Cancer, suicide, drowning, car accident, murder. Every mother fears losing her child. We’re supposed to protect our children from the sharp edges of life. Don’t run in the street. Look both ways. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t hang out with that crowd. We hear about other families who face the pain of loss, and we silently give thanks it isn’t us, all the while hugging our kids a little tighter.
A mother is unprepared for the pain of her child’s death. I know. I’ve been there. It’s the worst loss.
But God. Those two words took me through the valley of the shadow of death, to the peace that passes all understanding.
Come with me on a journey from grief to grace.
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Grief will pull you down like an alligator dragging its prey underwater. Here are some things to remember when your grief is as fresh as a new wound:
1. Everyone grieves differently. There is no right way. Give yourself the room to cry, scream, or even laugh.
2. Write a letter to your friends and family, explaining what you’re going through. Ask for their support and understanding. For an example of I letter I sent, let me know and I’ll email it to you.
3. Take a break from grief. When your sorrow is new, it’s overwhelming in its intensity. Give yourself permission to not grieve for a few hours.
4. Rely on your friends and family. Tell them what you need, whether it’s a meal or two, someone to clean your house, or just a shoulder to cry on.
5. Get enough sleep. Your brain feels fuzzy enough. Don’t add sleepiness to the mix.
6. Focus on what you’re doing – be in the moment. It’s easy to be so overwhelmed that you can’t concentrate.
6.5 Remember, you will get through this.
Every human responds differently to loss. Some are stoic, stiff-upper-lip. Others break down in weeping and gnashing of teeth. I find myself settling into a pity party of epic proportions. “Nothing is good about my life,” I lament. “I never get a break.”
I’ve been caring for my 89-year old mother, who was recently released from a convalescent hospital. My freedom to come and go has been severely curtailed. I feel like a caged bird. I’m grieving over the loss of my independence, loss of time, money, energy. I’m grieving over my mother’s loss of the same things. I carry her loss like another brick that I must drag behind me.
How do you respond to loss? Do you kick and scream against the unfairness of life? Are you stoic, bending slowly under each additional burden? Or do you rejoice in suffering, know that it produces perseverance?
What is it about grief that either separates us from others, or brings us closer together? There’s no wishy-washy middle ground. For those of us who have lost someone close, grief still lurks around every corner, waiting to pounce. A song, a special time of day, a fleeting memory, these are the things that bring a tear to the eye and a longing to the heart.
We must teach others that grief can’t be avoided and won’t be ignored. When we show others how we grieve, we show them how to live beyond the feeling. Grief, loss, suffering, all part of our human existence, all part of God’s omnipotent plan.
There is a certain notoriety in grieving. When you’ve lost a child, spouse, parent, fiancee, you have a golden ticket out of a lot of things. You can use it for many excuses. Our human nature adores this. You have the attention of others. You can bring up the loss in conversation and immediately get sympathy. As time passes, you lose your “differentness.” The tendency is to cling to the death as a way of setting us apart; a kind of identity. That’s one reason we hang around with others who have experienced loss. The challenge is to continue to grow in the face of loss, to not let the loss define me, but to add the loss to the total of who I am.