Grief Share Week 13 – Community in Christ

“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

We did not have a funeral for Emmy, so on the one year anniversary of her passing we had a small family ceremony. It. Was. Perfect. We placed a memorial bench on the farm Inscribed with a portion of Psalm 139, planted a tree in her memory and started the tradition of a balloon release where we write messages on balloons to send to her in heaven.

We’ve reached the end of GriefShare. I’ve spent 13 weeks looking back all so I can look forward again. To rise up, we have to dig in. Even when it hurts.

In the book of Isaiah, God promises “beauty for ashes” and over the last 3 months, that’s exactly what I’ve seen. I have watched God transform a room full of broken, hurting, even angry women into a beautiful testament of His grace and love.

We’ve learned new ways to think, new ways to cope and new ways to move forward in the wake of immense grief. We’ve learned that while our personal stories of loss are unique, they do not have to be isolating. We’ve learned that we are not alone.

Each week, we’ve carried each other through hard conversations and difficult realities. We’ve passed the tissues when the well of tears threatened to break the dam. And we’ve laughed — freely — knowing there was no judgement or preconception or implication linked to that laugh. A community of broken humans came together as strangers, and left as sisters in Christ.

And friends, isn’t that exactly what Jesus calls us to do?

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2

I am grateful for each of the women who was brave enough to walk through the door and take a seat at the table. I am grateful for the loss and heartache that wove the fabric of our lives together. And I am grateful, so grateful that Christ redeems the brokenhearted.

Thank you to each of you who have walked through this experience with me. Today — hug your babies, hug your husbands, hug your mamas and daddies. Because we never know how many hugs we have left with the people we love.

Want to find a GriefShare group near you? Click HERE!

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Grief Share Week 12 – So, What about Heaven?

Our GriefShare topic this week was something I have struggled with probably more than anything since Emmy died — and it may come as a surprise to many what it is.

Heaven.

Yes, I have struggled with heaven.

Not the overall concept or whether or not it is “real” (I 100% believe that it is). But rather, the details (or lack there of) that I can really hold on to as a mourning mama.

While there is scripture “Re” the likes of Heaven, we are offered surprisingly little concerning the specifics. And I’m not just talking the aesthetics and atmosphere — what it looks like, feels like, sounds like. But more so what life is like there.

Here are some of the questions that have tumbled around in my head and heart the past two-and-a-half years…maybe you can relate?

  • How do I know my baby is in heaven? This may sound ridiculous, but guys. There is no scripture that says “when babies die they go to heaven.” There is no text, no spoken word from God, no solid proof. I do believe my baby is with Jesus. But you can’t blame me for wanting a little assurance.
  • Can she hear/see/feel me from heaven? Does she know she is missed every day? Does she know the words I pray for my own heart, for her sister, for her daddy? Does she hear me when I tell God how much I miss and love her? Can she comprehend how much I ache for her, even though I know she’s in a better place? Does she know???
  • What will she look like when I get to see her again? What age will she be? Will she know me? Will I be able to hold her, kiss her face, look into her eyes and for the first time know their color? One of the things I long despreately to know is what my girl would look like. I hope one day to look on her beautiful face and know.
  • Does she really watch over her sister? Yes, we say that she does. We tell others and ourselves that Lexi has the best guardian angel. But is that really how it works?

I could honestly go on and on with the things I have wondered about my baby in heaven. And I assume I am not alone in my curiosity.

At first I wanted to sit here and proclaim with conviction that God does not owe me any answers (and he doesn’t). But in reality, He has already given me every answer I need. Note: I didn’t say every answer I want — rather every answer I need.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

Is that not all I need to know?

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Grief Share Week 11 – Superficial to Sacrificial

This week in GriefShare, we dug further into the things we learn and experience through the grieving process — how it affects our identity, our relationships, and learning to accept that our grief may be “imperfect.”

I did have struggles, and in turn growth, in all of these areas. Did how I see and identify myself change? Yes, definitely. Did my relationships with loved ones change? In certain ways, they did. Did the way I interact with other humans change? I hope, for the better.

But for me, one relationship in particular was profoundly altered — my relationship with God. Through my grief, my faith went from being superficial to sacrificial.

From the very first moment the doctors told us there was something “wrong” with one of our babies, God was at work.

Through the course of an extremely difficult pregnancy with countless tests, scans and potential diagnoses — He was teaching me to trust.

Through the doubt, fear and uncertainty — He was teaching me to believe.

And through it all — He was teaching me to depend fully on Him.

Not on myself. Not on the doctors. Not on medicine. On Him alone.

And I can honestly say that by the time we got to lay our eyes on those sweet baby girls for the first time, He had prepared my heart and soul for His plan.

That does not mean it was easy. It does not mean I didn’t wish for a different outcome or feel my heart literally shattering inside of my chest. But I trusted — I believed — I depended fully on His grace.

I do not think God took our baby to teach a lesson or to prove a point. I do not believe that is the kind of God I serve. I do believe He had a greater calling for my life than I was fulfilling. I do believe He saw my superficial faith and knew there was more in me. I do believe he called me to be a bereaved mother, and through that transform from superficial to sacrificial. It might not have been the only way…but it is the way He chose.

There are still some days I do not want to be this person. More than once I have asked, “Why me?” But when I am truly honest with myself, I know that my life, my love and my faith are stronger through my loss.

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Grief Share Week 10 – A Call to Comfort

So I’ve taken a couple of weeks off of talking about GriefShare. Our last session was on getting “stuck” in grief, which wasn’t a message that really resonated with me. When the words don’t come naturally…I typically don’t write them. Last week we had an off week, so here we are at Week 10 of our 13-week program.

This week we talked fairly generally about preparing for times when grief may be harder (holidays, birthdays, and “firsts”), events and activities that may become more difficult in grieving (church, family functions, socializing) and how we can use prayer and God’s word to overcome.

What I want to talk about, though, is how we can turn our grief inside out. How we can take it from a “me” thing to a “He” thing (I’m lookin’ at you, God). How we can help others in and through our grief and, in it all, point to Jesus.

I’m a highlighting, underlining, asterict making kind of note taker. And there was a quote from this lesson that got all of the above:

“I’m not supposed to be just a container of comfort; I’m meant to be a conduit of comfort.”  – Dr. Paul David Tripp

I am not sure I fully subscribe to the often overused notion that “everything happens for a reason.”  You will not find those words anywhere in scripture. And from experience, I can confidently say they do not provide comfort in a time of loss and mourning. I think bad things happen to good people because we live in a fallen world. That being said, God does give us A LOT of insight and wisdom in scripture that we CAN cling to in our grief:

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  – Psalm 34:18

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  – Psalm 147:3

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

“My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.”  – Psalm 119:50

 “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  – Philippians 4:13

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”  – Jeremiah 29:11

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  – Romans 8:28

We are blessed in our mourning. He holds us close and heals our wounds. His promise gives us hope and the strength to press on. And even if we can’t see it — His plan is for us.

And then there’s this…

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”  – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

With the comfort we receive from God, we are called to comfort others. Whoa.

This may seem overwhelming  uncomfortable  downright scary. But here’s the thing – we all have something to offer. 

Need some ideas? Do something you wish someone would have been done for you. Share something that was a comfort to you. Do what feels natural – cook a meal, send a card, plan a coffee date – this will look different for everyone. And, just maybe, push through even if it feels uncomfortable. Because it’s not always an easy thing to do. But in all these things…point to Jesus. 

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  – Deuteronomy 31:8

Grief Share Week 8 – Taking on Trauma

When we sat down for this week’s Grief Share, I honestly didn’t think it pertained to me. We looked specifically at the trauma associated with complicated loss such as murder, suicide and multiple deaths (whether from an accident, a natural disaster, or a horrific event like occurred in Vegas).

These are types of loss I cannot (and hopefully never will) identify with. They can understandably be more complex and come with a entirely different set of emotions than losing someone from, say, old age or health complications. But, while those types of loss may be more associated with true trauma, I did learn something important tonight — any loss can be traumatic. (Read as: this message is for everyone.)

When I looked up the definition of trauma, this is what I found:

trau·ma  [noun]
1. a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.
“a personal trauma like the death of a child”

That was the example used in the dictionary definition. Hmmm…I guess that is me.

So after opening up my heart to this week’s lesson, I was able to take away some key elements to guide me in my grief. And what I learned is actually quite simple.

Positive Thoughts = Positive Feelings

Negative Thoughts = Negative Feelings

Here’s another way to think about it….

How we interpret ourselvesour grief, and our relationship with God are key in how we move forward after a traumatic loss.

Do I see myself as a victim? Do I view God as the perpetrator? Do I find value and meaning in life even in the physical absence of my loved one?

Our brains are such a powerful thing. With them, we can sew turmoil or seek truth. We can convince our hearts to loathe or to love. We can choose to accept or accuse. While many thoughts may enter your head in a time of trauma, be wise about which ones you let settle into your heart.

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…  – Proverbs 23:7

 

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