Grief Share Week 6 – Cry Out to Jesus

Those three little letters. That one burning question. All of us who have grieved the loss of someone we loved have asked it: WHY?

The question in and of itself is not conterintuitive to our faith. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. If the “why” drives us to Jesus, it becomes a submission to his sovereignty. In fact, we see Jesus himself cry out to his Father in his final moments on the cross:

“ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”

Lamenting is defined as the passionate expression of grief or sorrow. And it’s something Jesus wants us to do – to trust him enough to cry out to him in our pain, hurt, confusion and anger. Tonight, in studying Psalm 22 I read this:

“This cry to God should not be confused with despair. In despair, we give up on our relationship to God and let it go… Lamenting is not a failure of faith but an act of faith.”

By crying out to Jesus we acknowldging our reliance on him, recognizing His authority, and submitting to His will.

But…..but. Our “why” can also lead us amiss if prior to (or during) our grief we have created false expectations or assumptions about God and who He is. This goes back to Week 2 when we talked about Faith ≠ Happiness. Assumptions like “those who believe in God will not suffer” or “if we are faithful to Him, then the plans we have for our own lives will be fulfilled by God” can be devastating to the grief experience. This kind of preconception adds an extra layer to the grieving process, as we have to relearn who God is and reconcile our relationship with Him.

Image from Emmy’s 1-year memorial service taken by we chase the light.

I feel very fortunate that even in the earliest days, when we weren’t sure what was wrong with Emmy (but we were quite certain there was something) my grief drove me to my knees. I never asked God for a particular outcome, but rather that He would prepare my heart for His plan. That does not mean I was never angry. It does not mean I never questioned God. It does not mean I never wished it wasn’t me. But even in those times, I chose to trust Him.

Whatever place you find yourself in, remember this – God sees you there.

“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

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Grief Share Week 5 – Relationships & Reciprocations

“At least you still have Lexi.”

“She’s in heaven now, that should make you happy.”

“Will you ever get back to your old self?”

After a Week 4 hiatus, I’m back. And this week we’re talking about grief and relationships. Whether it’s your spouse, your best friend, or that person at work you hardly know – the experience of intense loss and grief can and will altar your relationships.

Maybe one of your friends has the best intentions, but hurts you with unsolicited thoughts or advice. Maybe it seems like your spouse isn’t grieving at all and is moving on with life as usual. Or maybe, that person you thought you were so close to hasn’t even called to check in.

All of these things (and so, so many more) can happen. They happened to me. I lost friends, gained friends and occasionally wanted to kick someone in the shin (did they really just say that?!)

But through it all, I learned. I grew. And today’s Grief Share lesson reinforced some of those things I experienced. I don’t have the answers or fix-all solutions to any of the relationship struggles that may accompany your grief. But I do know these 5 things you might feel in your relationships, and how I dealt with them in mine…

  • You may feel lonely. Like intense, rip your heart out isolation. In the beginning, when I was alone I felt alone. But when I was surrounded by people – even people I loved – I felt an even deeper sense of loneliness. Because even though they could see me, they couldn’t understand me. They couldn’t feel what I was feeling. And facing those those emotions on my own was so overwhelmingly isolating.
  • You may feel misunderstood. Maybe you break down crying multiple times a day, or cling to an object of your loved one’s that brings you comfort. Maybe you love talking about the person you lost because it brings you peace, but it makes others around you uncomfortable. Maybe your spouse, mom or brother doesn’t seem to be grieving at all and you wonder why. Don’t…I repeat DO. NOT. compare your grief to the grief of those around you. Kade and I both lost a baby in Chicago. Turns out, it’s my favorite city in the world. I love it and just being there brings me a level of comfort I can’t put into words. When we left the hospital, Kade said he would be fine never seeing Chicago again. Everyone process and feels things differently – they key is respecting one another’s grief process.
  • You may feel jealous. Jealous of the relationship or person someone else has that was taken from you. For me, it was jealousy of anything twin-related. Interesting fact: Kade and I had 15 friends/close acquaintances that had twins either in the year before or after us. FIFTEEN. That is a lot of seeing double. Every announcement posted, every cute photo shared, every “twin moment” twisted the knife a little bit deeper. Different types of loss will bring different types of jealousy. Don’t get caught of guard by this emotion in your grief – Don’t get caught up in it either.
  • You may feel abandoned. Some people don’t know what to say…so they don’t say anything at all. Maybe you run into a co-worker and they act like nothing has happened. Or maybe a friend you thought you were close to doesn’t bother to reach out. Or someone says something hoping to be helpful, but really they made you feel even more mangled and misunderstood. I can put a checkmark by all of the above. In those moments, we have to have grace. Four ourselves, and for those who hurt us.
  • You may feel inadequate. Some friends and family will pour themselves out for you sacrificially. They will give you so much, and you will have nothing to give back in return. Even showing appreciation can be a struggle, because nothing seems to matter but the pain. At the time, you might not even care. Know this – there will come a time when you are able to look back and give back to those people. Let them help you without expectation.

You might feel all of these really difficult things in your relationships in the midst of your grief.  But eventually, you will feel good things too. Like hope in a new friendship – let it grow. Like comfort in a hug from an old friend – let them embrace you. Like peace through forgiveness –  don’t be afraid to let go. Let yourself feel the good things, too.

Ephesians 4:32

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

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Grief Share Week 3 – Through the Valley

Grief is unavoidable. The death rate of the human race is 100%. So, unless you love no one [see Week 1] for your entire life – you will, at some point, experience grief.

This week, we focused on some general goals for “getting through” grief: Acceptance, Turning to God, Expressing Emotions and Establishing a new Identity. While everyone’s progression through these intentions may look different, there is a common objective: getting through itEmphasis on the word through.

through  /THro͞o/
preposition & adverb
  1. 1.
    moving in one side and out of the other side of;
  2. 2.
    continuing in time toward completion of (a process or period).

You cannot get over grief. You cannot get around grief. You have to get through it.

This may be a long (potentially life-long) and difficult process. Some parts of it may be harder than others. For me, turning to God was natural. It was my first instinct. Prayer and scripture kept me from drowning in the “whys” and “what ifs” and helped me focus on what was. I never questioned, doubted or lost trust in God. For that, I am so grateful.

My challenge came in accepting my new reality and establishing a new identity as a mother who lost her baby. I am a planner. I organize, manage and prepare for everything. But this piece of my story I could not prepare for. There was no dress rehearsal; no notes to study or steps to follow on “how to” be a bereaved mother. So accepting and settling into this role God placed on me has taken time.

To be honest, sometimes it still doesn’t feel real. Like, something that tragic couldn’t have happened to me. But then I’ll see her picture, or her footprints in my Bible and I remember holding that tiny little body in my arms like it was yesterday. And the longing to hold her, to know her, is consuming. Friends, this role is a hard one to accept as mine.

And maybe you’ve been there or you are there or you’re heading in that direction. It could be your child, a sibling, a parent or your spouse. While no grief is equal, it is a stark equalizer of humanity. All I can say is you are not alone.

Psalm 23:4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

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Grief Share Week 2 – Faith ≠ Happiness

My take-away message from week two of Grief Share: Faith ≠ Happiness. (Hint: that little sign means “does not equal”)

When I say faith, I am referring to the Christian belief in God. And when I say Faith does not equal happiness, in short I mean that believing in God does not give us a free pass to Easy Street.

This is important in working through grief (specifically grief as a Christian) because many times when something goes wrong, or something (someone) is taken from us, the first question we ask ourselves is “Why would God do this to me?”

Am I right?! This question might shortly be followed by thoughts such as, “Did I do something wrong?” or “Does God not love me?” Or maybe even, “I am so angry with God.”

But we should’t be surprised about facing trying times in our lives. In fact, He straight up tells us to expect it!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  – John 16:33

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”  – James 1:2-8

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  – 2 Corinthians 12:9

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  – Romans 12:12

We are warned over and over and over again of the trails we will face on Earth. But He also tells us, “TAKE HEART!!!” These tough times you are facing are shaping you for my Kingdom. This thing that hurts so bad that it brings you to your knees is also bringing you closer to me. This pain you’re not sure you can endure is making you more resilient in your faith. And when you are weak, it allows MY glory to shine through.

Jesus tells us that in walking with Him, at times life will be hard. But on the other side of hardship there is healing. On the other side of sorrow there is strength. And on the other side of grief there is always, always grace.

One of the things Kade and I wanted to do when Emmy went to be with Jesus was to get her footprints in our Bibles. It was such a concrete way for us to join our grief with God’s grace. I love these Bibles because my baby’s feet actually touched them. I can trace my fingers over those tiny imprints and it’s like I’m touching a piece of her.

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Grief Share Week 1 – Grief is Love

Yesterday, I took a step that I’ve probably needed to take for nearly two-and-a-half years. I reached a grief milestone. I finally found the courage to seek counsel by beginning a program called Grief Share.

This is a 13-week interactive course done in a small group setting. It is offered through various platforms across the country, but I found it through my church. Grief Share is for all types of people facing all types of loss – parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses, and yes…infant children.

It is not formal counseling so much as group “talk therapy”. There are no licensed psychologists, just a room of humble human beings – joined by the common thread of pain and loss – allowing themselves to be vulnerable in one another’s presence.

Each week, as part of my walk through this program, I want to share some key take-aways that might help others walking this path. And this week, the message that resonated with my heart was simple, but so profound to me. And after 27 months, it changed the way I view my own struggle with grief. It is this:

Grief = Love

As we watched the first video of this series, these are the words I jotted down:

“If there were no love, there would be no grief.”

“Grief is a sign of love.”

“Grief is the price you pay for loving someone.”

Over, and over, and over this message of love penetrated my heart. I grieve for my baby because I Ioved her. Because I still love her. Because I will always love her. 

Pain is the price I pay for love.

It may sound simple, but it totally transformed my outlook. Because now when I experience that grief, when I feel that pain – I feel it and see it for what it is – LOVE.

Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted. – Matthew 5:4