A Profound Way to Describe Grief

I came across this link on Facebook the other day. It’s too good not to share.

Someone on reddit wrote the following heartfelt plea online:

“My friend just died. I don’t know what to do.”

A lot of people responded. Then there’s one old guy’s incredible comment that stood out from the rest that might just change the way we approach life and death.

“Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to ‘not matter’. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for awhile. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For awhile, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After awhile, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”

If you know grief, then you know these words are true.

In the middle of the storms and crashing waves, I can testify that I “have this hope as an anchor for my soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).

When I see a baby that is the same age Evelyn would be, I cling to Jesus, my anchor.
When I hear of other people giving birth to healthy babies, I cling to Jesus.
When I watch others experience the unbearable loss of a child, I cling to Jesus.
When my 3-year-old tells me he misses our baby Evelyn, I cling to Jesus.
When my Facebook news feed reminds me of a bittersweet memory, I cling to Jesus.
When I go to the park…
Drive by the hospital…
Hear that song…
See a billboard…
Close my eyes at night…

Evelyn Joy Edits-0715

In a strange way, I miss the intensity of the shipwreck because it was so raw and I felt so much closer to Evelyn in the genesis of my grief. But I do praise God that he is faithful to bring healing, to calm the storm and allow me a merciful reprieve in between the impending waves. A chance to breathe a little and live again.

As the waves inevitably come crashing for the rest of my days, I will continue to cling to Jesus, my anchor. Because he truly has provided a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade…” (1 Peter 1:3-4).

When Blessing Is Born From Evil: A Story of Rape and Redemption

{This is a guest blog post in a series called Trusting God Through Trials. My heartfelt thanks to Linda for bravely sharing her story, thereby inviting all of us into this most intimate part of her life. I especially am among the grateful. Because her daughter became one of my best friends.}

“God’s Promises”, by Linda

On July 24, 1984 the world as I knew it shattered. I was raped.

Even now I’m not sure how to describe the impact of that night or how it felt to spiral through the aftermath of the weeks and months that followed. Reliving the terror of that moment when you realize what is going to happen to you. The fear, the anger, the shame and the guilt – guilt that eventually morphs into self-loathing – no, self-hatred. My thoughts wouldn’t focus. What’s wrong with me? I feel paralyzed! This has to be a bad dream. I just need to wake up. Wake up Linda, WAKE UP!!! 

As one day melted into the next and then the next, unrelenting tears trailed off into an isolated silence. The busyness of day-to-day life was a welcome relief but I still felt empty and alone.

Weeks later, physically exhausted and unable to keep food down, I went to see a doctor. Three days later my phone rang. It was the doctor’s office with the news that I was pregnant. Once again I was hurled through a tornado of razor sharp emotions – shredded physically, mentally and emotionally. I just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up.

Unable to eat, I returned to the doctor. On this visit he gave me a prescription for the nausea and then suggested that I consider having an abortion. He put his hand on my shoulder as he explained that it would be best for my physical and mental well-being. He was caring and compassionate and suddenly I felt this overwhelming sense of relief. After all, he was a doctor and knew what was best for me. He told me to schedule “the procedure” within the next two weeks, as I was already six weeks along in my pregnancy.

I felt so alone, almost hollow inside. By now I was used to fitful, restless nights of tossing and turning but on this night it was different. This night I was consumed by my thoughts, my fears, my bitterness, my anguish. This night as I lay there my heart was pounding, racing. I could feel every nerve in my body firing so much so that I thought I would explode. Why did I have to make this decision? I can’t make this decision! What if I make the wrong decision? No matter what decision I make my life is ruined!!!

Then through the dizzying din of thoughts and emotions whirling inside me, there came a voice. A voice that was kind and gentle. Almost a whisper, “My daughter, do you not know of the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future?” 

The barrage of chatter in my head suddenly fell silent. My heartbeat slowed and a peace and warmth enveloped me that I had never felt before. I can’t tell you exactly what happened that night, but for the first time in weeks my head cleared; the fog was gone.

As I listened that night, He told me how much He loved me and how my pain was His pain. That no matter what I did, no matter what choice I made, He loved me. His love for me was unconditional. Those words were life-changing, no, life-giving to me. He went on to tell me about the child who was growing inside me and that if I would just trust Him, He would bless my life with her life. He reminded me that what this world intends for evil purposes, He is able to use for His glory. This child would be a part of His plan here on earth.

That night He made a promise to me that the baby I carried within would impact not only my life, but the lives of so many others. For the first time in a long time I felt joy and excitement wash over me. Though the scars of what I’d been through were visible, suddenly that’s all they were now – just scars. My wounds were gone, somehow healed.

Over the next few months as I journeyed through life’s ups and downs, even as I experienced its trials and hardships, I had a new sense of purpose. God had given me – trusted me – with this precious child. Whenever the feelings of fear and doubt resurfaced, I remembered His words, His promise about the plans he had for my life, for our lives.

God kept His promise – He blessed my life on April 24, 1985 with a baby girl. At 12:56 a.m. weighing in at 8 pounds 10 ounces, Sarah Juanita was born. From the moment of conception my life has been eternally interwoven with hers. What joy and jubilation she infuses into my existence! Not that every day or night has been carefree or easy, as any parent can attest, but I found a sense of happiness that I had never before experienced. I was a mother – Sarah’s mother. The hurt and anguish of that one night was forever replaced by the deepest of loves.

image1

To say that Sarah has blessed my life is an understatement. The joy and laughter that we’ve shared is beyond measure. Oh the memories that I have collected over the years! Hundreds of hours of reading bedtime stories, watching “Lady and the Tramp” over and over and over again, biking along Walnut Creek, riding the merry-go-round at Adventureland Park, playing endless games of Hungry, Hungry Hippo and Go Fish, cheerleading competitions, shopping for prom dresses, family trips to Arizona to visit Grandma and Grandpa – so many adventures to cherish.

God kept His promise – Over the years He has continued to use her life for His glory. I still remember New Year’s Day 2009, the day I hugged my daughter goodbye surrounded by family and friends as she headed to Ankara, Turkey. For 2 ½ years she would serve as a missionary to children – she would share her love, God’s love, with another nation.

Turkey

God kept His promise – Sarah not only impacted my life, but the lives of so many others. I cannot count all of the wonderful people who have touched my life because of the friendships she nurtured, the lives she poured into over the years. Sarah Joy, Kate, Katie, Mark, Jodi, Morgan, LeAnne, Emma, Jordan and so many, many more.

On March 31, 2012 Sarah married a wonderful man, my son-in-law Ben, and in June 2013 they gave birth to the first of my two amazing grandsons. I now get to ride the merry-go-rounds, play Go Fish and read stories all over again! Oh the joy that fills my soul!!!

Bradley

God kept His promise – He had plans to prosper me, not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future. Every great once in a while I think back to that 24-year-old who lay curled up on the floor feeling abandoned and afraid. A young woman paralyzed by fear and self-doubt.

I am forever grateful to God who reached out to me to share not only the truth about the child I carried within but also about His unconditional love for me. God kept all of the promises He made to me that night. He’s like that you know, ever faithful and full of grace.

Oh how grateful I am that 32 years ago I made the choice, the life-changing choice, to cling to his promises, to trust Him, both with my life and with hers.

(If you or someone you know is the victim of rape, call the 24 hour National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE or visit www.rainn.org. If you’re seeking healing from an abortion, this is one article and resource to consider.)