Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Learning to grieve

How I have learned to grieve.

This post is meant to be encouraging but very raw and real. I want to share our experience of grieving, however, I want it to be as authentic as possible. This post is meant to serve those that are currently grieving their expectations or have grieved their expectations in some form or fashion. 

Mike and I believe authenticity is extremely important as Christians. We do not want people to think we have it altogether and are perfect. Again, a quote from one of my favorite woman:
Every time something difficult has come up or I have had to let go of unmet expectations I have tried to understand grieving. Six years ago my grandfather killed himself at age 69 leaving an already dysfunctional family a state of total ruin. My walk with the Lord was strong but this shook me to my core. I remember asking God to teach me how to grieve correctly. I did not want to rush the process or put on a brave face for the world. I wanted to grieve the way that God shows us to grieve in the bible not the way the world desires for me to grieve. I didn't want to rush my grief and make others feel comfortable by pretending to be happy again. I wanted to be sad and cry and be alone. At my grandfathers funeral we sang the hymn It is well with my soul. To this day I still am unable to sing that song without choking up tears that stream down my face. I don't think it is just because it was sung at his funeral but because I am not ready to say It is well with my soul.

Once we found out about our sweet baby girl, Louisa, I started to grieve my expectations. They didn't flood my heart all at once but they came in waves. I had written a letter to my daughter during this pregnancy that I would give to her on her wedding day. My heart ached because I couldn't picture our baby. I had dreams of her but I never saw her face. Would she swim on a swim team? Would she excel in school? Would she be able to go to a mainstream classroom? I was also very sad and very scared that my little girl would need open heart surgery. I pictured this little tiny body on an operating table. They are going to have to cut into her tiny body to repair her tiny heart. My soul was not well, my soul was overwhelmed with sadness, with devastation.

I have started reading Crabb, L.(2001) Shattered Dreams: God's unexpected Path to Joy. This book was recommended to us by a pastor from our church. I have found it to be extremely encouraging. This book has allowed me to breath and live in the discomfort of pain. Crabb asked the reader to read through Ruth and focus on Naomi and her suffering. Naomi did not apologize for her grief and pain, not only that, but she said in Ruth 1:20-21 "Don't call me Naomi," she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me." She was devastated. I am sure people did not want to be around her because of her honesty. Naomi did not try to put up a front and be someone she was not. Naomi was emotional and her heart was in pain. She was in a state of darkness.

World's misconception of grief

Crabb talks about two unwritten rules that surface in our response to one who hurts. First, mourning has a time limit. Second, we think there is a proper way to mourn. Ugly battles should remain out of sight. Acceptable battles may be shared, but only if we season our account with hope.

During this time of grief Mike would say to me and others, "we are going to choose to glorify the Lord in this situation." I remember thinking, I want that, I want that so badly, but I don't feel that. I don't want it to be her. Why does God have to use our innocent child at the expense of others? Why can't he give me cancer instead? It hurts my heart to hear those words now but they are truly what I felt. I tried bargaining with God begging him to take this away from her and giving it to me. I will do anything if you just protect her from this Lord. Mike and I also shared with each other openly about some of the dark and ugly thoughts we had experienced. We confessed to one another the anger and bitterness we were rebuking on this sinful world. We talked through God's redemptive mercy and admitted worship felt too heavy to pick up. Grief may not seem beautiful especially when you are experiencing the callous pain but I believe with my whole heart it is necessary.

One night Mike and I watched the movie Risen. I saw the roman soldier transform from hard hearted to accepting. My heart ached because I knew I was taking for granted what God was doing in our lives but I could not shake the pain of our little girl having Down syndrome. I tried to distract myself by folding laundry. I was in Louisa's nursery folding her clothes bellowing out cries. Our dog sat next to me just staring. My husband found me manically weeping. There was his wife, broken on the floor crying out to God to FIX this. Take this away. I don't want her to have Downs. Why her God? Why?  I craved the answer. I was demanding an answer. Mike just sat with me tears falling down his creeks. He tried to make it better but he needed arms wrapped around him too.

What Jesus teaches about pain

Later in the book Crabb says. "Jesus' teaching might be summarized this way. When you hurt, hurt. Hurt openly in the presence of God. Hurt openly in the presence of the few who provide you with safe community. Feel your pain. Regard brokenness as an opportunity, as the chance to discover a desire that no brokenness can eliminate but that only brokenness reveals." Then Crabb states "For Jesus, the answer to suffering is to suffer intensely, to risk feeling so bad and then walk through that pain-through prayer, the Word, spiritual disciplines, and community-toward the center of your soul where above all else you desire God."

This is where I desire to live. Pain is pain. You do not need to apologize for feeling heavy, burdened, forsaken, alone, and undesired. The world may not be ready to receive your weakened soul but God is ready to receive you. I pray with everything inside me that if you are experiencing this kind of pain, if you desire to be called 'Mara' instead of your name, God sends someone to live in these moments with you. 

 I am so grateful I went through this with my husband. Mike can be so strong even in oppressive darkness. He is a fighter and puts the Lord first in our marriage. God put him in my life so I could experience what unconditional love looks like. When I am falling apart he carries me on his back. He would breathe for me if he could. If our daughter is even half of him she will be the most amazing person.

I pray that one day you will breathe life again. I pray you seek comfort in the Word and stories God has given us because he is a merciful and sensitive God. I pray that even when Satan is trying to convince you to find hope in something fragile that you would remind yourself of God's truth. I pray that someday It will be well in your soul.

Matthew 5: 3-11

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil again you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."


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