Writing Our Stories

Does tragic loss occupy one chapter in your story or the whole book? Some of us are likely to respond quickly, “The whole book.” However, should grief encompass one’s entire story? Will each day of tears dampen all the chapters to follow?

I buried my firstborn after his death by suicide. Shocking, horrific, debilitating loss. For days, weeks, months I struggled, barely surviving. My son’s death cut me to the core and shattered my heart. How could I go on?

I don’t know how I continued to live, but I did. Now I’m grateful to be alive. Now my story has a purpose. You might wonder how that’s possible from where you are in your story. I get that. After lots of time passed, my story gained a purpose when my higher power asked me to reach out to hurting hearts like mine. I did and I continue to share my story. Now enough time has passed that I can look back and see how far I’ve come. You will get there, too.

My higher power is in my story. He has always been there. I just couldn’t see Him while in the deep throes of grief.

This may not make sense where you are in your grief story, but maybe it will one day. Months into my grief I thought I had finally gained some perspective. At that time I was inclined to say that my entire story was wrapped up in the loss of my child. I filled up chapter after chapter with sorrow. Grief-stricken for months on end painted my entire story in shades of gray. How could there ever be color in my world again?

The accumulation of years on my grief journey has refined my perspective. I think it is more accurate to view the loss of my child as covering just a few chapters in my story, rather than the whole book. Losing Greg to suicide created a sadness in me that colors every chapter that follows with painful reminders. It is rare for me to not think of my son every day and in every situation. He is a part of me, but should all the chapters in my story be sad? Is that how I best honor his memory? 

My life was average, normal before I lost my child. Losing my son changed me forever. I couldn’t find my footing for a long time. Once I felt solid ground under my feet I had to find ways to live. Even live with joy. It’s not easy as all of us well know, but living is important. Survival is important.

I plan to live my best life until the end of my life. I think I do that best by living with hope on board. Hope in my heart lightens my grief. Hope reminds me that this is not the end of my relationship with my child. Hope suggests that we are experiencing only a break from each other. Breaks are hard. My “break” from my son is in its 15th year so I know the passage of time. It’s lonely. I am filled with longing, but hope tells me to be patient, hopeful. I have learned that living life with purpose helps time pass more quickly.

My life has gained a purpose as I blog to all of you. I am able to drop back in my journey to take the arm of a newbie and we journey together. You take comfort from my story and I learn from yours. Together we live in hope of eternity where we will never again be separated from those we love.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. Ephesians 1:11-12

Verse shared from The Message (MSG)

 

 

His Beloved

After the loss of our precious children or other loved ones, we feel excruciating pain down deep where most of us already feel inadequate, even unloved. This journey we’re on, this walk of grief is all-consuming. We live and breathe in the face of painful loss, reliving the tragedy over and over, trying to increase our understanding.

For a long time after I lost my firstborn to suicide, I was plagued with feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and shame. I had so many regrets. As his mother, I assumed I had failed my child. Yes, I could have done better. Surely if I had known ways to do better I would have done them. You, too, right? It’s easy to size up our losses after the fact and find ways to blame ourselves. Sadly, we are powerless to go back. Many of us know loss from suicide. It’s life-altering. We can’t easily get beyond questioning and second-guessing our actions. Life seems to overflow with thoughts of “shoulda, woulda, coulda” after the death of someone we loved.

In previous posts, I have challenged readers to “lose” the self-talk that suggests “It’s all my fault that he died. I should have done this or that and then she would still be alive. This is grief talking. Let’s get real. I mean really real. It may not be apparent until much time has passed, but this is simply not true. It will never be your fault that your loved one died. You did your best. You loved unconditionally and you still do!

It took a long time in the trenches of self-examination for me to finally come to the conclusion that I was powerless to keep my son alive. Greg’s first attempt happened while he was away at college. His second attempt happened at home. I rushed him to the ER and his life was spared. The third attempt happened while he lived in another city. This time he succeeded. With all of his attempts, it is so easy to cast blame! Not only did I blame myself, others blamed me, too, but I knew they were wrong. I may not have been the perfect mother, wearing the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, but I did my best at the time. It is true for you, too, no matter what anyone may say. Remember talk is cheap from those who have not lost someone precious, especially a precious child.

Just because I have concluded that I couldn’t change the outcome of my firstborn’s life didn’t stop me from revisiting my awful tragedy, looking for any stray clue I might have missed. A mother’s heart (and father’s) is always searching for ways to increase its understanding of such a personal, horrific loss.

You might say that it’s easy to indulge in self-talk which drives our emotions. There may be voices that whisper “you’re not good enough,” or “you were a lousy parent.” All negative chatter has a negative influence on the heart, stealing our health, robbing our healing, and killing our joy. Deep down I need to train my mind and heart to reject all hurtful chatter and listen only to those words that uplift and help me heal. I love the quote below by Bobby Schuller. He may not be speaking about grief exactly, but I still think I will adopt it as my personal creed to carry with me along my journey. Regardless of negative voices trying to tell me otherwise . . .

“I’m not what I do. I’m not what I have. I’m not what people say about me. I am the beloved of God. It’s who I am. No one can take it from me. I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to hurry. I can trust my friend Jesus and share his love with the world.”

Dear Reader, please know down deep where you hurt that you are loved. You are enough in spite of all your sorrow. Whether you trust that you are enough or not doesn’t change the fact that you are God’s son or daughter. We are His beloved and He lavishes His love on His grieving families. He loved us before our life-changing losses and He loves us still. Nothing we do or think can change the fact that God’s love is solid and unchanging. His love will continue from now throughout eternity where we will suffer no more. God will wipe away our tears. Then there will be only smiles for those we love.

Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. 1 John 3:1a 

Quote by Bobby Schuller, Proverbs 31 Ministries

Verse shared from The Voice (VOICE)

Remembering Our Children

Forget-me-nots

 Remembering Gregory Scott Still, 1974 – 2005 
       “Unforgettable that’s what you are  . . . unforgettable in every way.” Strains of this old song by Nat King Cole waft thru my mind as I work on this piece. Human life will always be unforgettable. Those of us who are parents have no trouble remembering our children; they are indelibly imprinted on our hearts. Parents who have buried a beloved child know this full well. Our children will always be precious, unforgettable. How could we ever forget even the teensiest characteristic which made them so unique?
       There is a charity that remembers children. It is aptly named The Unforgettables Foundation. Since its inception, it has been remembering children who have passed away by helping with burial expenses. “The mission of The Unforgettables Foundation is to: Enable low- income families to give their children a dignified burial, empower communities to memorialize children who have died, educate parents and children’s caregivers to confront, control and conquer the primary risks to our children’s health and wholeness and encourage communities to recognize the financial trauma which is often associated with the death of a child.”
       The Unforgettables Foundation was started by a group of concerned citizens in California. For 20 years this charity has given monetary gifts to families who have lost a child (32 weeks to 18 yo) and cannot bear the financial burden of their child’s funeral by themselves. Fundraisers are regularly held to raise money in order to help families with this expense. (This piece is not asking for donations.)
       There is another reason why this charity is important to me. In addition to chapters in California and Nevada, a chapter has been started in Southern Ohio. It has been organized by my youngest son. (I admit that I sit a little straighter in my chair as I type this.) Since my son lost his older brother to suicide; he has been looking for a way to “give back” to honor his brother and keep his memory alive. The Unforgettables Foundation of Southern Ohio gives him the opportunity to do this as well as benefit the surrounding communities. The Ohio chapter is gaining traction and has been able to help as many as 14 families a year.
       My son shares his own words after he attended the 4th Annual The Unforgettables Foundation Conference held in California. The conference was attended by health professionals, caregivers, educators, and students. Here is a clip from the article my son wrote about his experience and posted on social media:
       “After the conference was over, it was my privilege to witness families being honored who had lost a child and had received a donation from The Unforgettables Foundation during the past year. The crowd hushed to a whisper as each child’s name was read and simultaneously a dove was released from its cage. Our eyes followed the dove skyward as it flew away in freedom, symbolizing a final farewell to each beloved child. It was a touching tribute to parents suffering from the loss of their children, and, because of the generosity of contributors, they were enabled to afford a dignified burial.
       “One family in attendance had lost their 8-year-old child only a month before. The mother cupped the dove tenderly in her hands. She leaned close to its silken head and whispered something, no doubt a love message to her child, ‘Tell him I love him, please tell him.’ Then she released it to the heavens. These moving scenes hit close to home for me, and I began to cry. Seeing the tearful faces all around me was a poignant reminder that I had lost my brother 15 short years ago.
       “I started The Unforgettables Foundation of Southern Ohio chapter in honor of my brother. It will make a difference for families who cannot afford to give their child a dignified burial. Lost children deserve to be remembered always. Every child is unforgettable.”
       I add to my son’s words by saying that our hearts will always ache to hear our children’s names spoken. We won’t forget them, but it’s hard to accept that others seem to forget as time goes by which gives us all the more reason to honor them in some way. Grieving moms still in the throes of their own deep pain have asked me, “How and when should I honor my child?” I respond, “When the time is right, you will know.” How? There are likely as many ways to honor as there are grievers. We know what some survivors have done and continue doing because we have met them on social media. They blog. They design beautiful memorial posters. They share stories about their children. They also author books, record and publish their own songs, create scholarships, design fund drives, and organize walk-a-thons, all in honor of their children.
       If this blog encourages you to put some muscle behind those ideas you have percolating in the back of your mind, take a deep breath and step out to create something beautiful which will both bless you and honor your precious loved one.
Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a real blessing. Psalms 127:3
For more information, The Unforgettables Foundation of Southern Ohio is on Facebook
Verse shared from Good News Translation (GNT)
This entry was posted on July 31, 2020. 2 Comments

The Lie about Suicide

Deep in the heart where no one is privy to, some of us have wondered about death by suicide. What happens to our loved ones who choose their own death? For your consideration, here is an article by Dr. Timothy Jennings, MD. As a private practice psychiatrist, he has experience treating suicidal patients and gives his thoughts below.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 out of every 100,000 people will die by suicide. Most people have been impacted by this tragedy in one way or another. As a psychiatrist, I know all too well how the severely depressed can be overwhelmed by thoughts of suicide. I also know that in the aftermath of a suicide, those who loved the victims struggle with their own faith and worry that they will not see their loved ones in heaven.

“This subject recently roared into my mind when I received an email from a concerned parent. He wrote to tell me that his daughter attends a Christian high school where another student had completed suicide. I can’t imagine the heartache that the young man’s family is now going through, and my prayers and thoughts go out to them. However, adding to this heartache, the daughter—along with other students and even some of the faculty—was struggling because she’d been told that the young man had committed an act of sin in the taking of his own life. He was even compared to Judas, and the students were told that because he, like Judas, completed suicide, he would be eternally lost.

“I don’t condemn those who said these things, but it’s important to set the record straight about this unfortunate falsehood—a lie that misrepresents a loving God, one that likely injured vulnerable young people who are searching for meaningful answers in their grief. Because I fear such a misrepresentation will turn some of these students away from God, I believe it’s vital to address this subject.

“Death by suicide does not determine one’s eternal destiny. Why? Because suicide is almost always a symptom of an illness, a problem, or overwhelming distress—and not an act of sin, not a willful rebellion against God. Instead, suicide almost always happens when a person is in some type of horrible pain in which they lose all hope of escape. In that mindset, suicide becomes their only perceived avenue of escape from the pain. We help those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide by offering hope—the hope of escape from their pain. We help identify the source of the pain and provide real interventions that restore them to wellness. Sadly, though, not everyone realizes these other options of escape are available—and some succumb to suicide.

“Many factors contribute to people finding themselves at increased risk of suicide—some of which the individual has no control over. Age, race, birth month, socioeconomic status, marital status, relationship stress, mental illness, physical illness, genetic vulnerabilities, geographic location, lack of sunshine, pollution, infections, trauma, and intoxicating substances—these are all factors that contribute to increased risk for suicide.

“In our human experience, almost everyone has times of pain, heartache, discouragement, and hopelessness in which the idea that death might be better than life occurs. Even great heroes of God—remember Elijah?—can struggle with such discouragement. Yet we must remember that with God there is always hope, a hope based on a real God with real resources to heal and restore!

The source of the lie:

“From where does this idea that suicide is an act of sin that results in eternal loss come? It comes from accepting the lie that God’s law functions like human law—a system of rules with no consequence other than the ruling authority who keeps track of what laws were broken and then punishes lawbreakers. For those who believe this way about God’s law, sin becomes all about behavior—the acts and deeds. The wrong deed or act, in this way of thinking, requires the direct infliction of punishment. Such thinking promotes this idea that God, rather than being merciful to the teen who lost the struggle against depression, hopelessness, and pain, will then inflict further torture and pain upon him as punishment for having completed suicide.

“When we return to the truths that God is our Creator and His laws are the protocols upon which life and health are constructed to operate, we realize that deviations from His designs result in pain, suffering, and death. We understand that all nature groans under the weight of sin (Ro 8:22). This means our physical condition can groan under the weight of mental illness, which can express itself as a variety of symptoms—including suicide. We realize that suicide is a symptom of other issues and not an act of deliberate rebelliousness and sin. We can also know that God is constantly working to heal and restore His children.

“So the questions we need to ask are: What is the condition of the heart of those who are suffering suicidal thoughts? Are these people like Elijah, a champion of God, whose heart was right with God, yet who suffered emotional discouragement, depression, and suicidal thinking? Or are their hearts like Judas, consumed with selfishness and who reject Jesus?

“Suicide is a tragedy; it is never the best answer to a problem. In my practice, I often treat suicidal patients. My goal is to help them realize that what they almost always truly want is to escape their pain and not to die. Then I offer them other avenues of escape. And when they experience resolution of their pain, the suicidal thoughts resolve.

“For those who have found themselves trapped in some situation, spiraling down into a pit of despair and who were unable to see other options of escape, and have died by suicide—what then? We must realize that such an act does not mean eternal loss. In these situations, we need to offer hope to those suffering from such loss; we must promote the truth about our God of love, and realize, that like Sampson, it isn’t how one ends their life on earth that determines their eternal destiny—it is whether or not they loved Jesus that determines their eternal destiny.”

~ Only God can read the heart. He wants to bring His children into heaven, not keep them out. ~

Suicide and the Myth of Lost Salvation by Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., DFAPA, who has been in private practice since 1997 as a Christian psychiatrist and certified master psychopharmacologist. Dr. Jennings is board certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Website: timjenningsmd dot com

 

 

 

Pure Grief

I posted this piece on my blog some years ago. I think it is timely to share it again with the ever-increasing number of grievers who are looking for a support system; we desire to be among grievers who get what we are going through. As we embark on our journeys into grief we feel so alone. May this piece remind us that we are not.

This post is dedicated to mothers who have lost their children to suicide which may not be your particular loss. I don’t wish to leave any grief category out, but suicide stats are staggering. Throughout the world, 2,000 precious sons and daughters die each day by suicide. In the US alone, someone attempts suicide every minute and someone completes suicide every 17 minutes, therefore the topic is worthy of our time.

Most of us know at least one family who has lost someone they love to suicide. Unless a mother precedes her child in death she will outlive her child, surviving the aftermath of terrible loss. I know this grief first hand so I hope you will give me a little wiggle room with my choice of words. They are intended to bless us both.

If you are not a mother, but you lost someone you loved to suicide perhaps you are a sibling? A dad? A friend? I can speak around your pain and perhaps there are many similarities, but I cannot speak from personal experience. Each person’s grief is unique. A mother’s grief is unique. I have left a trail of tears behind me for 14 years. Those who have buried a child from suicide or other causes will agree that it’s not an easy journey. It is a tough assignment, taking more than it gives for a long time afterward. However, there are positive rewards in giving back when one is ready to reach out to help another along the same journey. This is what I do. In writing this blog, I drop back to link arms with you. Together we walk and share our lives and our stories of loss. Hugs are exchanged. Tears flow. In sharing, our loads are lifted even if only for a brief moment.

I hope you have been able to share with another for no one needs to walk alone. There are many grief support groups within easy reach with a few clicks on your electronic device. If you aren’t familiar with grief sites on social media perhaps you will look for them. I was astounded to see the number of people, mostly women and mostly mothers so if you are a mother you will be in the comfortable company of those who “get it.”

Suicide is a word brimming with drama. From sportswriters to newscasters they all use it as an attention-getting word which I personally detest. What about those much closer to us like family, coworkers, or friends? Can there be drama there, too? I say “yes” because that is my experience. My memories of our memorial service are murky with the actions of others around me which were totally out of place and unacceptable. I was in too much pain back then to stop it, but I can speak openly about it now. I hope it will be read and shared for maximum exposure.

~ I choose to keep his memories drama free. He deserves no less ~

Family dynamics are as varied as our personalities. Hopefully, you were surrounded by those who continue to support you in a variety of ways. Trust me. It’s a blessing when they do. But some of us cannot think about the loss of our child without seeing the faces of those who tried to steal the day for their own purposes. As I look back I am tempted to include the faces of those who tried to make my son’s funeral about themselves, but I choose not to. I have given myself permission to move them out of the memories of my child’s death and excluded them from any thoughts I have of my child going forward. I will honor my child’s memory by keeping my grief pure, you might say, with my son’s name on it.

There are others who miss my child and grieve for him in their own way. Bless them, but they are outside the circle of my heart. Within me is the heart of a mother designed by my creator who gave moms huge tear ducts that easily flow. We fall asleep drenched in tears, do we not? Each breathing moment our minds struggle to think about anything or anyone else especially in the beginning when grief is raw and bleeding. If certain faces in your circle threaten to sabotage your precious memories please consider moving them out of the way. No one needs to know you’ve done so. After all, no one else can understand your grieving mama’s heart, can they?

The one who designed my heart gave me an enormous capacity to love. He knows everything about me so He knows my loss and suffering. My Greg was His Greg, too, so He is the only one who truly understands my pain. I have no words, but I know it is He who gives me words to write and share. If you are touched deeply by what is written here please consider that it is a personal note from above, from God’s own heart to yours.

My God understands a grieving mama’s tears. He is a super snuggler and welcomes me with open arms. I cuddle on His lap and cry. He offers His handkerchief to wipe away my tears. He whispers words that comfort me. He encourages me to stay as long as I like and to return whenever I need snuggling.

There will come a day when Mamas everywhere will shed tears over their shattered hearts for the last time. There will no longer be a reason for crying because there will be no more death! I know this for certain because He has promised . . .

My beautiful Mamas, you will stop your weeping when I bring your children back to you from the land of the enemy. Then your heavenly homes will be my home, too. I will live with you. I will wipe away all your tears. There will be no more death, pain, or crying. They will be gone forever.

Verses paraphrased from Jeremiah 31:16 & Revelation 21:3-4 New Living Translation (NLT)

 

 

 

 

Our Land will Heal

“I will . . . heal their land.”

As of this writing, our nation is pretty much in lockdown. The theatres and bars are closed. Restaurants are closed except for drive-through purchases. Large groups are to be avoided so concerts and sporting events are canceled. No large Easter celebrations and places of worship have closed their doors. Staying at home and away from our natural habitats is what we must do. Forced isolation is the name of the game right now.

Our world is at war. At war with an invisible virus. COVID-19 is its name. Every 24 hr period we see on the TV screen how many more people around the globe have succumbed to this killer. Like all of you, I am sheltering in place. We have temporarily lost our ability to come and go as we please because no one wants to risk their life or the lives of others.

As humans, we’ve always gathered. We invite our friends and family to birthdays, weddings, and other social events. We greet with handshakes and hugs. We touch our faces; it’s what we’ve always done without thinking. Now we have to consciously think to avoid contact. Being isolated increases our loneliness. Thankfully the current status will be soon behind us and we can get back to working and socializing again.

This virus has created an added burden for all grievers. My heart goes out to each one of us. Those of us who are mourning the loss of a loved one already know isolation. We may no longer have family living with us, or feel like we cannot talk about our loss with family or friends. We may already know what it feels like to be lonely. It’s often a part of our lives since we faced tragic loss.

After my son died by suicide I isolated myself. Guests returned home. Hubby returned to work and I was home alone. I could cry all I wanted. No one would hear. There wasn’t anything I was interested in doing. I was in the throes of deep grief. Being isolated eventually led to depression. And depression is not a friend.

The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. Ps 118:6a

The mandatory isolation we are in right now reminds me of the isolation that follows the loss of someone precious. Maybe it does to you, too. To those of us who grieve, no matter our location, language, or ethnicity, we are similar in our grief. While grieving we can often feel isolated, even fearful. One could make a comparison between our grief and COVID-19; in a sense, they have a common thread. Both kill, but when it comes to losing a precious child, no virus compares. This nasty virus will end. My grief will not.

I want to encourage each one of us to not focus on fear or isolation right now. Instead, let’s reach out to call or text someone we know who is as isolated as we are. Share stories, swap jokes, talk about things that matter in our lives. We are all in this together.

It’s easy to be fearful while our world is being dominated by an invisible foe. An ancient book reminds humans to not fear since the phrase, “do not be afraid” appears 365 times. That is one gentle reminder per day for an entire year to not be afraid. Perhaps now is the perfect time to claim one of those reminders.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phillippians 4:6-7

God has promised to heal our land, and I believe He will heal it from this invisible foe. We want our freedom back. I believe this will happen soon. Our land will heal, but this land will never be the promised land for me. It’s yet to come. Heaven is my promised land. That’s a place we can look forward to.

Verses shared: Phillippians 4:6-7; Psalm 118:6a, New International Version (NIV)

PS – I know I keep promising that I will miss posting one month following hand surgery on my dominate hand. Due to mandated isolation, my surgery has been canceled until further notice so I will keep posting until schedules resume.

 

 

 

The Capers Continue . . .

~ If Pippy had his way a trickle of water would run in the tub all day ~

Over the span of years that I have been privileged to post, on occasion I have shared stories about my cats. Especially Pippy. There never seems to be a lack of ideas for writing where this audacious cat is concerned. (If pet lovers aren’t bored with cat stories see my archives for more.)

Pippy is a special cat. He came to be a part of our family a few weeks before our firstborn died by suicide 14 years ago. I have often wondered did God bring Pippy? Did He create this special kitten just for us? God knew we would lose our son. He knew how sad we were going to be. He knew that Pippy would keep us laughing at his antics in spite of our sorrow.

Pippy is an adventuresome, fearless cat. His antics usually occur during prowling hours when his “servants” are sound asleep. I am ashamed to admit that my forgetfulness has been his ticket to the forbidden, like chocolate or bread if I forget to put them away. Further, he shows zero remorse for chewing a hole in the bag and helping himself.

Last night’s caper took place right in front of my eyes or should I say in my peripheral view. To set the stage I had my drinking glass half full of water sitting beside me on the end table. Normally this would be of no interest (no tantalizing aroma) except Pippy loves water. Perhaps he thought to himself, hmm, how thoughtful of my servants to make water easily accessible! (I have yet to find a better location for my cats’ water bowl other than the tub or I would be constantly mopping up the mess Pippy makes with his splashing.)

Back to the illustration. I was watching TV when this caper occurred. Pippy will often attempt a roundabout approach to my lap if a direct approach is unsuccessful > meaning he gets gently pushed off. This time I didn’t see him come around via the end table until a sudden movement caught my eye. There was Pippy dipping a paw into my glass! I stared in disbelief, watching him dip his paw clear to the bottom of the tall glass again and again. Transfixed I nudged my hubby. Unfazed by our staring, Pippy continued to dip one paw in, lick it dry, then dip the other paw in and lick it dry. Hey, when a cat is thirsty why be picky? Why go to the cat bowl when a satellite location presents itself? This was one for the record books and we captured the culprit on camera. (I planned to use the picture as proof, but alas, it was blurry.)

Pippy is nothing if not persistent. Determination likely kept him alive in spite of being an emaciated kitten when we found him. More accurately, when he found us. He popped out of a soybean field and meowed at soft-hearted hubby’s feet until he picked him up. I was sure he’d leave our home after lapping a saucer of milk, but he decided to stay.

If your story includes the loss of friends or family after the loss of your child or another beloved person in your life, I am so sorry. I know the added pain caused by those we thought would stick by us but didn’t. In the absence of human friends, I have often turned to my furry friends for comfort. Many of you have, too. I’ve read what you write on social media about your pets. Their unconditional love knows no limits. They are not turned off by our tears. They seem to sense sorrow and move in closer rather than back away. Pippy may be a stinker, but his large, soulful eyes make me wonder if he knows more about me than I think he does. He’s one friend I can count on to go the distance.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Luke 6:21b NIV

Verses shared from New International Version (NIV)

PS – As you have already figured out I am posting in March after all. I caught a cold so surgery on my right hand has been rescheduled for April so I won’t be posting next month.

 

To Look Upon Their Faces

I never knew the verse below existed before I lost my firstborn to suicide. When I came across it, it spoke to my aching heart about a loving Father ~ the very same one who loved me even when I doubted Him after I lost my son.

Beware that you don’t look down upon a single one of these little children. For I tell you that in heaven their angels have constant access to my Father. Matthew 18:10 TLB

I no longer blame God, but welcome Him to my blog. Somehow this verse tugs at my grieving heart. Many readers have lost their precious children, and many of them have died by suicide. Suicide is part of my story and my heart. I am always looking for verses that touch me where it hurts down deep to somehow provide comfort for myself and others on our journeys of grief.

With your permission let’s imagine this verse in story form. To set the stage I remember that my mother used to paint a mental picture for me by telling me that I had a guardian angel who watched over me. I liked that idea. However, she also mentioned that there was a bad angel lurking about to encourage me to get into trouble. I didn’t like so much since I often got into mischief and paid the price for it.

In your imagination as a parent can you see your child’s angel hovering near the throne of God? I assume these angels are super busy and super fast to be able to not only look upon the face of God but also be near His children to protect them from harm.

Each one of God’s kids, of all ages, shapes, and sizes, has his or her own personal angel. Planet Earth and all of heaven must be swarming with them. I can sort of picture it. If my eyes could be opened to see angels I assume that I would see thousands upon thousands of them coming and going between earth and heaven, perhaps like Jacob pictured in his dream (Genesis 28:12). They not only behold God’s face they also bring messages of hope to hurting hearts like yours and mine.

This text above says to me that I am not to hurt the heart of any child of any age, because that child belongs to God. Also, I am not to hurt the heart of my husband who is also God’s child. I am not to cause harm to any of God’s kids. That’s inclusive. He loves each one as if that child were His one and only. That child has an angel who has the ear of God. Not only that, God’s eyes roam the earth to strengthen the hearts of His beloved children (2 Chron. 16:9). Those of us who believe in the God of heaven know that He is a very personal, hands-on God.

What this boils down to (for me as a mom who has buried a child) is that both of my babies have an angel watching over them. My living child has his guardian angel, and I like to think that my firstborn still has his angel watching the spot where he is buried. Does he stay there all the time? Does he come to be near me when I visit my son’s grave? I don’t know, but I like to imagine that “Gabe” shows up to wrap his arms around me while I shed tears over the loss of my child whose name is permanently etched in bronze. Those moments are always sad, but even in my mourning, I have hope! It is a blessed hope in the Grand Reunion when, once again, I will look upon the face of my sweet Greg!

One day soon Jesus will return to earth and wake up His sleeping children! Mine will be among the throng who awaken. I expect to see my firstborn alive and happy! I expect to look upon his face with joy! Gabe will quickly bring him to me. In my imagination, he will say something like, “Hey, Mama, I am so excited to reintroduce your firstborn son to you! Isn’t he beautiful? Oh, and by the way, I’m Gabe. Greg and I go way back. We have a lot of catching up to do and lots of stories to share. I am beyond excited to see your family together again!”

No, my firstborn no longer has a need for his angel, but when we are together again in heaven I imagine that all of those personal angels will introduce themselves to the earthlings they were in charge of. Then the joyous reunions will continue for all eternity. Until then, may these words bring a ray of hope.

He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully. Luke 4:10 NIV

Scripture shared from  Living Bible (TLB); New International Version (NIV)

 

This entry was posted on February 1, 2020. 2 Comments

In Perfect Peace

~ How does one live peacefully after losing a precious child? ~

I squirmed uneasily in my chair waiting for my name to be called. I wasn’t the least bit relaxed about this appointment because I feared what lay ahead. You see, I was scheduled for warm water therapy which I expected to enjoy . . . except for the bathing suit part. I was scheduled to see a male therapist. Ugh. I could only hope the therapist would make constant eye contact . . . keeping his eyes on mine and not on my marshmallow-y parts, if you know what I mean.

As it turned out the therapist was kind, helpful, and patient. As he instructed, I leaned back in the 94-degree water. I had floating noodles everywhere: behind my neck, under my arms, back, legs, and ankles. I was all set to float, and it was absolutely wonderful. Peaceful. I felt the tension begin to melt away and my body relaxed more than it had in months. Maybe years.

Floating in the warm water with my arms resting on the noodles, my imagination took flight. I imagined that I was leaning against God and totally relaxed because, after all, He’s God. With my head resting on His chest and my hands resting on His arms, we floated in heaven’s crystal River of Life. I could hear the rhythm of God’s heartbeat and His slow, even breathing. It was peaceful. Tranquil. Relaxing. Perfect.

Can you picture it? It felt, well, womb-like.

My twin granddaughters were born early by several weeks. Each tiny girl was lifted from Mommy’s warm womb and placed in an equally warm incubator. No longer were they peacefully floating in nature’s warm bath. I stared at each tiny baby nestled in soft, rolled blankets that surrounded them in womb-like cocoons. I marveled at how quickly they adapted to the outside world.

The birth of my grandbabies was both bitter and sweet: sweet because my son has become a dad and bitter because the death of his older brother broke my heart. Sadly, my grandbabies will never get to meet their uncle on this earth. Perhaps your memories going forward will always be bittersweet, too. Having grandbabies to love somehow softens the edges of bitterness. It seems impossible that out of the ashes of bitterness could come, sweetness. Many of you have commented on social media that your grandchildren have refreshed your life, giving you joy after sorrow. For some grievers, I know it is impossible for you to have grandchildren. I am so sorry if this truth is part of your grief story.

In my world, I don’t live in perfect peace. How about you? Neither warm water therapy or other calming environments provide lasting peace, so how does one live peacefully after losing a precious child or other loved one? Is it even possible? Like you, I can’t always be floating in a tank filled with warm water. I must be about the business of living. My living includes grieving, but I gladly make room for moments of joy. There must be a balance of bitterness to sweetness, don’t you think?

During the early years after my firstborn’s death, I found it difficult to stay on top of grief. It consumed me. The very nature of my loss, along with depression (sadly, a gene-gift likely shared with my Greg), caused me to sink deeper and deeper into the quicksand of sadness, regret, guilt, blame, and the like. Once deep in the quagmire of depression, my thoughts centered on dying, not living. I was tempted to focus on ending my pain rather than living in hope and survival. That negative notion scared me. I called to my higher power for help, and I felt His answering presence.

Whenever the gray clouds of depression gather, I do not wait until they darken to thoughts of suicide before quickly calling on God for relief, and He provides it. Of course, the temptation will come again and again because the enemy does not give up easily, but my God is stronger and mightier than the enemy. It is to Him I turn for relief.

Since peace is a priority for me on my grief journey, maybe I should mentally put myself back in the warm water therapy tank whenever negative feelings worm their way into my mind, but there is a better way, and I can stay dry. According to one of my favorite promises, peace is available right here, right now for all who choose to trust. I feel calmer already.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. 

Verse shared from Isaiah 26:3 New International Version (NIV)

 

 

If Only I Could Ask, Part 2

Dear Reader, If you have not yet read part 1 you may choose to start there. You will find it on my author page, Healing After Suicide, posted November 2019.

Part 2, Conclusion

He drew me in for a hug. We both sniffed and I handed Him a tissue. “Please bear with me while I explain the bigger picture,” He began. “It pleases the enemy when humans think that I destroy their children, but that is not true. It’s an absolute lie! I could never hurt the very ones I design for parents to love. It’s against my nature. I love, not hate. I create, not destroy. When you cry, my *Gracie, I cry with you. I’ve been right beside you all along, and I always will be. I cannot wait to bring Greg to you again. He will be all brand new with a beaming smile and that little chuckle you miss so much. You will recognize him instantly so don’t worry that you won’t. I will be overjoyed to see Moms, Dads, Siblings, Grandparents, and entire family trees celebrating their reunions all over heaven. I am counting the days.”

That was a lot to digest so we swung in silence for a bit. Then He turned and looked deeply into my eyes before He spoke, “If I could I would not allow death to destroy even one child, but if I pushed in with power I would be overriding my original design. My children would no longer be able to make their own choices whether for good or evil. They would be like robots without love and not truly free. There is no love where there is no freedom; these two exist together by design.”

“Freedom is the only way to true happiness,” He continued. “My children, starting with the first parents, have made some terrible decisions and often regrettably. Adam and Eve were very sorry and wanted the opportunity to begin again, but their mistake, their sin, had to run its course. They did repent and came back to me, but the damage had been done to my human race. There were countless generations damaged by their infection before I came into the world. That is why I’m here. That is how we can talk face to face. There will come a time when my mission is complete and I will pay the ultimate price to eradicate sin, but we can talk about that another time. I know you will always grieve for Greg and so will I.”

“Has this overview shed a little light on your understanding?” He asked.

“Yes,” I responded, “but couldn’t you have made just one exception and spared my child?”

“Theoretically yes,” my friend answered, giving my shoulder a squeeze, “but I have no favorites. I love all of my children. Each one is special and unique. Each one deserves to make their own decisions that will develop their characters. As they mature each one must choose who they will serve. You might say it’s a battle of wills; a battle that takes place in the mind. I have placed a desire to worship within each heart I create so it’s natural for humans to worship. Of course, I want them to choose to love and worship me because I can see ahead and know what’s best for them. I long to have a special relationship with each child so that friendship can germinate and grow, but Satan desires worship, too. He wants all created beings to worship him and he is no gentleman. I ask. He forces his way in. He won’t be satisfied until all humans worship him or he will ruin them if they don’t. My power against the dark forces of evil is always with my children and I will come when they call me. I am always there to help guide them. As their creator, I, alone, know each one of my precious children inside and out.”

“This is deep, but I think I get it,” I replied. “I understand that you love each child born and you don’t play favorites. I guess some of your children survive death or their attempts to end their lives while many others do not, starting with the very young. Every death must break your heart.”

“Yes, it does,” He sighed softly. “Dad and I struggle with death. We hate it. It was not in our original plan for humans and it has caused us much anguish down through time. Allowing Greg to carry out his plan hurt our hearts immeasurably, probably even more than it hurts yours. We knew he would no longer suffer; he had been silently suffering a long time. His suffering would be over and he could rest while your suffering would begin. His death and your sorrow have broken our hearts. It is so hard to watch sin to do its work. It would be so much easier to prevent Satan’s destruction in the first place, but then, we would be back to forcing humans rather than allowing them the opportunity to choose for themselves. There is good news though. It won’t be long before the final phase of the plan will take place. My children will soon have all of eternity to enjoy being together with their families. I am so ready to have all of us together forever.”

I smiled up at him, then said, “I am so ready to hug Greg again.” Will the Grand Reunion be soon?”

“Yes, but probably not soon enough for your liking and for all parents and families who long for their missing children, but it will be right on time. You see, I desire for every person to have the opportunity to make a choice to be with me forever. Sadly, not everyone will choose me. Satan has turned many hearts cold, but I won’t give up wooing them until each human has settled in his or her own mind who has their heart, who is their best friend, and who they love most of all.”

My friend wrapped His arms around me in one final hug as He spoke, “I know we’ve just scratched the surface, but perhaps you can have more peace now. Can I ask you to do something for me? Please keep telling grieving hearts that there is hope. Please keep encouraging others by sharing my words of peace. Please explain that death is not from me. And keep telling my grieving children how much I love them.”

“God is love.”

*Gracie is the author’s pen name

1 John 4:8 from New International Version (NIV)

 

This entry was posted on December 1, 2019. 2 Comments