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

Be Thankful. Reclaim lost joy. Repeat.

Intentionally giving thanks guides our hurting hearts forward.

The holiday season trifecta kicks off today with Thanksgiving. It’s a happy time filled with family, food and being thankful, right?  Let’s be honest, this may not be true for you. In fact, if you’ve lost someone, no matter how recent the holidays can be hard.

You may not feel like socializing with family because someone is missing and it’s hard to pretend otherwise. The elephant in the room tip toes around this fact, but elephants don’t tip toe. Just sayin. It’s hard on us and everyone else around us. They’re hurting too.

They know you’re in pain as you pass the potatoes, try to engage in conversations you’ve zoned out of, or as you grab another adult beverage. There’s nowhere to hide. You just want the day to be done, and as you drive back home, the smile you managed for the duration of the gathering slowly fades away.

Do the words “thankfulness” and “grieving” even go together? I’d say they’re opposites, but I believe these two emotions can be weaved together in a way that can help us in our suffering.

Intentionally giving thanks guides our hurting hearts forward. I know if I avoid this for long periods of time, my heart will become stagnant, preventing me from moving forward while also prolonging my healing.

I knew there were things to be thankful for after we lost David, I just didn’t want to think about them. The weight of the scale didn’t tip toward thankfulness. It tipped toward loss. How could I muster up a spirit of thankfulness, not just on this day but the remaining 364?

As I was preparing for this post, something struck me. I think it’s incredible really. The first time my husband Mike and I acknowledged thankfulness after losing David was the second night after he died. Mike held me tight that night and thanked God for “getting us through the day.” Consequent prayers were the same, “God, Thank-you for getting us through another day.”

This went on for months, and I’m so thankful (there’s that word again) that Mike was even able to do this!  Wow! We were pleading for God to help us through this nightmare while at the same time thanking Him for sustaining us while we were smack dab in the middle of it all. Weird huh?… Could God have been hearing us and answering our prayers simultaneously? It would certainly seem so. To this day, Mike still prays these words each night.

My list has slowly grown, but instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I discovered I could be thankful for what I’d been given and what I currently had to be thankful for.

I have family and friends who love me and depend on me. I smile more now. I laugh more. There was a time when I couldn’t even tap my foot to music. I can do that now. I can get lost in beautiful sunsets. It took me a while to smile and laugh every time we passed a farmer’s field with cows standing in farm ponds, but I can now. More importantly, I also need to thank to God for the 18 years we had with David, 18 precious years I will always treasure.

Look, I know this doesn’t bring our loved ones back, but little by little it does bring much-needed relief to our souls. I’ll be praying for you. Let’s do this together; Be Thankful, Reclaim lost joy. Repeat.

Check out the GriefShare website for helpful ways to cope during the holidays. https://www.griefshare.org/

 

Dear friend,

I pray you will search for things to be thankful for today and every day, even if it’s a short list. No matter. It’s a start. Thankfulness turns our pain into hope for our future. It takes our focus off what we don’t have and replaces it with what we do. It brings back the joy we thought we’d lost the day our loved one died.

Though our lives have been devastated by our loss, we can know that we know that with each day that passes we are reminded that it’s one more day God has gotten us through. Hey, this could go at the top of your list. Grab a pen. Let’s get started…

Promises

Psalm 118:24     Psalm 118:28-29