Every breath . . . every beat

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8

IMG_0128 -Dewdrop Tears

In Honor of My Son ~ Gone Too Soon
August 21, 1974 ~ August 11, 2005

With every breath I take and with every beat of my heart, I miss my firstborn son, and particularly now, as another anniversary looms on the horizon. Dear Reader, I know you understand. I know you miss your child, too. It’s true that our minds are stuck on our loss for a long time, but even after a long time has passed, the ones we miss are always in our thoughts. After the fog lifts, and we come to grips with the truth that they are never coming back home, we get good at multi-tasking; we learn to do the normal day-to-day activities while still keeping a heart watch on our pain. It’s a lifetime journey, this grief, but I also suspect that surviving is a lifetime journey, too, and one I am committed to. I write to help others and to keep alive the memories of the one I have lost. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t think about them and wish they were with us. And it’s okay to feel that way.

I share a piece entitled “Why Did He Do It?” written some years ago. Even now the question is still uppermost in my heart. Perhaps it will be a blessing to those of you who are new to your grief journey. I am so sorry we have the tragic death of our children in common, and I feel your pain. Though it has been years, I can easily reach back and pull up horrible memories at a time when grief was fresh and so very cruel. It was during this time that I cried out to God:

“Why Did He Do It?”

Dear Lord,

Why did he do it? I’m probably not going to get an answer . . . at least not one that I could even begin to accept this side of heaven. My mind understands that my firstborn son chose to end his life. But my heart still cries. It cries out because of his pain that I could not stop. It cries out because he thought there was no other way to end his pain.

Reasoning, I get. You and I have written about it ~ but my mother heart still cries. It cries bitter tears for all the beautiful days he’s missing out on. It cries for the college degree he will never have the chance to spread his wings in the job market with, or the woman he could have met who would have loved, understood, and accepted him just the way he was. And I shed tears for all the sweet grandchildren we will never get to enjoy.

I look at his picture with his big grin ~ and my heart breaks. I see other brothers pummeling each other, obviously acting like brothers ~ and my heart breaks. I pick up his billfold and finger each personal piece of paper ~ and my heart breaks. I go to the cemetery and look down at the slab of marble with his name engraved in bronze ~ and my heart breaks. I hear of other suicide deaths on the news ~ and my heart breaks for the loved ones left behind to pick up the pieces.

Lord, how can we blend together the business of daily toil with heartbreak? Life is a mixture of pain and joy, suffering and comfort, tragedy and peace. How do we blend them together to make an emulsion when they are opposites, like oil and water?

This is where You come in, isn’t it? You are the “glue” that holds us together in the midst of our times of joy and trouble. Lord, I am sure there will be more sadness and tears, but with Your huge arms wrapped around me, we can walk this journey together and when it ends, it will be all joy and no more tears.

You’ve promised.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. Revelation 21:4

Verses selected from the New Living Translation (NLT)

“Why Did He Do It?” poem from Shattered By Suicide, My Conversations With God After the Death of My Son, by Gracie Thompson, pgs. 5-7

 

 

Showers of Blessings

I’ll send down plenty of rain in season—showers of blessing! Ezekiel 34:26

file2201238521882-shower head

Grief is a heavy topic and rarely do I segue from it into humor. It took a long time after I lost my son to suicide before I found anything to be funny. Slowly the humor returned, and sometimes situations present themselves that just “itch” to be shared. You know what I mean? However, if you feel that humor would be an unwelcome intrusion at this time, please tuck this post away for later reading. You won’t offend me in the least. I get it.

My weeks consist mostly of the repetitive drip, drip, drip of daily grind. But sometimes showers come out of nowhere. Have you ever been caught by a sudden rain shower, and you didn’t have your umbrella? I imagine most of us can recall a time or two when we were surprised by a downpour from the heavens, and we got soaking wet. Recently I had a shower experience of a different kind.

If you have found that your humor has returned, please grab a towel and laugh at my expense. Why the towel? You’ll see.

We have both a stationary shower head and a hand-held one in our bathroom shower. I wanted to spare getting my hair wet one particular morning, so I turned the dial to the rarely used position, which would send water to the hand-held shower head. No problem. The shower head did what it was supposed to do, but the following morning . . . not so much.

As you have likely figured out, I forgot to change the setting back to the stationary shower head after I finished yesterday’s shower, and had long since forgotten that I had changed the knob’s position. I turned on the water, heard the whoosh, anticipated the spray, but instead of getting me wet, a jet stream of water shot over the shower door and hit the wall across the room! The water splashed the mirror, ran down the wall, and drenched everything below. Stunned, but with quick recovery, I turned off the water and surveyed the damage. Fortunately clean-up was easy since bathrooms are designed to get wet . . . just not hosed down!

Mind you, all of this took place in a matter of seconds. First shock, then it registered in my brain, “Turn the water off!” It took longer to clean up the mess than to make it. (And isn’t that usually the way it is?) I can live the rest of my life quite satisfied to never again soak my bathroom with a shower head, but I will always welcome other kinds of showers.

I consider foibles to be at the top of my list of accomplishments . . . said with tongue in cheek. I’m probably not alone in this gift, but rather quite safely centered in a larger population, if they are willing to admit to it. “Why admit it?” you may ask. Because we are all broken. If we didn’t think so before, we surely do after burying a child. Burying a child breaks us. It leaves us in a deep heap of shattered shards of our broken parts, does it not?

This is where showers come in. Not the wet kind, although those are good, but heavenly showers; showers of cleansing as well as showers of blessing. Sometimes blessings are hard to be cognizant of after tragic loss, but God still sends them. I rather like the analogy. Getting refreshed by showers on the outside or inside of me are blessings on which I have come to depend.

Thus far in my life it seems that God will take an unexpected event (like my indoor shower), refurbish it, and weave it into a spiritual application for my understanding and character building. With your permission I will share a possible spiritual application from my mishap.

May I ask a question? Have you been aware of the showers of blessing in your life? Perhaps you feel God deserted you with the death of your loved one, and therefore, you turned away from Him? You may be thinking, He ignored my pleas to save my child, therefore I know He doesn’t care about me or my family. Ravaged by grief, like millions on this planet are, it is not easy to see the good. Our eyes are dim with tears and our hearts broken from loss. With the sudden death of our precious child, we may feel we are no longer blessed, totally forgotten. Perhaps you ask, “Where’s my blessing? How can the God of blessings also be the God who allows His children to die?” Hard questions which remain suspended in midair. They may go unanswered for now.

I shall remind us both that God never leaves us forsaken in our loss (Hebrews 13:5). He’s right here, holding us. Day by day He whispers sweet promises in our ears. When we are quiet and listening, we will hear them. He wills us to ask for a daily dose of His strength for the days, months, and years ahead. Could it be that His strength and comfort are among the showers of blessing? Could it be that the touch from others is among the showers of blessings? Or could it be that we aren’t used to receiving blessings from above, so we don’t anticipate an abundant shower of them? Why not?

“He doesn’t say: I will cut you off from My blessings. He says, ‘Come to Me and drink.'”

Quote from Today Is Your Best Day by Roy Lessin, pg. 126

Scripture shared from The Message (MSG)

 

 

 

 

 

Not by chance . . .

A real friend loves you no matter what happens. Proverbs 17:17

file561270689520 (1)

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Albert Einstein

Her name I cannot share, but perhaps you have met someone like her in your life. If not, I will share our story, our connection, with the hope that it will bless every reader today.

We met a long time ago during a craft class. We were young mothers; she had one small child, and I had two. We had been mothers long enough to hunger for the fellowship of other women; a time to rekindle our place as women in the world. It was not by chance that we met in a macrame class, working our fingers while chatting about our lives.

Not by chance . . . we liked each other enough to stay in touch after the class was over: getting together so our children could play, or do outings, or share canning fruit and veggie know-how.

Not by chance . . . we kept in contact over the growing pains of raising rambunctious kids and her declining, crumbling marriage.

Not by chance . . . we found that we shared a love for God, and our conversations took on deeper topics of spiritual significance.

Not by chance . . . we kept in touch through trials of divorce and chronic illnesses. We prayed together, mostly over the phone, joining our voices to call out to the God of heaven for help and relief.

Not by chance . . . we have remained close friends through the battle of disease and a heart shattered by suicide. Thirty-eight years and counting, God has led each of us. Easy? Absolutely not. Faithful to Him and to each other? Absolutely.

Not by chance . . . God orchestrated our friendship so many years ago when life was fresh, and we were full of joy and excited about the future. We still are. Battered and bruised by the trials and tragedies of life, we press on together, knowing that we trust in God’s amazing grace.

Not by chance . . . my friend has pulled through the most trying year of her life. Facing so many physical challenges, enough to cause others to give up, yet God has sustained her. One of the ways He chose to do so was to connect us yet again, as a writing team. How? I’m glad you asked! Read on for the amazing twist in our shared story.

One day my friend called me. We had chatted a bit when she blurted out with a sigh, “Okay. I’ll do it.”

“Do what?” I asked.

With just a hint of frustration in her voice (as if I should know the answer already) she responded, “I will help you edit your blogs!”

“What are you talking about?” I asked. “Did I nod off during our conversation? I don’t remember asking you to help me,” I stammered.

“God has been bugging me for months to help you, and each time I heard His voice speaking to my heart to get involved, I gave Him my laundry list of objections. But you know how persistent He can be, so I gave in. I will help you edit your blog.”

Not usually at a loss for words, this day I was. My friend relayed more of her journey. She let me in on her private pain and struggle for the past year, saying that it had been worse than her divorce, which I knew had been terrible. Not only were her personal struggles daunting, she still continued to work, so her life was full to overflowing. Bad timing for God to ask a favor, or so she thought. But at His insistence, she gave in and called to tell me she was willing to help.

Not by chance . . . I could use her help. In fact, I could have used her grammar expertise for both books, now in print, but God had not “bugged” her when those were in process. He chose to do it this year, during the worse year of her life. Were we to understand, at least from a human perspective, why He chose now?

Not by chance . . . God knew that my friend had not grieved her many losses. He knew she needed an outlet for her grief, which had been hidden away and ignored. He knows the subject matter of my blog first hand, because I rely on Him to give me ideas, words, and perspective from His loving heart. Even though my story involves suicide, she and others who have different losses can relate to grieving, no matter the cause.

Not by chance . . . as my friend reads my drafts and works on them with her skills, the emotional side of her connects to my sorrow, and the dam breaks ~ over and over again. Long held off tears begin to flow. Suddenly, we get it. It becomes crystal clear why God connected us so long ago, held us together for most of our adult years, and then reconnected us again to work together. If I had asked for her help, it would have been for my benefit. Because God asked my friend to help me, it was for her benefit. We have come to realize that it is all for His glory and for our spiritual growth.

Not by chance . . . our loving heavenly Father knew years ago that we would need each other even more now. He knows that writing is healing, and we would both benefit. Actually, it’s a win/win/win relationship; a three-way friendship begun on earth which will continue in heaven.

Not by chance . . . God works in the lives of all His children. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). He knows the best plan, the best path to take. He knocks at the door of every heart. If we choose to answer, it’s our gain, and not by chance . . . but by divine design.

Verse from the Clear Word paraphrase

 

Awash in tears

My eyes pour out tears to God. Job 16:20b

“Back then” I never thought I had a story worth sharing. My life was too ordinary, too boring; it didn’t contain elements that would capture anyone’s attention. I even prayed about this ever so often . . . and then the indescribable happened . . . creating a story awash in tears.

Perhaps it will benefit someone to hear my story from the beginning. I don’t share it often, because it remains so painful to talk about even after all these years. “To go there” is to bring the tragic loss of my son back into sharp focus where the memories of loss still have razor-sharp edges. Truth can be painful, can it not? It would be easier if it were a mere fictional account from an overactive mind. Unfortunately, it is not.

A further word about sharing one’s story before I get into mine: telling our stories is important; there is healing in the telling. I know it hurts to tell. It’s a rather bittersweet quandary, you might say, with benefits not readily seen, but they are there. Beyond personal help, it is my hope that it helps a reader along his or her journey into grief.

I had an uneventful life until that day which turned my world upside down. It began with a phone call that changed everything I had known up to that moment and . . . ended with the burial of one of my precious children. How do you recover completely from a horrific, senseless tragedy that leaves you mercilessly spinning like a top? We both know the answer. You don’t.

At 10:00 AM that Thursday the phone rang. The call was from my firstborn’s boss. I had never spoken to him before, so he instantly had my attention. He called to say that my son had not shown up for work yet. Since it was unlike him to be late, he suggested that I have the police do a well-check at his apartment. With shaking fingers and pounding heart I dialed the number at the precinct.

An eerie, sinking feeling began to form a knot in the pit of my stomach. My heart  thumped wildly as I completed the request and hung up the phone. I paced the floor, praying. I prayed and paced for the next three hours. What could possibly take the police so long? Was it an indication of something bad? I dared not allow my mind to go there.

I called my husband at work. His voice remained calm when I told him. As I hung up, I thought perhaps I was being overly dramatic, and this was nothing more than a delay from a flat tire. Eventually I called the police back to get an update. I was told that someone would be calling me. Now worry joined the sinking feeling in my stomach. If the well check had found nothing, why would it take so long to let me know?

Waiting was so hard! I prayed constantly that my boy was safe, but the knot of fear in my belly was growing and moving upward, threatening to choke me. Finally I was talking to a policeman on the phone. He asked if I was alone and I said, “Yes.” He asked me to call someone to be with me. At that point the pressure of waiting needed to escape, and I exploded, “JUST TELL ME!” And he did.

“Sorry, ma’am. Your son is dead.”

Two short sentences ~ six little words struck horror in my heart. I dropped the phone and screamed and screamed and screamed. This was the beginning of my “nightmare of sorrows.” Six little words, and the wall of my life came tumbling down.

These two sentences changed my life forever. I could stop right here, say no more, and readers who have lost a child could fill in details from their own personal story of tragic loss. If your story includes suicide, your mind immediately flashes back to the beginning of your tragedy, does it not? Whether our stories mirror each other’s or not does not matter; the loss of one’s own child is horror enough.

Much of what happened next is fuzzy. It involved phone calls to family members who quickly carried the awful news from person to person. Caring people brought in food along with their hugs and tears. Friends took us places where one goes to make final arrangements when a loved one dies, so why were we going? Loved ones die of old age, not suicide. It was all so wrong, but sadly, it was necessary. As overwhelming and confusing as it was, there was no ditching the tasks set before us. I just wanted to drop into the space my son would occupy and pull a blanket of dirt over the two of us. How could I go on without my firstborn child?

Memories remain sketchy, but I do remember someone trying to engage me in light conversation. She leaned toward me and asked, “Have you been doing any crafts lately?” My mind was toast . . . crafts . . . crafts, what does that word mean? I couldn’t even process this ordinary word. I had no room in my brain for mundane. No longer did I have an interest in anything from my former life. It was all ashes.

Amazingly, I have survived without my firstborn almost twelve years now. It seems impossible that this much time has passed when I didn’t think I could last a week. If you are new to your grief journey, please don’t be discouraged. Suffering loss is just that . . . it’s suffering, and who can put a timetable on suffering? One must allow the painful process of healing to work at its own pace. Fortunately, pain will wax and wane in its intensity over time as we all make our way along our journey of grief.

A shattered heart cannot be put back together, but it can be recreated, and that is where the next chapter of my life began. I finally came to the realization that my God was [and is] never absent. He did not kill my son. He loved my son. His love, which goes beyond my human understanding, is constant and comforting. According to His promise, He will never leave or forsake His children (Deut. 31:6).

My trial is awash in tears, but there is good news! I plan to see all my missing family when we are reunited in the air when Jesus returns! I am sure you plan to spend eternity with your loved ones, too. My hope, spelled out in Scripture, is where my faith is anchored.

This hope is a safe anchor for our souls. It will never move. Hebrews 6:16a

Verses selected from New Life Version (NLV)

This entry was posted on June 17, 2017. 2 Comments

The cheerio cherubs

PENTAX Image

Memories. Life is made up of them, is it not? After losing my firstborn to suicide, all the memories that crowded front and center in my mind were harsh ones. Painful ones.

It seems like good memories take a long time to surface. And making new, happy memories somehow feels disloyal to the beloved someone we are outliving. It took lots of time before memories of my children, when they were little, finally began to trickle into my thoughts. I could smile as I relived them before shedding some tears.

Please don’t be discouraged if all you can recall right now are sad memories. Making new memories will happen in time. They might just catch you by surprise.

When my two boys were little they would often get into stuff and make a mess. Sorry to say, I got upset with them, thinking about all the extra work they made for me as I cleaned up after them. How trivial it seems now. I’d love to go back to those experiences and laugh at their childishness ~ laugh at innocent children having fun. I have a memory that I would like to share with you. There is probably nothing of value in it, except to give you encouragement that you, too, at some point, will have good memories to soften the edges of the sad ones, even bring on peals of laughter.

The boys were probably a little younger than ages 2 and 4 at the time this story took place. To set the stage properly, I should tell you that even though hubby had worked a double shift, he had agreed to watch the children while I slipped away to buy groceries. I fixed dinner for them before I left, thinking that by the time the three of them had eaten the meal and played for a while, I’d be back home.

I pulled into the garage, savoring the last remnants of my peaceful outing alone. Unbeknownst to me, I was about to find out whether or not my time management plan had worked. I stepped inside the house and stared with my mouth open. It looked as if a tiny tornado had ripped through our house! The kitchen was a mess. Food and dishes were scattered all over the table and floor. Apparently no one was hurt, for two little boys met me at the doorway, smiling, and the younger one saying, “Dink, Mommy, dink” code for “I’m thirsty.”

I looked over the heads of my chubby cherubs to the lower level, which used to wear green carpet, but all I could see was brown. What on earth? My voice trailed off as realization set in. I took a few tentative steps forward, slowing venturing into the crime scene. “Where’s Daddy?” I asked weakly. They pointed downstairs. Ah, yes. Tired Daddy was sound asleep on the sofa. He was peacefully snoring, oblivious to the tornado our tykes had created.

The brown on the carpet was, you guessed it, cereal. Boxes and boxes of cereal! And how do I know it was a whole bunch of boxes? I had a pantry which closed with a door, but no lock. I stored canned goods and other things on the shelves, plus I stocked up on boxes of the boys’ favorite cereals when they were on sale. I figured I had at least 10 boxes of cereal on hand and most of them Cheerios . . . but no more.

Since the boys weren’t able to articulate what happened, I put my detective hard hat on, and decided that this is how this escapade went down. My firstborn, looking for something interesting to fill the time, got into the pantry. A light bulb went off in his little head. We love cereal! Look at all these boxes! They stuffed their faces, opening up box after box. Soon tiring of eating from the abundance, older brother, the idea king of this outfit, got another brainstorm. Let’s fill our dump trucks with cereal and haul it around!

And that’s just what they did. They probably made lots of racket, as little boys do, making motor sounds as they pushed their large dump trucks, heaped high with cereal, around the basement floor. Round and round they went, even circling the sofa where Daddy lay sleeping soundly.

More cereal. More hauling. Stomp, stamp, trample that cereal into the carpet. Throw it high into the air. Whee! What fun! And then . . . killjoy Mom came home. They looked at her with innocent, upturned faces, (and she read the message written there) “Thanks for all the cereal, Mommy. We’re thirsty. We’ve had a blast entertaining ourselves while Daddy took a nap.” Blast indeed!

Daddy’s nap was O-V-E-R! “What were you thinking (or not thinking)?” I asked in exasperation, with hands on hips. “You don’t leave two little tykes to their own devices! You were supposed to babysit, remember? How could you allow yourself to fall asleep?”

“Easy!” he yawned. “Double shift, remember?” Oh, yes. I remember. I also remember WE WERE OUT OF FOOD . . . except for the cereal . . . which used to be in unopened boxes. Sigh. Here’s some trivia for you: did you know that when you attempt to vacuum Cheerios, they bounce off the sweeper and explode . . . ping! . . . into tiny fragments, making even more of them to sweep up? After I finally got the mess cleaned up, I needed a little sympathy from another understanding mother. Wisdom is supposed to come with age, so I called the children’s grandmother. She had the nerve to laugh! The more details I shared, the harder she laughed! It was not funny!

No, not funny then, but it’s funny now. I’m grateful to have one of those little boys . . . all grown up now . . . to share this story with, again and again. It may be embarrassing, but also a memory that he will delight his own children with one day. Perhaps history will repeat itself. Who knows?

Like Paul Harvey used to say on his broadcast, “Now you know the rest of the story . . .” there’s more to this one, too. Like I said, the pantry door had no lock. When hubby had sufficiently recovered from my tirade, he affixed a hook on the pantry door. There. That should protect groceries going forward. Not so fast. Little ones can out-think grown-ups, just in case you didn’t know that. LOL

One morning, these little guys were being way too rambunctious so early in the morning. “Boys, go sit in the rocking chair in the corner while Mommy gets dressed,” I instructed them, “then I will fix your breakfast.” They dutifully got into the chair, and I hustled upstairs. In what seemed like just seconds, I heard giggling coming from the direction of the corner chair. I peered over the stair railing to see what was going on. There sat my little cherubs eating cereal. HOW DID THEY GET LOCKED-UP CEREAL? “Easy, Mommy,” chirped the idea king, (who would always coordinated these heists I was beginning to learn). Being the obedient son that he was, he stayed in the chair so as to not get into trouble, but he conned his little brother, who had an under-developed conscience at this point, to be the disobedient one. “See,” he continued his teaching lesson, “I told my brother to pull up a chair to the pantry door, stand on it so he could reach the hook, and unlock the door. That’s how we got cereal.” He beamed, apparently quite pleased with their team effort. They both giggled again.

Outwit, outplay the grownups. Yep, I’d been played. It may have been the first time, but it wouldn’t be the last. Those giggles are treasured, sweet music among my memories. Wouldn’t we all go back to a time of innocence . . . if we could?

He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. Job 8:21

Scripture from the New Living Translation (NLT)

Jonah: The Man Who Ran

file000758102380

Ever lived an impossible day when you wished you could run away? How about an impossible week or month? How about an impossible year? Those of us who grieve, live in or have lived through the inescapable darkness of sadness. I learned this darkness first hand when I lost my firstborn to suicide over ten years ago.

Long, long before our time, there was a prophet of God who ran when he faced what looked like an impossible task. His name was Jonah, and his fascinating story is found in the Old Testament. It’s a gripping story that was perfect for my imagination when I first heard it as a kid. I was captivated by the prophet who dared defy God and ended up doing time in the belly of a mammoth fish. More about the fish in a later story. First, let’s explore the running part.

As one of God’s prophets, Jonah had likely completed missions before, but he was about to refuse one. Refuse God? How does a puny human dare do that? It does not appear in the story that Jonah answered God, but he made a decision not to obey nonetheless. God, who knows everything and cannot be fooled, knew what His prophet was plotting, but He did not interfere. Instead, He allowed the situation to play out in real time.

Act One of Jonah’s story unfolds as God directs him to the enemy territory of Nineveh. Probably fearful for his own safety, Jonah heads for the harbor and boards a ship headed in the opposite direction from Nineveh. It is obvious to the reader that he does not intend to obey orders, as he works a plan to get as far away from God’s commission as possible.

I did not run away physically from my situation, like Jonah did from his “mission impossible” assignment, but I wanted to run away emotionally. Run from the agony and shock that engulfed me. Run from the relentless, clawing fingers of emotional pain. Run from the choking fog, my constant companion. Run from the voices screaming in my head, you could have prevented this so why didn’t you? It was later, after lots of time on the hamster wheel of brutal guilt and blame, that God helped me understand who was behind the negative guilt messages assaulting my brain. They are never from my God who loves me. Instead, they are always from the enemy who hates me. Always.

How could I continue to live? How could life be worth living without my firstborn child in it? Many such questions flooded my mind in the beginning months of my grief journey. I was to learn that it takes time to sort out the emotions and feelings that come after loss, and in time, I was able to embrace the loved ones in my life who still needed me. Finally, I came to grips with the truth that I was not responsible for my child’s death. That horrific decision was his alone (no doubt coerced by the enemy of souls).

You may be wondering, what does a grief journey, in the here and now, have to do with Jonah’s story of long ago? The correlation, for me, is this: just as Jonah thought he could hide from God, and God wouldn’t notice, I “hid” from life after my son died. I can’t remember how long I avoided mixing with people, but I do remember that I was still in deep grief when I heard a voice give me a “mission impossible” assignment.

I was alone in the house that day when I heard a voice speak in my head. I was both startled and surprised . . . is that YouGod? God had never spoken to me before, but somehow I assumed the Voice was His. What the Voice said stunned me to my toes.

You want me to do what? The Voice did not repeat the assignment. It simply said, “I want you to reach out to help others in similar pain.” I could not believe my ears. If I heard God correctly, He was asking me, this broken-hearted, broken-down mom, who was still stuck in the mire of her own throbbing pain, to reach out and lend my shattered heart to help others in similar sorrow. I panicked at the very thought! How could a weakling, such as I, help anyone? I pretended not to hear.

Avoidance was something I was familiar with. Like Jonah, “I ran” from the assignment. I thought, God can pick on somebody else better suited. I have enough pain on my plate to deal with, and quite frankly, I could use a little help from someone who is surviving her own suicide grief journey! What I did not understand, at the time, was that God had the exact same idea in mind, and help was on the way. When I finally relented to follow His plan by reaching out to help others in grief, I found that every contact, every word written helps me along my healing journey as well.

We are never alone. No matter what, God is always there to comfort us, as He has said, “I will never leave you; I will always be by your side.” Hebrews 13:5b

Scripture from The Voice (VOICE)

 

This entry was posted on May 20, 2017. 2 Comments

The Suicidal Brain

Recently a friend, well acquainted with my suicide loss, sent me an article about the brain, Loss, Grief, and Recovery written by Arlene R. Taylor PhD, who studies science and emotions concerning the brain. As I scanned the article, I was taken aback by the scientific data that is available on the brain. The information was new to me, and worth filing away for future reference. It is a long article, so I will share a portion of it that will fit the blog. If you are interested in reading the entire article for yourself, you will find the source at the end of this piece.

“Loss, Grief, and Recovery”

“Three relatively short words that represent huge concepts, the discussion of which is sometimes discouraged or repressed. Even worse, fraught with anger, fear, and conflict. Studies have suggested that the brain can deal effectively with something only when it can label and describe what needs to be handled. Topics such as loss, grief, and recovery topics need to be delved into –and handled. Otherwise the emotional energy around them can accumulate as a slush fund that sucks up energy, making the brain unavailable for successful living.

“Although this is not a definitive treatise on loss, grief, and recovery, it is a framework from which you can think about, talk about, select what is needed, and eventually choose a path of recovery that works for your brain. The good news is that it is possible to move through the process successfully—even gracefully…”

Definitions: [two from the article]

“Grief Recovery: Grief recovery is the process of learning to feel better and to achieve a condition of balance following any type of loss. For some, grief recovery means returning to a previously experienced state of soundness and balance; for others, it means attaining a state of soundness and balance that they may not have experienced before. It involves grieving the loss and healing the emotional pain. Just as human beings can recover from the pain of surgery and feel better as the incision heals, or recover from a broken bone and feel better as the bone knits together, so you can recover from a loss and learn to feel better as you move through the grieving process and heal from the pain. Sometimes the loss is identified and recognized and the grief-recovery process worked through. Sometimes not. The survivor may even feel angry, resentful, and even bitter at being ‘abandoned.’

“Survivor Guilt: Also known as survivor syndrome or survivor syndrome, this is a cognitive or mental state that occurs when a person perceives themselves to have done something unfair or even wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not. It may be found among survivors of combat, natural disasters, epidemics, among the friends and family of those who have died by suicide…”

Types of Death: [one from the article]

“Death by Suicide: For survivors, death of a loved one by suicide can trigger a holocaust of emotion. The perception of loss due to a sense of hopelessness can be exacerbated based on factors including religion. It can be especially traumatic (for example) when survivors want to bury the loved one in a church cemetery, but are denied this opportunity due to theology that basically says the person killed him/herself and is going to hell so cannot be buried in consecrated ground–or some other variation on a theme. Unfortunately some believe that suicide is a violation of the 6th commandment.

“Studies are confirming that people rarely attempt or commit suicide unless their brains are in an altered state. Studies by Cornelius van Heeringen MD PhD of the Netherlands, have pointed out that suicide may be a unique entity, reflecting the culmination of several complex processes that include the following: depression, impulsivity, disinhibition, anxiety, and executive function dysregulation.” [executive function dysregulation defined below]

“Executive function dysregulation: “Emotional dysregulation (ED) is a term used in the mental health community to refer to an emotional response that is poorly modulated, and does not fall within the conventionally accepted range of emotive response. ED may be referred to as labile mood (marked fluctuation of mood) or mood swings.

“Possible manifestations of emotional dysregulation include angry outbursts or behavior outbursts such as destroying or throwing objects, aggression towards self or others, and threats to kill oneself. These variations usually occur in seconds to minutes or hours. Emotional dysregulation can lead to behavioral problems and can interfere with a person’s social interactions and relationships at home, in school, or at place of employment.” (Wikipedia)

“Candace B. Pert PhD was very clear that when in the grip of a strong emotion, the brain is in an altered state, especially when the protective emotions of anger, fear, and sadness are involved.

“Many factors can contribute to an altered brain state, especially an imbalance in neurotransmitter and hormone levels. Following are five examples.

1. “High levels of Corticotrophin Releasing Factor (CRF), both a hormone and neurotransmitter, are released when a brain is stressed/depressed. High levels of CRF have been found in the cerebrospinal fluid of those who have major depression and those who committed suicide, likely related to the underlying major depression.

2. “An increase in cortisol levels. Cortisol has many important functions including working with the thyroid gland and assisting with the fight-flight stress response. Elevated 24-hour urinary cortisol production was found in patients who recently attempted suicide, compared with patients who did not have a history of suicidal behavior.

3. “Alterations in the serotonin system. Neurons in the reptilian (1st brain layer) produce serotonin that is carried to the prefrontal cortex (3rd brain layer) by long projections—regulating mood, sleep, etc. Abnormal levels (too high or two low) are associated with suicidal tendency, OCD, alcoholism, and anxiety. In suicide, neurons appear to send less than normal amounts of serotonin to the prefrontal cortex.

4. “Decreasing levels of cholesterol. Recently, decreasing levels of cholesterol have been linked with increased suicide risk, whether the decrease occurs spontaneously or is attributable to drugs or diet. The brain needs cholesterol (e.g., has an antioxidant effect; provides the raw material for progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, testosterone, and vitamin D; and impacts memory).

5. “Excessive activity of the norepinephrine system. Both a neurotransmitter and a hormone, norepinephrine mobilizes the body for action as in the fight-flight reaction to stress. Elevated levels of norepinephrine inhibit activity in the prefrontal cortex brain that helps regulate conscience, willpower, decision-making, and behavior.

“Certainly, it behooves humans to avoid rushing to judgement about suicide. Rather, choose to share information about ‘altered brain states and suicide’ with survivors. It may help their grief recovery.”

*****

What science discloses about the brain is a new concept for me, and, naturally, my thoughts went to my firstborn as I pondered this information. If elevated levels of norepinephrine inhibit activity, then it stands to reason (in my mind) that before my son’s death, he could have acquired brain changes that gave him, in a sense, a “suicidal brain.” Undoubtedly, he was not in a healthy place to make crucial life decisions when he resolved to end his pain; “a permanent decision to a temporary problem,” which some are inclined to say about suicide.

I’d like to call attention to the connection the author made between religious practice and suicide. She did not elaborate; she simply mentioned that it is unfortunate that some say the act of suicide is breaking the 6th commandment. I agree that it is unfortunate if people insist that this is a true statement.

As I understand scripture, only the God of heaven knows the heart of the child who chooses to end his pain. He alone knew what was going on in the child’s brain before he or she died. He does not follow the religious beliefs, practices, and traditions of our day. He alone loves your child even more than you do. No one grieves more with you than God.

“Loss, Grief, and Recovery” – A Mini-Monograph by Arlene R. Taylor PhD, Realizations Inc.

Conclusion entitled: “Science and Emotions”

 

 

This entry was posted on May 5, 2017. 8 Comments

Thoughts on Guilt

But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. Matthew 13:25

Dear Readers: Regardless of what you may steadfastly believe, you did not cause the death of your child no matter what mistakes you feel you made. Period. I know the internal struggle to believe otherwise; it plagued me, too, but there is no truth in it. Long term guilt compounds the pain and makes one’s grief journey all the more difficult, so let’s tackle this intruder together.

Thoughts of guilt are like weeds in the wheat field of your mind.

In this age of computer savvy, let’s look at guilt through the lens of technology. Touch your “mind” computer screen. Spread the picture you have of guilt until it is magnified, bringing every detail into sharp focus. Look at it from every angle, then send this reflection to the trash bin, removing it from your present thoughts. Don’t forget to ask your higher power to dump the bin!

 It is good to be reminded that our journey is a “grief” journey, not a “guilt” journey.

Unfortunately, guilt and blame will come again. They will visit your mind often during the early years of your grief journey. Just a gentle reminder here: your journey is a “grief” journey, not a “guilt” journey. Grief may be a permanent fixture, but it can be kept in perspective. It does not have to run your life. To keep grief front and center in your life may be important in that it keeps you linked to the events that took your child from you . . . but there are healthier links.

“Erase and replace” is an example of a healthy link. Please ask God or your higher power to erase the guilt when you are tired of carrying it. Then choose to replace it with a good memory of your child.

If you don’t like the “technology analogy,” how about a bovine one? What if one were to see guilt and blame as things we can chew on, like cows chewing their cud. “Burp and chew” is as natural a process for cattle as “reflecting on guilt” is for a grieving parent. The mind naturally needs to process every detail of tragic loss, and likely repeat the process over and over. You aren’t going backwards when you do; you are healing, slowly and surely.

 Guilt is not glue. It will never mend a broken heart.

Reflecting on the events leading up to tragedy is imperative, but remember to delete the day’s review of guilt and blame when you are finished. “Chew and spew,” as it were. Chew on a “bite” of guilt as long as your mind needs to process, but, unlike the cow, don’t swallow. Spit it out. Flush it away. Until one has healed enough, there will always be more guilt to reflect on, delete, and repeat for some time to come.

In my experience along my own grief journey, there came a time when guilt no longer plagued my daily thoughts, freeing me from its control, but first I had to learn to delete the daily guilty thoughts, not file them away for future reference. This is not to imply that I never feel guilt anymore, but over the years I finally realized that it was not healthy to keep it “on the menu” in my thoughts.

 Put guilt on a diet, a starvation diet, or it can mar your grief journey, in a sense, and eat you alive. 

I believe it was a sign of healing when I no longer felt a sense of panic after I deleted a negative thought. It’s your mind. You may choose to “chew and swallow,” but if you do, you will continue to face the same thoughts of guilt over and over.

Where did guilt originate? It was in the Garden of Eden through the sin of our first parents, not from divine design. When Adam and Eve experienced guilt for the first time, the reaction was to hide from their Creator. (see Genesis 3:8)

The subconscious mind can be a storehouse for guilt; therefore, the enemy will always work to bring negative, guilty thoughts to our conscious minds. These thoughts are never from God, who is always willing to erase them when we ask.

There is a theme to these thoughts ~ it’s guilt, guilt, and more guilt. Based on my personal experience after losing my firstborn to suicide, guilt is not glue. It will never mend a broken heart.

I believe that guilt is not from God, but from the enemy who wants us to blame God as much as possible and particularly with the death of our children. Satan is brilliant at planting “weeds” of guilt in the mind.

The farmer’s workers went to him and said, “Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?” “An enemy has done this!” the farmer exclaimed. Matthew 13:27-28

Verses shared from the New Living Translation (NLT)

 

 

This entry was posted on April 21, 2017. 2 Comments

“Sunday is Coming!”

_mg_1473__-spring-flowers-tulips

Again we come. The frozen landscape of winter solitude has yielded to a fresh, new season. Evidence is in the air. Birds share the news of the day as they busy themselves building nests to house their eggs of promise. Trees and flowers already show their own signs of promise with a hint of leaf and bud. All of nature is poised ready to paint the landscape in fresh rainbow shades.

I look down at the mat of brown at my feet. The dried wisps of winter grass are rapidly being pushed aside by eager sprouts ready to cover the landscape in crisp green. How refreshing to welcome a new season of life and beauty.

Where I stand now is our land, of sorts. Kicking, screaming, and flailing in protest we bought a piece of it. We had no choice. Someone we loved dearly ended his short life and needed a place to rest in Saturday’s death.

*****

It is a quiet Saturday outside Jerusalem. The horrendous beatings, fake trials, shouting, and sobbing at the foot of the cross had all passed. Friends and family had lovingly laid the Son of God in a borrowed tomb. They would return after the Sabbath hours to embalm Him, as was their custom, but now was the time to mourn their loss. He had done what He came to do. Jesus had predicted that He would rise in three days, but in their grief those words had slipped from memory (John 2:19). He was their Son, their Master, their Lord, and now He was dead. Sunday was on its way. It would come right on time, just as Jesus had promised; but now it was Saturday, and it appeared to be never ending, stretching to eternity as far as they knew. How could they go on without Him?

Heaven had a different point of view. As gruesome as it must have been to watch The Plan stretch out before them, the excitement was building. The Father’s heart beat a little faster. The angels milled around the throne, obviously eager for the long-waited moment to arrive. Gabriel was at his post, keeping his eyes on the Father. It would be his most important assignment ever, and he was ready. Eternity’s clock ticked toward the appointed hour.

Inside the tomb, all was quiet. The Savior had completed His work of saving mankind, and He was resting from His labor. His trust had always been in His Dad, even to the cross. He was not ticking down time. He was sleeping the sleep of death (Psalm 90:5).

Now The Plan’s focus shifted heavenward and particularly to His Father’s throne. It was a nail biter. Gabriel tried not to “bug” his Maker with intent staring. He was eager to get going, but God would give the signal, right on time, and when He did, Gabriel would soar through the heavens moving faster than the speed of light. As the black of night gave way to the first hint of red, Gabriel flexed his rippling muscles in eager expectancy.

Then God spoke, “Go, Gabriel, go!” Gabriel took off like a shot, flying through the cosmos encased in the radiant beams from his Father’s face. Heaven hushed. No one dared make a sound. God leaned forward in eager anticipation. The angels leaned forward, too.

Gabriel ripped thru space trailed by lightning, breaking the sound barrier as he went. As his feet touched earth in front of Joseph’s tomb, the fiery brilliance of heavenly light temporarily blinded the Roman soldiers, standing guard at the tomb, and they crumpled to the ground as though dead. The earth trembled and rocked on its axis as a mighty earthquake shook awake many who were asleep in their graves.

Gabriel rolled back the sealed stone as it if were a pebble. In a voice that rumbled on earth, but was heard as the sweetest music in the throne room of heaven, Gabriel cried, “Jesus! Son of God! Wake up! Your Father calls You!”

Sunday had come! The bleak darkness of this horrific Saturday had passed forever from view, never to be repeated on the hill called Calvary; but it still repeats on Planet Earth.

*****

Like other loved ones who remain to grieve, we added a pretty spring bouquet to the vase on our son’s grave. The colors were a plethora of pastel shades welcoming the new season, but there was no welcoming spirit of spring in our hearts. We looked down at the raised numbers in bronze, as if for the first time. Two dates and a dash are supposed to represent our son’s short life?

Wiping away the tears, we turned to leave. As we walked slowly away, we couldn’t help but notice the fresh mounds covered in cascades of funeral flowers reminding us that the cycle continues. Death follows life as it always has. Will it ever end? Will Saturday’s gloomy grip ever be broken? Yes! Sunday is coming!

And Sunday ~ whether it be Monday, Tuesday, or any other day of the week ~ will come! Relief is speeding toward us with the Deliverer slated to appear right on time! Jesus will return! He will wake up His sleeping children just as He promised!

The Creator of life broke the cycle of sin on the cross. Soon death will be no more. Eternity will begin! Families who have mourned many dark Saturdays will leave all their pain and sorrow behind when Eden is restored. Loved ones will embrace. Eternity will be our new forevermore!

“For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.  Here’s the point. God didn’t send His Son into the world to judge it; instead, He is here to rescue a world headed toward certain destruction.  No one who believes in Him has to fear condemnation, yet condemnation is already the reality for everyone who refuses to believe because they reject the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:16-18 

Scripture shared from The Voice, (VOICE)

Strange Bedfellows

62bdc040002462f0efd07dba43c18975-loveLove one another. Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another.  Ephesians 4:2 GNT

Who of us has not lost someone we love? The loss of someone precious is as pregnant with meaning as our hearts feel hollow. Those of us who have been forced to bury a child understand this full well. There is an agony that plunges a knife so deep it defies expression. What of anger? Does it plumb the depths of one’s heart?

I would never have put anger and agony in the same sentence before I lost my firstborn to suicide, but now it makes perfect sense to write about them together. Agony is an emotion that quickly overcomes us when there is the sudden death of a beloved child. What of anger? Can it make a sudden appearance, too? No surprise if it does, really, since anger is a secondary emotion to pain, and who wouldn’t be in pain at such a time?

Anger probably loitered in the shadows of my mind ~ not much to justify its activation ~ until tragedy struck. In the face of sudden sorrow I became “unhinged” with both agony and anger; I could not tell the feelings of either emotion apart. It seemed they were destined to be my constant companions for the unforeseeable future.

As I reread the above admonition in Scripture, it reminded me that I had failed, and failed miserably, to follow it in the illustration I am about to share. This story is not pretty. It is an example of raw rage I experienced while feeling totally helpless in the face of losing my firstborn to suicide, the dreaded killer of so many of our young people.

After the shocking and horrific news from the police that we had lost our son, it wasn’t long before the word had passed through the family. Within hours of receiving the news, out-of-town relatives began to arrive, surrounding us with the familiar warmth of those who also loved our son. With tear-stained faces they reached out to embrace us, and attempted to provide a few words of comfort. What could anyone say that would comfort my shattered heart? I was not listening. Couldn’t hear. The fog that filled my brain left me unable to think or feel either, except I overheard one conversation clearly. Probably too clearly.

It doesn’t matter who said it, but I happened to be within earshot when she began to speak. Apparently the news had shaken her, and she needed to tell someone. I should have stepped away at the first few syllables, but for some unknown reason, I stayed put. The longer I listened, the angrier I became as she explained, in detail, the sympathetic responses of her teammates who hugged her and cried with her as she shared the news of our loss. In my messed-up, freaked out, frazzled mind, I took a different approach. Instead of feeling empathy towards her, I thought to myself: you would think this was HER child! 

I don’t remember the size of her audience except to say that what I did next probably embarrassed them all. Enraged, I came unglued and, like a mama bear defending her cubs, I stepped in her space, grabbed her collar with both hands, got nose to nose, and hissed in her face, “How I wish he were only a distant relative, but HE WAS MY SON!”

Silence fell around us like dried-out Christmas tree needles. Realizing what I had just done, I let go of her, backed away, and said nothing more. In the moment I felt nothing but anger. It never occurred to me to approach her with a civil tone and to make peace on the spot. Only minimal words were exchanged between us from then until she departed. She could not walk in my shoes. She had no conception of how broken I was ~ how much suffering was going on in my mind, body, and emotions. About all I could think was just breathe.

As I write these words now, I can still tap into my reaction and feelings at the time; the anger has drained away, but not the ache in my heart. I will add that some time later she and I were able to talk about this experience and come to an understanding which improved our relationship. I am not proud of my outburst back then, but I share the raw footage in case there are readers who feel embarrassed about situations that occurred during their time of crushing grief. We are emotional beings, and we agonize over loss. It’s as complex as that.

As humans, we can erupt into rage during unspeakable grief. Maybe some readers remained calm and in control, but there are probably many more who lost it a time or two in the rough days and months following loss. I am not seeking approval of my behavior, but I believe you understand, especially if an anger issue of your own comes to mind.

The truth is: one will likely experience a myriad of emotions as part of the healing process. Grief causes many emotions, some of which may never have been tapped into before loss. Grief can bring out the worst at such a time. Agony and anger may make strange bedfellows, but they aren’t strangers. Both are emotions. Both erupt after death. Both likely tag along until the fog clears, reality sets in, and we are able to acquiesce a measure of acceptance and peace.

The time I have spent writing has helped me realize that God actually cares a great deal about our children; after all He loved them, too. The bigger picture, I believe, is this: every child who dies is His precious child, His awesome creation, His beloved. Loving our children that much, He both understands and sympathizes with the emotions we feel.

 For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. John 3:16 AMP  

Scripture shared from Good News Translation (GNT) and Amplified Bible (AMP)