In the Trenches

sharing the journey

“I am the Lord your God . . . who leads you in the way that you should go.” Isaiah 48:17 AMP

To my faithful readers: Thank you for sticking by my blog even as I “disappeared” for weeks due to computer failure. I am limping along with my old one, but a new computer will be up and running in the next few weeks.

* * *

I’ve been in grief’s deep trenches “forever” it seems. Many seasons have come and gone. In my opinion, burying a child who has died by suicide is the hardest battle one can endure on Planet Earth. I was blindsided, gutted, and left wondering what happened. I will likely spend the rest of my life trying to fill in the missing pieces. Unlike death from disease, old age, or even accidents ~ where law enforcement specialists can usually put the jigsaw puzzle together ~ suicide survivors are left with jagged holes in their report. We are more likely left with unanswered questions to carry the rest of our days. Sound familiar? I know this deep pain. I know what it feels like to outlive my child. I know the longing and deep anguish that hounds my every step like suffocating shadows wearing combat boots. Battle weary, it is a challenge to keep going. You too?

Every anniversary of my son’s death, and often in between, I struggle with his final personal battle, wondering how things could have been different, and missing him so much. Many “newbies” to this grief journey, may find it a challenge to get out of bed every day, put one foot in front of the other, and keep up with the living going on around them. But as tough as moving forward is, I can never do it alone. Over time, I learned to turn my mess over to my Commander-in-Chief, the God of heaven.

I invite you to take a look back with me as I share a bit of my war story when I lost my son to suicide. It eventually led to a grief ministry, but that comes later.To say that I was under a rock or unavailable for a couple of years is no exaggeration. I had no connections with anyone who was surviving in the suicide trenches, so where could I turn? In time, I sensed God nudging me, trying to get my attention. It was as if He was saying to my heart, “I want you to reach out to others who are grieving loss from suicide.”

And my response, after recovering from shock at His request, was, “Excuse me, God? You mean You want me, who has been curled up in a fetal position and under a rock so long I don’t remember, to reach out and help others? How do I do that exactly? And whatever do I have to offer another griever, other than a shattered heart?”

Like many of you, I finally joined grief sites on social media. Sometimes I add comments to what others have said. It totally surprised me one day to read something I had written and another griever had copied and pasted my words and sent them back around. I read the comment, which included my quote, and gulped. Did I really write that? Hopefully, readers found it meaningful and helpful, as I intended. The paragraph below is one of those examples. I truly meant these words when I wrote them, and perhaps they are worth repeating for the benefit of those who are new to this journey. If they don’t fit where you are now, one can always tuck them away for future pondering:

“Coming face to face with horrible tragedy, drops us to our knees, where we are in the perfect position to grasp the feet of Jesus, refusing to let go, like Jacob, until He blesses us. And that He does. He also will never leave us or forsake us ~ His promise, not mine. Like you, I would have rather escaped major sorrow, but looking back, I see more clearly than I did facing forward. Tragedy has a way of revealing pure gold that has been tried in the fire. Humbled by horror, perhaps we are all the more useful to our Heavenly Father.”

Yes, I have been humbled to the marrow. There is no escaping the horror of the sudden death of our children, and all too often, it is by their choice. It is a pain like no other, and although the intensity waxes and wanes over time, there is no doubt it will continue all of our days. By God’s amazing grace, something good can come from it . . . will come from it.

Now back to God asking me to help others. I wondered what He had in mind. I don’t remember the timeline. I’m sure that much time passed before anything came of it, and it didn’t happen overnight. First He gently asked me to journal my pain to Him. I emphatically refused. He nudged. I refused. He nudged some more until I gave in, sat down in front of a blank PC screen, and said out loud, “Now what?” Amazingly, the screen did not stay blank for long, and before I realized what was happening, words of raw, painful emotions were pouring out of me. Writing, something I had never done before, became a healing balm for my soul.

After I had journaled for a time, somehow I just knew He had plans to share my private thoughts with others, and the very idea scared me spit-less. Nonetheless, I tried to keep an open mind, knowing God could do anything with willing clay. If He wanted to take my journal and turn it into a book, then He would have to do it. How? I had no idea. God had given me my marching orders, but it did not mean the enemy raised the flag of surrender. Hardly. I learned really fast that I needed my Commander-in-Chief always at my back, guiding and guarding me as I wrote. The enemy must have sent his scouts to see where they could sabotage God’s soldiers, because two computer hard drives bit the dust while I was writing. My faith grew as I realized I could put my trust in my God, and He would never fail me. Our side won the battle over the manuscript, and it was not lost with the computer.

Today I look back at an amazing feat, really a miracle. A book about my shattered heart after suicide was published several years ago. Judging by the responses from grievers, God not only is blessing others through those pages but also is honoring my son’s memory.

I share the quote and publishing as examples to remind us grievers that good things do come out of this lifelong journey. Suicide is not the end, but the beginning of yet another portion of our lives. Granted, it’s not what we would plan . . . not in the least. And we get battle fatigue. But God can use even something this painful for His glory, even a miracle of helping us heal. When tragedy strikes, we are wounded beyond human repair. And if the loss itself is not enough, bullets are constantly whizzing overhead: bullets of ignorant comments or bullets of sabotage by those who are supposed to support us, to name two. I’m sure you can think of more. Deep in the trenches, we learn to keep our heads down. In fact, learning to bow our heads in prayer is like connecting our “plug” into the Power Source of heaven. God hears and answers every prayer. He stays in the trenches with us. He knows we are broken, and over time, He will heal.

It’s not in looking forward that I am aware of healing, but in looking backward. Looking back is where I have 20/20 vision. Looking back reveals a surprise ~ where I can actually see the evidence of how God has led me. By experience I am learning that I can trust Him to inch me forward and eventually lead me out of the trenches and into eternity to live forever with my loved ones. He has beautiful plans for all of us.

“Jesus answered them, ‘Do you finally believe? . . . I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.’” John 16:31-33 MSG

“Shattered by Suicide, My Conversations With God After the Tragic Death of My Son” & “Picking Up the Pieces, Stories of Encouragement for Mending Hearts” by Gracie Thompson

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “In the Trenches

  1. I am delighted to finally discover the true identity of the person who penned the following words which made such an impact upon me! It was the same paragraph that you referenced above: [I.e., “Coming face to face with horrible tragedy, drops us to our knees, where we are in the perfect position to grasp the feet of Jesus, refusing to let go, like Jacob, until He blesses us. And that He does. He also will never leave us or forsake us ~ His promise, not mine. Like you, I would have rather escaped major sorrow, but looking back, I see more clearly than I did facing forward. Tragedy has a way of revealing pure gold that has been tried in the fire. Humbled by horror, perhaps we are all the more useful to our Heavenly Father.”]

    For almost two years now, I have wrongfully attributed your words to, perhaps, yet another person who merely “copied and pasted [your] words and sent them back around.” When I read these words which another griever had posted on a social media site without proper attribution to you, I remarked as follows on December 13, 2013: “[F]or the past 14 months since my teenage son died, I have toyed with the idea of writing a book about my son’s suicide. In the process, I have tentatively arrived at a working title for my book. It actually came from the comment you left above. If I ever get around to writing such a book about my experience, it will be called Humbled by Horror: Surviving the Suicide of My Son. I also want to be able to credit you with the origin of the title to my potential narrative…In any event, I just wanted to tell you that your comment particularly resonated with me.”

    The person to whom I so responded never subsequently acknowledged that the words were not her own. Well, Ms. Thompson, to date, my book has never been written and the working title which I was so enthused about never was used; but, I want you to know that, if it ever does get written, I will surely approach you for permission instead of improperly assigning credit to someone who merely copied and pasted your words without proper attribution to you. Thanks for your continuing good work in the suicide bereavement community.

    • Randall,

      I am delighted to read your “Paul Harvey” rendition, bringing the noted paragraph almost full circle. I had no idea of your search of course, but when I was preparing this post, I knew I wanted to “replay” the paragraph. Why? I did not know. But now I do. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here and on FB. I can always learn something and if one day you do begin your manuscript, you probably won’t be able to leave it alone; it will haunt you until it’s finished. Do let me know when you get started. I know what it is like to be a first-time author and we can always use a little encouragement. I will help provide that if I can. At any rate, God will nudge you when it’s time. Blessings, Gracie

  2. Your words mean so much, like you I lost my son , not my first born but my only son. It’s like someone stole his life from me, not wanting to say it was him, but it was . I understand the wanting to not be alive the pain is to much I wish I were dead. Those thoughts of mine come to life in my son . I’d scream except I don’t think I’d be able to stop. Feeling punished for thinking those thoughts, but never once do I blame God .
    I feel the call to return to church , putting my foot in front of the other in getting there , I’ll keep trying. Thank you Linda for sharing and being the voice of so many , God bless

    • Thanks for clarifying the name, Debra. I was confused there for a moment. Thank you for sharing words from deep within your heart. I am so, so sorry you have lost your only son. It does feel like they have been stolen from us. You said it well. In a way, they have been stolen from us by the enemy of this planet. He kills and destroys God’s kids to hurt God’s heart. It is a dirty, rotten “game” and we are caught in the middle of this awful war, spiritual war; war waged for our souls. Please look up “He’s Mine” in the archives. I think this story will bring much understanding to your hurting heart. Part 1 was posted on 10/24/14. Let me know if you are not able to read both parts and I’ll try another way to get them to you.

      If I understand you correctly, you think your sad thoughts were carried out to suicide in your son? Yes, it is easy for us to punish ourselves for weaknesses seemingly beyond our control. All of it is generational sin – passed down from our first parents. Like I said above, we live in a war zone. Thankfully, we don’t have to bear it alone. God knows and cares. God forgives sin. God, like you, lost His only son. But unlike our losses, God’s son paid the awful price of our sin so that we can chose to live with Him for eternity. This is my hope. This is what I wait for: the return of Jesus Christ as King of Kings. Our children will be all brand new. It means waiting, but we can wait, can’t we? Meanwhile, I reach out to help another in similar pain . . . and spread the hope. Please write again. Blessings, Gracie

  3. BLess you. These words help me walk a few more steps. Knowing the utter catastrophe that my child’s death is to me, having it validated rather than dismissed (it’s time to ‘move on’!), is a great comfort.

    • Dear Linda,

      I am so sorry for your loss. Our children are so precious and their lives so intertwined with ours that it is impossible to totally understand that we have them no more in our lives. It is catastrophic. Utterly and completely. It is hard to take any steps forward, this I know. But you are managing a few and if this piece guided you a bit farther, then you are the reason it was written. No, you will never hear me mention “moving on” in the context that we so often hear it said. Our hearts are permanently shattered. Those who have not lost a child are really clueless. One moves on from job to job, not from burying a child.

      I pray that God will continue to comfort you. However, I don’t need to ask Him to. He already is and will never leave your side. He continues to be a comfort to me, being especially close as another anniversary looms on the horizon. Yes, we do survive and the days do pass, even years, which I thought would never be possible when our son died ten years ago. Please stop by and peruse the archives often. May you always read something that gives you hope. That is why I write. Blessings, Gracie

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