Grieving the death of a child: You can’t get over it, you can’t get around it, you must go through it.
When the funeral is over and the committal has taken place there is a silence we experience that is shocking and frightening. Life must go on, but how? Life changes in every way for the parents of deceased children. Simple things touch the open wound and you break down, and then more difficult things like birthdays and holidays cause a deeper sorrow. Sights, sounds and smells are difficult to deal with because they jar our memory and confront us daily. Music has been particularity hard for me to endure, weddings, graduations and births are also on a long list of things that have been difficult. This will seem odd, but even the smell of vomit carries me back to the day Jake died because I was the one cleaning up the blood and vomit that was left behind. Life goes on for the world but we are in a new and strange world learning to live life in a new and different way.
Emotional trauma and physical trauma have much in common and there comes a day when you must get up and start your rehab. You come to realize that you have a severe handicap. It’s going to require time and effort to heal and with the healing we must endure constant pain. Doing some of the first exercises were painful beyond belief and description. I remember the day I went to see Jacobs grave marker for the first time, I was totally unprepared to see the name of my son on marble. That day sent me into a 2 week spin of depression, I truly didn’t care to move on; I wasn’t suicidal, I just didn’t want to live. I called a pastor friend who had lost a son some 12 years before and spoke of my feelings of grief. I ended that call and felt a literal weight leave me, I was noticeably refreshed. My wife Stacey commented on the difference it made in my spirit. Pastor Dan helped me to understand that there is a life beyond the present painful exercises. I could see his limp in life, he certainly wasn’t over it, nor do we ever expect to be but our talks gave me a hope beyond my present pain to strive for. Grief shared is grief diminished! I was again moving in the right direction again, he understood my struggle and comforted me deeply.
You can’t get around grief, it boxes you in. We would love to be free from its constant nagging and taunting voice.The voice of grief screams at you from the start but I have experienced that the screams fade to whispers with an occasional shout from time to time. I think the screams can be silenced in the way we confront our nemesis in our rehab sessions. As I said, I have difficulty with music, I can actually say that there was a hatred for it. Jacob was a musician, he could sing beautifully and we encouraged him in his pursuit of it. My wife and I bought him a Big Baby Taylor guitar in middle school and he never put it down. Have you ever noticed you can’t escape music? In the early days of raw grief it is all I tried to do, I literally ran away from it at times. I remember sitting in a Burger King and being slapped by Elton John singing “Sad songs” (say so much) Anger, sorrow, tears and grief overwhelmed me as a choked down that Whopper. Many find comfort in music, I have found none; music draws out a pain I don’t want to face. I can’t get around it and found I have to go through it to get to a healthier place. I am slowly making headway on this issue.
Getting through grief is difficult, if not impossible, without a support team who takes your hand and walks you back into life. You are forced back into the worlds playground and the merry-go-round seems impossible for you to get on. You stand there alone looking at the spinning machine, you hear the laughter, the dizzying chaos of the ride and you are unable to hop on. Your head hangs, your knees are buckled and your back is slumped over. You ask yourself, “How do I get back to life? In those moments you feel a hand take yours, you look up to see many of your friends, your rehab specialists are there to escort you to other places in the playground. Sometimes you sit in a sandbox and just talk, other times you do things that once made you afraid. They are with you and this is all that matters. The most treasured friends in the playground are those who do this with you at your pace and on your terms. What these wonderful people give me is a sense of normality in a totally abnormal environment. Nothing is the same, nothing is normal, the old normal is dead and the new normal is being shaped and learned. They don’t guide you, they don’t lead you, they simply take your hand and are just present beside you.
These individuals are the best of comforters. They help you to learn how to smile again, to laugh, to enjoy simple things without guilt. What they provide is an escape from the pain into the new world of life without your child. What we want most is to feel normal again!
I have been comforted by cards, smiles, family, friends, my community, my church family, my pastor, co workers and even strangers have all brought me comfort. All of that comfort comes from one source, for there is no other place that true comfort is dispensed from. It comes from the living God, Paul writes,“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV)
So, here you are reading this blog post and perhaps in some way you have been helped or comforted. If that is the case, I am glad to have taken your hand for a step of the way in your path to healing and comfort. Remember, God is the source of all comfort and he uses people (like you and I) to dispense it where ever it is needed. Our pain is not useless, on the contrary, it is useful to God in the distributing of his comfort to others. Your story and my story will help others in their journey of affliction and grief. Let’s get busy sharing it!