what does suffering teach us?

What do we learn from the pain of losing a child?  I know that we are irrevocably changed, but do we gain something from our grief?  Does our obsession to find answers help us to become something better? 

Perhaps it is when we finally decide to live – when we make ourselves move on – that we channel our energies into something good.  

I suspect our grief causes us to become more generous, or more altruistic than we might otherwise have been.   I see bereaved parents:

  • publishing books
  • writing blogs
  • lobbying for positive change
  • joining groups like Compassionate Friends who come together to offer comfort    

I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable. 

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

 

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friends who have slipped away

In the months since my son died, I have reconnected with old friends, and made new friends within this (startlingly large) community of bereaved parents.  

Many of my dear friends have drawn closer, but I’m troubled by others who have slipped away.  I recognize that not everyone who enters our life is meant to stay forever, but I’m not yet ready to give up on a few special ones.   

I just found this ‘letter to a friend’ in Margaret Brownley’s, “Grieving God’s Way.”  Here are excerpts that capture what I would want to say:

Dear Friend,

Please be patient with me; I need to grieve in my own way and in my own time… The best thing you can do is listen to me and let me cry on your shoulder.  Don’t be afraid to cry with me.  Your tears will tell me how much you care.

Please forgive me if I seem insensitive to your problems. I feel depleted and drained like an empty vessel with nothing left to give.  Please understand why I must turn a deaf ear to criticism or tired clichés.  I can’t handle another person telling me that time heals all wounds.

Please don’t try to find the “right” words to say to me.  There’s nothing you can say to take away the hurt. I need hugs, not words. 

Please don’t push me to do things I’m not ready to do or feel hurt if I seem withdrawn.  This is a necessary part of my recovery.  Please don’t stop calling me. You might think you’re respecting my privacy, but to me if feels like abandonment.

Please don’t expect me to be the same as I was before….. I’m a different person. Please accept me for who I am today.  Pray with me and for me.  Should I falter in my faith, let me lean on yours.

small mercies

I had a long, painful conversation with my sister who understands what it feels like to lose a child; she has been my rock.  I know how much it hurts her to see me in pain.  When she asked me if I had prayed for God to take away some of my pain, I had to wonder why I was holding on so tightly to my grief.  

I realized that because people were getting back to the business of living, I was afraid that my son would be forgotten. That would be like losing him all over again. 

The next day, I awoke knowing that my son was sent here for restoration and reconciliation.  In the 6 months he lived with us before he died, he learned to love himself, and accept that he was loved. 

I’m so grateful that God sent him here to me before taking him home.

it’s complicated

How can I know what to ask you for, when each day is a surprise?

Remember the line from Forrest Gump, “….life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.” 

My days are like that. Some are filled with a visceral, knife-like pain. Other days, I may be teary-eyed and sad.  I could be in my quiet space, or pacing and hyper-vigilant – waiting for the “storm” to burst forth.

Most likely, I am feeling conflicted: impatient with myself for feeling so lost – – yet terrified that “feeling better” might mean forgetting my son.  Or, it may just be a “normal” day. 

So, no surprise that I am often at a loss when friends ask me, “What can I do for you?”  

I can only tell you what would help me at that very moment (to think about yesterday is too painful; to envision tomorrow is too scary).  But, there are some things that are always helpful:

Listen when I tell his stories; I need to say them and I need to hear them

If you knew him, tell me stories. I love hearing about him, and it’s comforting to know he is being remembered

Please don’t try to cheer me up. It doesn’t work, and it makes me wonder if you are tired of me being sad

Remind me to be patient with myself

Most importantly, I always need your prayers

 

overflowing

If you pour more liquid into an over-filled glass, it simply spills over.

My grandmother just died.  She was wise and loving, and so very giving.  She lived a long life, and I will miss her.  Yet, I am so consumed by the loss of my son, that I’m struggling to properly grieve for my Nana. There just isn’t any room.

It’s been six months since my son died and I’m not sure the pain will ever go away.  

A good friend of mine told me that the six month mark can be one of the most difficult points in the grieving process. Most other people have gone back to everyday life and are no longer constantly thinking about the person who died – and they expect that the grieving family will be experiencing the same thing.  But the family is still in the relatively early stages of grief, made worse by the expectation that they too should be functioning normally. 

I know I can’t expect the world to stop – just because mine did.  I just want people to remember him; I need to know that he still matters even though he is gone. 

 

 

out of step

Isolation is such a circular process. 

There are times when I need to be alone, so I withdraw into my head – to think, to remember, or to just be.  

After a while, I become aware of my isolation, and the loneliness creeps in.  I feel heavy – as if I am draped in sadness; and I am convinced that no one could understand how this feels.  At these times, I’m so tired of being in pain, I start projecting my self-disgust on other people.  I have to force myself to reach out and break the solitude. Even then, the support of family and friends can’t always reach that place deep inside where it hurts.

just hanging on   

Getting through the day without breaking down is now a bit easier.  When I reach the point where it gets to be too much – I can “hide” in plain sight.  I stay in the bubble and try not to think, feel, or deal with anything painful or controversial.  It feels safe there: no fatigue or tears, but also no laughter  – and no strong emotion of any kind.   I just realized today that I spent the last 3 days there.

 “The pain of grief never really goes away. Healing is not a cure (there is no cure for grief).  Healing means facing the future with acceptance, gratitude and hope.”   Grieving God’s Way by Margaret Brownley