa landscape. The farmers have been hard at work preparing their fields for planting. Perfect rows of tiny green shoots have taken over, and soon it will be time for harvest. All in due time.

While the origin of “green shoots” is associated with plant growth, I find its meaning particularly insightful as it also describes the process and ultimate endgame for those of us coping with loss; “any sign of growth, recovery, renewal.” We want this don’t we?

We’re always in the middle of some sort of ‘season’ in our lives; Family, marriage, children, jobs, etc. If you’re grieving you may find yourself revisiting your loss from time to time.  I don’t know about you, but I had no idea my grief would ebb and flow in a way that would jumpstart my pain over and over again. I’ve never experienced anything like this, ever!

The heart keeps track of everything associated with our loss. Sporadic seasons of grief will invade our life.  It might be brought on by a song on the radio.  It may hit you on your loved ones birthday or anniversary of their death. It can be brought on just about any time, on any day.  You can’t shake it off. (I’m picturing The Pink Panther walking under a cloud right now.)  You just feel it clinging to you.

God knows when it’s time to slowly bring the dormant grass, flowers and so on back to life after a long Iowa winter. Surely He loves us enough to do the same for us… I know He does.

While these ‘invasions of pain’ appear to prevent us from moving forward, they actually play a larger role in our growth, renewal and recovery. Our job in this whole process? Persevere. Go to God. Pray. Study the scriptures for sustainment and encouragement. Get help. Call your pastor. Talk things out with a trusted friend. Make arrangements to visit with a grief counselor if you need to.

Romans 5:3b-5

“…because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” 

Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 4

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under Heaven; a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

God is not surprised by our seasons of grief, or any other season in our lives for that matter. Are you enjoying a brief reprieve from your sadness, or are you fighting your way out from under a cloud? You don’t need to go it alone.

Dear friend,

The seasons of grief we experience are a continuation of the journey we’re currently on and will always be on.  I pray you will embrace the seasonal clouds when they come, and rejoice when they dissipate. There is a time for both.  Having faith in God isn’t easy, but when we persevere, we can count on Him to grow us, help us to recover and renew us along the way. Continue to persevere. Get to know God. Read the Bible. Cry out to Him and cling to His promises. Don’t give up on God.

The promise of Easter

“Jesus raising from the dead is the basis of our hope.”

I can still hear my son David waking up his younger brother, “Come on Daniel, the Easter bunny came! Did you get peanut butter eggs too?!” These memories make me smile.

Easter 2017, our seventh without David. It still doesn’t seem possible. Our routine hasn’t changed much; Easter candy, church, a family dinner, then a trip to the cemetery. There we find the encouraging words of John 11:25-26 etched in David’s beautiful granite memorial stone; a scripture that reflects what he believed, what our family believes. 

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

Our family’s sorrow and the promises of Easter intersect with each trip to the cemetery because Easter glues together the promises of our eternal home in heaven with Jesus. Each day that goes by is one day closer to being reunited with our David. These verses serve as a reminder, and I need this reminder today. I’m missing him today. 

You may celebrate today with overflowing baskets of jelly beans, chocolate eggs and stuffed bunnies, but I hope you will stop and take time to remember what this day really signifies. Jesus raising from the dead is the basis of our hope. It means that while we may grieve today over people we wish were joining us at the dining room table, we still have confidence that God’s power isn’t bound by anything.

Dear Friend,

As you remember your loved ones today I hope you’ll be able to celebrate the hope and assurance that the Easter message brings, where the pain of our loss and hope for our future home is reconciled. I’m praying you reach for God and feel His comfort. God bless you.

Promises

John 11:25,26

 

 

 

 

New Year. New Perspective..?

“…I have come to realize that I very much have a role in what my ‘better’ will look like.”

Technically it is a new year, but I think most would agree our disappointments, heartaches and struggles from 2016 have followed us into 2017. It’s supposed to be a celebration but it doesn’t necessarily feel that way, especially if you’ve lost a loved one(s). Our anticipation becomes an introspection of how we’ll cope this year compared to last, the year before that, and so on. It’s a heavy weight.

New Year’s 2011 rolled around seven months after David died. I knew he was gone but I couldn’t talk my heart into believing the harsh reality of it. The grief fog had lifted a little bit, however I knew I needed to begin the hard task of contemplating how I would get through it all.

My shallow New Year’s resolutions from previous years weren’t as important as they once were. I knew I had choices to make that would impact every aspect of my life and my response would set the standard for how I would live out the rest of my days. Would I become bitter, or would I become better?

I’m no Shakespeare but I believe that is the question.

As I choose to face losing my son I have come to realize that I very much have a role in what my “better” will look like. It won’t be a cake walk. It would have been so much easier not to lean into God for help and healing, but during this journey I’ve discovered there is only One source who can fill me up with whatever I need, whenever I need it. Nothing can take God’s place and I have been reminded of this repeatedly over the past six and a half years.

There are a million of temporary ways we can fill the void in our loss. Alcohol can numb us for a while but it only intensifies the pain. Then we risk potential addiction to the mix. The new clothes and shoes are great, but if you don’t have a great desire to leave the house they don’t do you much good. Some believe busyness will help, but that really just acts as a mask to hide our pain from others while fooling ourselves into thinking it helps with our healing process.

I was tempted with all of that. I tried numbing my pain with wine for a while. It served no lasting purpose. It made it worse. I tried retail therapy. Why not give it try right? Hey, it’s worked in the past. Who doesn’t love a good shoe deal at Von Maur? I even tried to stifle the pain and lose myself in the busyness of life, but I was hurting too much to wear a mask. I didn’t have the energy to keep up with that. My grief far outweighed the voids I reached for. That may be true for you as well.

So the concept of ‘bitter’ or ‘better’ took on a much deeper meaning. For me, everything comes back to losing David, but I can also tell you that everything comes back to God as well. We are to believe in the One we cannot see. It’s hard to explain and even harder to live out, but every time I think I can’t, I’m reminded God can. He has; True in my grief, true in all other aspects of my life.

In those early months I found several verses in 2 Samuel 22 that helped me tremendously. It revolves around how God repeatedly delivered King David from his enemies. This resonated with me because I knew I was in a battle myself and I was feeling defeated.

2 Samuel 22:7, 31b “In my distress I called out to the Lord. I called out to my God. From His temple he heard my voice; my cry reached his ears. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.”

I’ve read these verses through tears of deep pain as well as through tears of joy as I’ve experienced God’s loving sustainment along the journey. There’s absolutely nothing like it.

There’s more! See the link below. I hope it will encourage you.

Dear Friend,

When we choose to live in bitterness it prolongs our healing and infiltrates every aspect of our lives. It will affect our friends, families and future generations. In essence it then becomes a role model for how not to cope, not only with loss, but overall life in general.

You have a role in what you’re “better” will look like. It’s as challenging as the grief we experience, but unlike the temporary fixes which serve no lasting purpose, the love and grace God has for us doesn’t have a shelf life. It’s both constant and unchanging. I pray you will continue to persevere in your faith. Stand firm and grow stronger in it. I’m still praying for you.

Promises

2 Samuel 22:1-7, 17-20, 31-37

Surviving Christmas as you grieve

“I just wanted the tug-a-war in my heart to stop.”

Christmas 2010. Our first without David. I’ll never forget it.  Christmas is supposed to be a joyful, happy time, but tell that to my heart. The only thing I wanted I couldn’t have.

Everything that I had done in previous years to prepare for Christmas was something I began to dread.  None of it felt right.  I had no idea how I would get through it all.  It felt like I was being torn between feeling such sadness and yet, knowing I should be focusing on the birth of Jesus, which is why we celebrate Christmas to begin with.  How would I be able to celebrate when I felt so sad? I just wanted the tug-a-war in my heart to stop.

If you’ve experienced loss you may be feeling the same way about Christmas. It can be a sinking feeling of hopelessness, dread, and anger . You try not to let your defenses down because if you do, you fear you could fall into an endless pit of sadness. That’s how I felt back then anyway. I’d been in that pit far too many times, so I avoided thinking about all of it, but in reality there was no way to avoid it. Christmas would come whether David was here or not.

My anticipation of our first Christmas without David brought with it one of the most loving whispers from God I have ever encountered, and I will never forget it; “You can mourn the loss of your son and still celebrate the birth of mine.”… “You can mourn the loss of your son and STILL celebrate the birth of mine.”…  it was okay for me to experience all of these conflicting emotions.

During a time when I was paralyzed with sadness God gave me this promise, an eternal perspective that I desperately needed to claim through John 3:16-17…

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent His Son into the world, not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.”

I believe God was simply reminding me that through the pain and sadness I feel because my son is not here, I need to focus on His Son now more than ever… because it is Jesus’ life, His death on the cross and His resurrection that give me the assurance of where David is right now.

I’ve heard this verse so many times before, but here’s the reality of it as I read it now; David is living out this promise from God. I know that his last breath on earth was his first breath in Heaven. I also know that when I die Jesus will be there to greet me…and David will be right behind Him. I-will-see-David-again.

What’s even more amazing? The same Jesus that walks with David right now in Heaven, is the same Jesus I placed my trust in when I was 17. We both share whom we celebrate on Christmas! This has given me tremendous comfort.

Christmas 2010 was spent with family in Wisconsin. We attended Christmas Eve service at a small church in the north woods. It was hard, but as the Pastor shared the Christmas story I listened much more intently. I needed to be reminded, even though I’d heard it many times over the years. While the tears shed that night were tears of anguish, missing my David, they were also tears of joy, celebrating the birth of the One Who was born for me, died for me, and who lives in me.

I know this won’t be easy. It still hurts. Take it minute by minute. Pray and ask God to help you.

If you would like help as you grieve, GriefShare is a wonderful resource. We can’t control when our emotions will take us over during the holidays.  If this happens, excuse yourself and just take time to cry. If possible, drive separately to your family gatherings. This way you can leave early if you need to. Check out their website for more helpful suggestions.

Dear Friend,

This is sad time for a lot of people, but in the midst of your loss there is joy to be found as we celebrate the birth of Christ. It’s okay to experience anguish as you guide your heart to find joy in the Savior’s birth. I found that anguish and joy are intertwined quite often as we search for peace through our loss. I pray you will cling to the hope of Christmas as you grieve. His name is Jesus. I’m still praying for you.  See you next time.

Promises

John 3:16-17       Romans 10:9

I love the simplicity of  Luke 2:9-14 as told by Linus in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”