Friday, March 29, 2019

Insights to Survive Grief and Loss

Photo by David Jakab from Pexels

Every year I place daffodils on our infant daughter’s grave for her April 1st birthday. But last year, daffodils were nowhere to be found. Our plants held promising buds, but no flowers. The grocery store offered tulips and hyacinths and even chrysanthemums, but no daffodils. So I bought a fresh bouquet that included roses, because, like the poem, our Christy Marie is “the rose that bloomed beyond the wall.”

But then we couldn’t fit a fresh bouquet into our cone-shaped gravesite flower-holder. So back I went and bought a pot of bright yellow chrysanthemums. At least they evoked hope and cheer, which is what I need on Christy Marie’s birthday.

How can her death sadden me even 44 years later? Because the death of a loved one is a loss we never “get over.” We learn to live with it. God is good to send good people into our lives that lessen the pain. I now have daughters-in-law and granddaughters and younger women who are dear friends, and they all fill a void. But I will always miss my Christy. I envy women with daughters to call, to take shopping, to come for sleepovers. I want that too.

But for some reason, God saw fit to take Christy before she took her first steps, before she smiled at me, before I even held her. In those days, nurses believed out of sight, out of mind. My husband was allowed to see Christy at the hospital, but I was not. They knew “what was best for me.”

And so, like David said of his infant son, I will go to her, but she will not come to me. That thought makes me pregnant with hope.

So what insight can we gain from the death of a loved one?

Grief softens over time. We grieve differently, and it takes longer than you might think it would, especially in the loss of a newborn (or even a miscarriage). People don’t speak of the child because they haven’t known the child. They think you can’t miss a child that hasn’t been part of your family. But you start thinking of babies as part of your family long before birth. So it’s a long, lonely grief. Reading Psalms helped soften the pain for me.

Hope in God sustains us. I memorized Psalm 42, because it reminded me of God’s goodness and faithfulness in the past and encouraged me to hope for the future. Then I found that since God had seen me through one of life’s worst experiences, I could offer hope to others that they too might survive life’s heartaches—whatever they may be--with faith intact.

Everyday blessings surround us. Once you experience heartache, you have a deeper appreciation for small, everyday blessings—sunshine, rain, rainbows, friends. I learned to trust in God’s goodness, even when it seemed to vanish for a while.

Eternal life awaits us. Christy’s death makes heaven more real. She is in God’s care. And there, she enjoys eternal happiness and joy in the Presence of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. As the bulb of a daffodil brings forth a beautiful flower when the time is right, so the body in the grave is but a bulb that blooms in heaven.

Years after her death, my voice broke speaking of her at a women’s retreat. Afterwards, two women came up and asked to pray with me for healing. Somehow, that simple act moved me on in my grief. I began asking God to say “Hi” to Christy during my daily prayers. I began picturing her as happy in heaven, and that brought peace to my heart.

I acknowledge God’s ways are higher than mine. While I see no point in the death of a child, God must have reason to permit it. I trust His wisdom. Someday, this earthly experience will be past for all of us. With Christ as our Savior, the grayness of dawn will dissipate into sunshine in His Presence. And that Son will shine forever. Earth to Heaven: Happy Birthday, Christy Marie! J

Feel free to share or to leave comments on how you’ve survived grief or loss. We have much to learn from each other.

Blessed Easter.


April Events:

April 7, 12 to 3 p.m. – Shirley at East Shore Library Book Festival, Harrisburg.
April 13, 11 a.m. – Friends of the Heart at Upper Bermudian Lutheran Church, “Tea with Mary/ Martha and their Psychologist.”
April 16, 6:30 p.m. – Friends of the Heart at Grace Community Church, Mandata, Women to Women, “If Our Closets Could Talk.”

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