I can only imagine what your enduring. I have heard that statement countless times in the last two years. Year two after the death of our son was unimaginable for us, we had no idea what we were in for after the first year fog began to lift.
Saturday, March 26th, 2016 marks the end of year two of living life without our son.
They’re right. You can only imagine the pain if you have never experienced the loss of a child. But, I had an epiphany this past weekend that might engage your mind to better understand what year two is like for grieving parents. To help you understand I need you to enter into your own past experiences. Take a moment and think of good things that have taken place after waiting long periods of time for them to occur.
Remember the anticipation of a planned vacation, perhaps to Europe or a Caribbean cruise to a far away island. Recall the hope of graduation and the anticipation of college. Bring to mind the hope, anticipation and excitement of starting a new career, getting engaged, getting married, buying your first home or having a child.
Keep that thought
Now, bring to mind the surreal moments you had when all your wonderful hopes actually arrived. Recall when you were sitting on a beach sipping a margarita while watching the sunset and saying, “I can’t believe I’m finally here!” Remember the surreal times when you said to yourself things like this. “I finally have a my degree! I can’t believe I’m wearing this engagement ring! Wow, I am married and on our honeymoon! This baby I am holding belongs to me! I am a mother, a father, a grandma, a grandpa!”
Now let’s imagine those moments become daily and those everyday surreal feelings suddenly get turned upside down becoming dark and painful. This is the feeling that you can never imagine, though you just imagined it. It’s like waking up terrified from a nightmare that seems so real only to discover you never were asleep to begin with.
Imagine yourself in that moment when you first realized a loved one was really gone. Or that moment at a severe auto accident when the mind and emotions scream, “This can’t be real!” Hold on to that moment and never let it go, now multiply it by God knows what number. This is the unimaginable feeling of losing a child in words that can never fully express what has actually taken place in our hearts.
This is the best I can do to describe what most can only imagine. All those surreal moments in life being felt on a daily basis except they are not joyful moments but sad, heavy and full of tears. I have said to myself many times, “I can’t believe this has happened, I can’t believe this is my life.” On the day Jake died I raced home and remember saying out loud, over and over, “This isn’t real, this isn’t real!” Those words continually echo through year number two. Though I saw him dead in my home, in a casket and at the graveside, acceptance was a slow coming train that has taken every bit of two years to come to terms with.
When the fog lifts
A parents worst nightmare has only begun in year one. It is frantic fast-paced and foggy. The nightmare slowly becomes reality in year two. I believe that this slow reveal of the new reality is a kindness and a grace given to us by God to heal our soul.
Physical trauma and emotional trauma have much in common. Healing takes a long time and the pain doesn’t go away, it dulls but never disappears. Year one is the terrible day, the ER, the trauma center, surgery, ICU and the beginning of recovery and rehabilitation. God mends the brokenhearted. There are divine medications prescribed to block the pain because we couldn’t handle it all at once. God never gives us more than we can bear but provides a daily dose of grace for our everyday pain. He is kind to us in this way.
Year two comes and we are on our feet doing painful PT but still in need of heavy doses of grace. The initial shock is gone, the fog is lifting and we are starting to see clearly our new crippled life.
Grief is exhausting and painful but I have experienced the grace of Jesus holding me up as I learn to walk once again. There comes a time when the rehab sessions are completed and you get discharged. You still hurt badly and walk with a limp but the lover of my soul is near by. The comforting thing about being released is that the Great Physician never leaves my side. This is of immense value because the residual pain will never fully diminish and his grace will be needed again and again. He is the God of all grace and is eager to share it with me.
Year one is like a black circular curtain pulled around your life, year two is the curtain being slowly pulled back to reveal your new life without your child. What does year three hold in store for me? God only knows. What I do know, and take great comfort in knowing, is that I stand in his grace today. I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand.
Where is comfort and hope found?
My comfort and my hope are found in the great and precious promises of God and his risen Son Jesus Christ. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)
Job lost all his children, lost all his wealth, lost his heath and the support of his wife and friends. Yet Job speaks and God speaks to my heart giving me comfort and hope for today.
What was the hope of Job? He said, “For I know my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has thus been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:25-27) Job was confident of a future resurrection; this is also my assured hope.
Why was the story of Job recorded? “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:10-11)
Jesus is Job’s Redeemer and Jesus is my Redeemer! I am, “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:13-14)
My Redeemer lives!
“But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28:5-6)
“Surely I am coming soon.-Jesus”