Grief is War
Mother’s Day, a day designed for celebrating is often a day some dread. Almost twenty-five years ago I celebrated my last Mother’s Day with all four of our children. A few days later we celebrated Mark’s sixteenth birthday with a surprise party. Two months later our youngest child, Mark and his friend Kelly were in a fatal car accident fifteen minutes after they left our home. Almost twenty-five years later, God’s created beauty often hides the broken place that still lays claim to my heart. He fills my life with purpose and blessings I don’t deserve and I wonder at the joy and laughter that resides in our home. Yet in an instant I can dissolve into a heap of tears. For reasons I can’t explain I have especially missed Mark this past year, not the sixteen year old Mark but the man I thought he would become. I miss him as a peer, a friend, an adult with a family. I imagine him interacting with his brothers and sister and his children playing with their cousins. I wonder if his wife would look forward to spending time with me. I miss him in ways only another bereaved parent can understand. Grief is war and Mother’s Day creates an emotional minefield for hurting people. For those navigating the Land of Grief this Mother’s Day, I pray these thoughts will encourage you in your weariness of finding and living in a new normal, a place you never wanted to be.
Grief is War, first published Feb. 2, 2017
Grief is war.
One of our son's friends posted a picture on Facebook of our son, Mark, with three of his friends, saying their dad had found it while cleaning out. I loved seeing the picture, loved reading the comments, chuckled over the memories evoked. Wished more of Mark's friends would share pictures and stories about Mark. And then I cried because what I really want is our son. I want Mark.
Almost twenty-four years after the last time I saw him, I want him back.
Grief is War.
A friend posts a picture of her beautiful daughter, and I know immediately that this is the anniversary of the day her daughter lost her life on this earth nine years ago. Her beautiful girl looks like she is ready to laugh out loud, so full of life. But behind that picture is the face of a shattered mother, father, sister, brother. I remember the agony of our lives nine years after the deaths of our son and his friend Kelly. This family longs for what was. Yes, joy comes in the morning. Yes, the ache in our chests does ease up, but the battle to find purpose and joy is fierce. The ache finds its way back when we least expect it. Grief is war.
A beautiful, loyal, faithful, tender hearted, strong, godly friend, wife, mother, grandmother, suddenly dies, and her death rocks all those who love her. Her legacy of faith is firm, her family holds tenaciously to the rock of their Salvation, that this beloved woman is now experiencing Salvation and Heaven and seeing Jesus. They commit to clinging to this hope as they find a new normal without her. Now the war begins. The plans they had, the empty place at the table, the quiet house. Grief is war.
After the death of our son, another bereaved father said he wished he could pick us up and move us down the road, past the extreme agony and despair and anguish he knew we faced. Then he said, "I want to, but I can't, you have to go through this to experience joy and peace. You have to confront the pain and expect the Lord to meet you there."
I've thought about those words when I've wanted to pick up friends and move them past the war of grief, accepting that they have to lean into the pain. There is no other way to fight this battle.
But what are our weapons in this war? For me, I learned that Scripture was one of the weapons in my arsenal against hopelessness, despair, and deep anguish.
On those days when I could barely get out of bed, God reminded me through Ephesians 2:10 that He had given me everything I need to do the good work of fighting this war. in a way that reflects His presence in me. By faith and His strength, I put one foot on the floor, sometimes crawling, but still moving, and forced myself to trust that promise.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
So even now, almost twenty-four years later, when the collateral damage of grief grabs my soul, Paul challenges me to remember the love of God and to remember who I am in Jesus, that He is with me, and I can take another step forward in His strength. Sometimes it is minute by minute, no, second by second, choosing by faith to trust the precious promise Paul mentions in this passage. Grief is like being in a meat grinder or having major surgery without anesthesia. Grief is a marathon of hard, hard labor. Yet here we are promised that even in this war, God has already equipped His children to continue to walk by faith.
At first when death pushed me into the grief abyss, I was terrified because I was afraid I would never climb back out. I learned that the hard periods grow shorter. Choosing life is harder on some days than others. Grief is war and the sacrifices of praise are often covered with blood, sweat, and tears. Chuck often said that we were like two wounded soldiers trying to help each other crawl off the battle field. Wounded sisters, listen to this wounded veteran of the Grief War who walks with an obvious limp. Fight the despair and depression. Get up out of bed and move. Cling to the weapon of Scripture and wield it with confidence. Choose life, and know that you are in His grip. He will never let you go.
In His grip with you,