After the initial shock of my son’s death, I became inconvenient.
Elizabeth Kubler Ross finds acclaim for writing the most important book for caring for the dying, On Death and Dying. In her well researched book, she describes the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. She is both right and wrong. If I were caring for the dying understanding these stages would be helpful. If I am caring for my friend whose child died, these stages do no good. There are no stages for the ones left living. No one grieves the same. Every loss is not the same.
I found that grief came in waves, easing some days, and crashing over me in overwhelming super waves on others.
Everyone around me wanted me to get to the finish line. They wanted the final stage according Ross, acceptance. I wearied them with my sadness. I wearied them with my insistence that not everyone could just get over it and move on. They were busy. My grief didn’t fit in with their schedule. God was doing big things at our church, and I was in the way. They didn’t have time to sit with me in my home as I wept.
I became inconvenient because when a close friend said something hurtful. I told her. Then I avoided her, if she didn’t acknowledge what she said was hurtful. Death had taken a cheese grater to my soul. I stood with my weeping and shredded soul as a friend said, “It is wrong to express anger at someone as long as those people are doing their best. It may hurt, but you have to see that their intentions are good. You are harsh.”
I was harsh. I was exhausted. I was despairing. I was inconsolable. I was wretched. I was desolate. I was confused. I was overwhelmed. I was angry. I was lamenting. I was terrified. I battled feelings of jealousy and envy. I was inconvenient.
I despaired wondering if the intensity of my pain would ever ease. Once, I stood staring at picture of myself on the wall, pondering, if I would ever smile like that again. A cloud settled around me, making it difficult to laugh easily or enjoy the good things still in my life. Getting out of bed, getting dressed, cleaning the house, and feeding my family became my victories for the day. I learned to celebrate each one, even if no one else did. I made room for the long road of grief. Never knowing when a “grief attack” like an anxiety attack would happen, I learned to ride the wave until it was over. I slowed down.
I learned that grief has no finish line. My reality is that my son’s ashes are in an urn, where they will be until they are buried with me in death. What I have found is a reconciliation. My old normal is gone. I couldn’t divorce myself from the reality of loss. One book I read said that losing a child is a “prolonged grief process.”
In A Necessary Grief, Larry Michael writes, “The grief may be immense for this loss (miscarriage). Even more, stillbirths are especially difficult…my heart went out to those parents who had placed such hope and longing for this child that was now taken from them. A great degree of sensitivity and compassion is needed for this situation.”
What I found is that God is more compassionate than I had ever imagined.
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
Because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
And recovery of sight for the blind
To set the oppressed free,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
I felt the poverty of my loss intensely. I felt imprisoned by others’ expectations. I felt blind to the goodness in my life. I felt oppressed by grief. But I did not understand the year of the Lord’s favor. How is this situation favor? Well, it wasn’t. Thankfully, I don’t have to sugar coat Christianity. The favor of God is not man centered. Jesus says blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the gentle, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, the persecuted, and the insulted (Matthew 5: 3-12). Jesus never talks about earthly riches or desires as favor.
God in His compassion spoke gently to me and cleared up my confusion over the word “favor”. His favor is the gift of repentance, forgiveness, salvation, and His presence just to name a few.
Jesus demonstrates that those in grief are not an inconvenience to him. In the story of Martha and Mary (John 11), their questions, lamentations, and weeping were not troublesome or wearing. He joined with them, connecting with each Mary and Martha in her unique grief.
Jesus was on his way to raise Lazarus from the dead. Martha stopped him, and chastised him. She was harsh, blaming Jesus for Lazarus’s death. Jesus follows with a logical conversation because that is what she needed. She needed to remember that…
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”
Martha becomes the second person in scripture to proclaim, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
Although Jesus knew he was about to perform one of his greatest miracles, when he meets Mary, he isn’t hurried to the task of doing great things. He’s not too busy. She falls at his feet weeping. Deeply moved in his spirit and troubled, Jesus weeps with her.
Jesus spoke no words. He gave Mary the ministry of joining with her in grief.