Handling Grief – The First Year

26 Apr

We can hardly believe that one year has passed since our beloved son Isaac was promoted to Heaven. It almost seems like yesterday that the day’s horrific events were set in motion. However, we have peace because we confidently believe that Isaac is currently enjoying the wonders of Heaven in the presence of our God and Savior. As the Bible says, though we grieve, we should not grieve as those who have no hope.

The year since April 18, 2011 seems like a blur. I cannot remember much that occurred from after the funeral and memorial services through the month of May. If I had not blogged about some of it, I may not even remember details about that time. It wasn’t until after Memorial Day that I attempted to return to work and the “normalcy” of life (or a “new normal” as commonly named). I remain thankful to my employer for allowing me the space and time to grieve with no expectations. I have sadly learned that this accommodation is quite rare in today’s society in the United States of America.

Writing has helped me, as this blog turned into my public journal of our grief journey. I experience a release of my grief as my thoughts move from my mind down through my fingertips as they touch the keys. It is almost as if my grief has been cast into the words and I don’t have to carry it for a time. I am reminded of these Scripture passages:

Casting all your care upon him; for he [God] careth for you. (1Pe 5:7)

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. (Isa 53:4)

I blog with the intent of giving glory to God as we cry out to Him and He leads us through this journey.

If I could only choose one word to honestly sum up this past year, it would be – pain. I don’t recall ever feeling such inner pain in my entire life, from the dull ache in my gut to the occasional sharp stab in my heart that is usually brought about from a flashback to those incomprehensible hours. How can one carry such horror? I know that it is only by the grace of God that I can type these words today. He carried us through. His Spirit gave us strength when our spirits had none. His love and mercy was poured out on us when this sin-cursed world and the enemy bombarded us with misery and death. The memories of that day have been replaced with memories of Isaac’s smile and laughter. I thank the Holy Spirit for the strength to fight the battle in my mind.

I see how the death of a child could tear a marriage and family apart. The resulting pressure and strain is so intense. How do parents recover? Again, for us, only by following God have two people who grieve quite differently been able to continue as one. It’s been hard – we’ve had to extend grace towards each other (probably Brenda more towards me than the other way around). We’ve had to get down in the lowest places (where most people don’t want to go) in order to lift each other out of the pit. I don’t understand a mother’s heart, but I can appreciate the unique bond that is formed with her child and the tremendous hole in her heart that results when that child is ripped away from her presence. I just cannot wait for the day that Brenda’s heart is healed when she sees Jesus and also Isaac again.

I don’t know that I’ve made any real “progress” this year. It’s been more about survival. Yet, the grief is not quite as intense here at the end of one year (although there are still some “ugly” moments). We went from experiencing shock and adrenaline during the period after the accident through the funeral, to the sudden loneliness and anguish as we absorbed (or tried to absorb) what really happened. Now, though we still grieve daily, we turn our sorrows to hope and our anger to patience. But wow, does anger seem to hang around. Why is it such a prevalent and intense emotion with grief (at least in my experience)? Perhaps, it results from realizing (or not realizing) that we are not in control, especially when something happens that we do not particularly like. I have not dealt with my anger very well and still struggle with patience and self-control. This is one area where the Spirit had given me control of and I am discouraged to see it rising up again.

I could not have anticipated the mental, emotional and physical stress that grief would place on us. There are still times when it is difficult to think clearly, as if a fog still has engulfed my mind. My emotions can still be raw and easily triggered, yet some days I just feel dry. As Brenda has mentioned to me, I lack enthusiasm for life. My heart is in Heaven, not here on earth, which is actually where it is supposed to be according to the Scriptures. Yet, I don’t believe that fact should immobilize me at times, causing me to disengage from life. Also, my body feels worn and I feel consistently tired. Maybe it has taken a long time for my body to recover from the sleepless nights in the beginning and also from too many nights staying up to blog :-). Or, maybe my emotions are just wearing me down. I sometimes wonder if this is what depression feels like. Can a Christian be depressed?

If you’re looking for my deep understanding about the sovereignty and will of God and why this happened to us, I’m sorry but I don’t have the answer. I do trust in Him and who His Word reveals Him to be. He was not surprised by this. I don’t believe that God directly caused it. We do live in a sin-cursed world and freak accidents happen. We also have an enemy whose forces may have been present and interacting with nature. I believe that God could have stopped it from happening, but I don’t know why He didn’t. I believe that He wants us to draw closer to Him and will work through all things to accomplish that purpose in His children. I am not aware of a link to any “great sin” we’ve committed that we are being punished for. Not that we are without sin or unworthy of punishment. We’ve committed some humdingers in our lives. But, I believe that they were all nailed to the cross, washed away in the precious blood of my Savior, Jesus Christ. So, though I still occasionally cry out to God for an answer, I don’t consume myself with trying to understand what is not readily evident to me. I rest in the fact of His sovereignty and love. I also trust that, as I spend time with Him in prayer, He will reveal to me what I need to know, if and when He feels I should know it.

I am hesitant to offer advice on how to grieve. I have not handled it very well when I’ve tried to handle it by myself. We are all wired differently (if you read other blogs about grief, you may notice this fact) and what is helpful for me may not be helpful for you. For example, I may like to look at pictures and listen to music while you may find those to be way too difficult and hurtful. If you are in the first year after an event that has produced great grief in your life, I would encourage you to surround yourself with a supportive community (church, family, friends, online, support group like GriefShare); I cannot imagine where would be if we had to walk this journey alone. Also, be gentle and gracious towards others and yourself. And don’t make any rash decisions because you’re probably not thinking clearly (I speak from experience. Thankfully we did not make any significant rash decisions, but I know there were times where my judgment was clouded by grief, thus inhibiting my ability to make a sound decision).

I do hope that by sharing our journey we are able to help you in some way. Mostly, I hope that we all draw closer to God and pursue holiness as we each experience our own personal trials. Do you know that as each day passes we are one day closer to Jesus’ return? I don’t claim to be a prophet, but looking at current events unfolding, it could be very soon (or maybe I’m just hoping a little too much)! Are you ready?

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Rom 5:1-5)




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One response to “Handling Grief – The First Year

  1. Guy Wolfe

    April 26, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    Praying for you and your family, Brother. I know all too well the experiences you write about. And I could offer you some brotherly advice on how to cope (funny since you’re a lot farther down this road than I am), but as you said, what works for one may not work for the other. So far, there is one thing that I’ve found that is universal…when you’re down, look up. You may be asking why when you do it, but I can assure you He knows why you’re doing it. I’ve told Lena that even though she may not be able to hear Him, or see Him, or is mad at Him, He sees and hears her and is not mad at her for questioning Him. I told her that all she needs to do is say His name, and He knows. His peace is assured, and His grace and His mercy are given freely to those that call on Him. Strength and peace to you and your family.


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