Dearest Friends, the idea of anything good at all coming from grief may seem absolutely impossible to you right now. You might be angry that I even suggest such a thing when you are in the deepest part of your grief. But one of the very reasons for this grief ministry is to hold out eternal hope to those who are completely devastated. Seeing good come from the pain others believe they could never recover from is why the Lord has kept me doing this for 25 years. With God, nothing is impossible. He loves bringing about good—even out of the most tragic situations. It may take time for you to see it, but the more you cling to the Lord Jesus Christ, the more you will see God even in your brokenness. Here are just four possible good things that will come from your deep loss:
- Deep Compassion
After experiencing the life-shattering wound of having a loved one ripped from your life, you will forever have a depth of compassion for others who go through this. Your situation may be completely different than theirs; but you know the gut-wrenching sobs that cannot be expressed, the tears that threaten to drown, the loneliness that seems to be permanent, the well-meaning words of others that cut deep, the fact that grief cannot be taken away but has to be worked through. You will know from now on that a simple hug, text, phone call or sharing of a memory is more precious than can be expressed—especially from someone who has been there. As you find comfort from the Lord, you will know how to comfort others.
- Knowledge that Life is Short
We know with our intellect that everyone must die at some point yet rarely are we ready. With the reality of your loved one’s death right before you. You now know with all your being that life is short. They were here with you one moment—now they are gone. It doesn’t get more real than that. When you realize how fleeting life truly is, it changes the way you live. You realize any day could be your last day. You learn to savor sunsets, wind, moments…and most of all relationships.
- Relationships Are Most Important
Many times, we don’t realize just how important our loved ones are until they are gone. We don’t realize how intertwined our lives and souls are. Dealing with the death of our loved one helps us to realize that things are not important. We would give almost anything to have them back in our presence. On the other hand, we realize we are selfish in wanting that for they have gone to the eternal part of their life. We begin to realize that the relationships we still have are more precious than we ever realized. This experience changes the way we talk to others, listen to others, try to understand others, savor others, pray for others, and share the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ with others.
- Draws You Closer to the Lord and Eternity
As you struggle through grief, hopefully you reach out to the Lord to handle what you can never handle on your own. Each day is more than you can face by yourself, but the more you ask Him to help you, the more you realize He will never ever leave you or forsake you. He has been with you from before you were born and He will lead you to you eternal Home with Him. That is one of the benefits God gives us when He gave us Jesus Christ. Not only did He pay the death penalty for our sin, but He is with us always—as we finish this life and hold His hand when it’s our turn to soar across the finish line with Him.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Dear friend, when I woke this morning, the Lord reminded me how hard nights are when you are grieving. It is hard to go to sleep and hard to wake up. Night time is when it gets quiet. Everyone is asleep. There are no distractions—just your thoughts. That’s often when the tears flow the hardest. That’s probably why He laid it on my heart to post this in the middle of the night. It was like He knew someone would not be able to sleep tonight. Someone would be having a very difficult time.
It was 26 years ago today that my husband passed from this world to be with the Lord. I have no problems sleeping now. I will be asleep when you read this post…but the Lord is available all the time—even at night when no one else sees your pain or hears your sobs. There is not one tear that is shed or unshed that He does not know about.
Since He is the one who knew you would be awake and need Him, I urge you to hold up all your grief to Him. He is ready and waiting to help you bear it. I may be asleep but He is there with you right now. HE thought enough of you to have me write this. He desires to help you. He longs to comfort you. It is His will to bring about precious good things even from this unbearable pain.
I may not know specifically who this is for…but I know God does!
Love and prayers, my friend!
“I lift my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night, The Lord will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121
Dear friends, I just heard about another suicide of a high school student today. It happened to be the fourth suicide in that school in a year! It brought back some of the earth shattering shock and pain of my dear brother-in-law’s suicide 34 years ago. Every single death is a shock to us—probably because God created us to live eternally. Yet there is something about a self-inflicted death that wreaks havoc in survivors’ lives. As painfully hard as this subject is, I want to share some thoughts with you:
Every Life is Precious
God is close to the broken-hearted and you must admit that someone has to be extremely broken to take their own life. If only we would have the eyes of Christ to spot the broken hearted and share eternal hope more readily on a daily basis. Yet often, the person hides it well from those they love. They must truly believe there is no other way at that particular moment in time and they act in that hopeless-appearing state. God knows each person and loves them even more than we are capable of. He alone knows their heart and is with them—yet as always, He allows free choice. If you are dealing with the suicide of one you love, rest assured the Lord knows them, sees their heart, and it is His desire that not even one should perish but have eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Nothing is Beyond Healing and Renewal for the Lord
There are times the death happens in front of others, and other times, the person did it alone. Either way, it traumatizes those left behind. The trauma has to work its’ course yet survivors must do their part to hold up this unimaginable pain before the Lord. Counselors can help, but only the Lord can truly heal and make all things new. Only God can take such a devastating death and make something good come from it. Just as each person is unique, so is each grief after a suicide. Yet God is the One who can heal anything. The scars will always be there, but the goodness of the Lord can shine through even the deep scars of suicide.
Grieving After a Suicide
This is a very simplistic sounding blog, but hopefully it will let you know that you can and need to work through your grief, no matter how painful it is. There will be many questions: “Why?” “How could they do this to me?” “Why couldn’t I stop it?” “Why couldn’t God stop it?” “Where are they now?” There may not be answers to some of those questions here in this life (as my mother-in-law said about 6 months after her son’s self-inflicted death.) Yet as in any death, it is critical to work through your grief. The best thought I can share in this short blog is to continually pour out all your honest thoughts, hurts, fears and pain to the Lord in a journal. Hold it all up to Him. He can and will heal what no one else can.
Helping a Survivor of Suicide
Be willing to listen quietly and without too much advice. Let them get their anger, fear and pain out…then quietly pray with them. Keep praying for them. Gently point them to the Lord who can help them. Share good memories of the one who took their life. Their whole life was not that one moment of action. Watch for hopelessness in those left behind (other family members and students) for survivors can fall into the temptation to feel hopeless enough to consider suicide. Keep checking on them through short tests, calls, messages and visits. Invite them to do something fun as a break from grief. Be gentle as they grieve.
Not even suicide is impossible for God to make something good from. I think of my brother-in-law’s death 34 years ago, and I know the Lord has used that in many ways in my family and in strangers since that time.
Love and prayers,
“Jesus looked at them at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’” Mark 10:27
For more indepth help grieving a suicide or any death, MY FOREVER MEMORIES OF YOU was written with love to help you work through your personal grief with God’s help.
For some of you, this is the first new year you are facing without your loved one with you; others can barely believe it’s been 4 years or 25 years since they last touched their loved one. You always feel the absence of their physical presence but joy does come again- Joy in the Lord. As people around you make resolutions, you may just want time to stop. Yet as if you didn’t already know, life keeps going.
If I can, I would like to encourage you as you write the new year on checks, documents, and hopefully your prayer journal. (Prayer journaling is my number one suggestion for going through grief. I will write more on that again soon!) Don’t stay stuck in the deep hold of grief too long. Life is for living. Your loved one is living more fully than you can imagine in their new life with the Lord. They have a new life we can only imagine. It’s true that we have to do the work of grief—review our lives together, realize the deep impact they had on our lives, forgive them and ourselves for any unfinished business, thank God for the gift He gave you in your loved one, and decide what are the best things we received in our loved ones that we can carry on in our own lives (their compassion, humor, strength, service…).
Years ago, a lady in my grief group told me of a dream she had about her dear brother who had just died. They were climbing a difficult mountain together. Her brother was up ahead of her in his favorite red flannel shirt. The climb was steep and the rocks were loose. They had to periodically rest to catch their breath. She kept climbing, always keeping his flannel shirt in view. He reached the top and was out of sight. She began to panic when she lost him. Then she heard him call out though she could no longer see him, “Keep climbing! I made it and you will, too!”
As you face this new year with your loved one out of your sight, I urge you to keep climbing. Keep living! Jesus is still on the trail with you. He will never ever leave you even if your loved ones do. He is waiting for you to trust Him/lean on Him/accept Him as the One who came to save you from your sinful end. He may not be seen. But He is softly calling, waiting for you to take His hand and go through life and whatever is up ahead in this new year and beyond. He is waiting to lead you Home!
Love and prayers,
PS. Just a reminder that the MY FOREVER MEMORIES OF YOU book will help you work through your own personal grief in ways that go deeper than this amazing group.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
My dear friends,
You are on my heart right now. I know you are hurting and missing your loved one- especially as Christmas draws near. I feel your pain because I have been there. I used to say I wish I could take your pain away, but I know I can’t—and I know now that I don’t want to. It is not my pain to take away.
*The pain of grief is the result of loving deeply and missing your dear one’s physical presence
*The pain of grief has to be gone through not run away from
*The pain of grief can be shared but it also must be gone through alone
*Yet the pain of grief is a time you discover you are never ever alone
*The pain of grief draws You to the Lord who created us to love deeply like He does
*The pain of grief helps you realize what an immeasurable gift you were given in your loved one
*The pain of grief lets you discover the huge impact they had on your life
*The pain of grief allows you to forgive yourself and your loved one for any hurts caused
*The pain of grief births in you a desire to carry on the best of your loved one from this day forward
The pain of grief eventually gives way to a new way to live life fully- cherishing ordinary moments, loving others more deeply, forgiving more quickly, growing in the certainty of your faith in God and in His promise of eternal life that is so evident this time of year. Jesus was born as God in the flesh yet a frail human baby like one of us in the midst of a lost and grieving world. He came for one purpose-to live as one of us yet without sin so He could die for our sins to insure we can live for all eternity with the Lord. So as you go through the pain of your grief this Christmas, may joy be born in a new way in your hearts as you worship and adore Jesus- the man acquainted with sorrow and grief so we could have eternal joy.
Love and prayers,
“I tell you the truth; you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” John 16:20-22
We made a surprisingly close connection with a very interesting older man from church. We just knew Ken two short years, but he became like family. He was known by another name at church, the “Cookie Man.” That’s because he almost always brought some of his famous homemade cookies to share with everyone. He even had a label for his delicious cookies: “Sarasota Ken’s best soft ginger cookies in the world.” I believe they were. Even during the times he was without a job, he still somehow brought cookies to share. I think any profit from the few he sold went to bake more to share! I will miss those cookies—even more, I will miss his big smile!
We know he has brothers, sisters, sons and grandsons he dearly loves, because he told treasured stories of them all. We have only got to meet one son—the one who stepped way out of his comfort zone to care for his dad as long as he possibly could. Even in the last few weeks, when he was in a facility on hospice care, you could always see Mark’s mark that showed he had been there to care for his dad (clean clothes, his favorite Steelers shirts, TV turned to his favorite football game, OU Blanket, notes to the staff, drinks…) The father and son might have butted heads in their time, but there was overwhelming evidence of true love there. I’m praying for Mark as he feels the loss of his dad’s presence and the loss of taking care of him. I pray for the rest of Ken’s dear family who I may never meet before heaven. It’s amazing how Jesus bonds us all in Your family, Father.
Lord, it seems my cheering section in heaven is growing as more friends and family have a glorious get together in Your very presence. I know I will join them any time between now and if I reach 115 years old. Once Ken feasts on Your glory and all the wonders he sees, I have no doubt that he will enjoy the feast at Your table because that thin man sure did love to eat! We will miss sharing meals (and his ginger cookies) with Ken…until we meet again, dear friend! I know he is enjoying the full glory of You, our Heavenly Father, and You have another one of Your loved ones home with You!
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Psalm 116:15
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:54-57
“…for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:7-9
Father, am I living prepared to die?
I know this particular topic is not for everyone, but it is one that many people face at some point so I want to address it. I recall the first time someone brought it up to me, it made me so angry. It was the day after my first husband’s funeral. A well-meaning older gentleman who lived down the street happened to be walking by when I was getting the mail from my mailbox. He kindly gave me his condolences concerning Steve’s death, then said, “You’re young and attractive—you will get married again.” I am usually a very calm person, but I wanted so badly to punch him in the face. I restrained myself! I didn’t ever want to think about marrying again. No one could ever replace my 37 year old beloved husband. How dare he say that!
Now I can say that I have been happily remarried to an extremely good man for 22 years now. That’s a whole other story. I had to work through my grief before I could ever even entertain the idea of another man in my life. When that time came, it brought up all kinds of new grief and issues. I felt guilty for having feelings for another man. That was sweetly taken care of by my Steve when he told me before he died that I would marry a very good man. I didn’t want to hear it from him either, but I’m so glad he blessed my next marriage in several ways- making it easier to fall in love again. A lot of people don’t have that permission to go on.
Some people rush in way too fast into another relationship, trying to fill that horrible void. If you do not take time to review the special gift you had with your loved one and come to peace before rushing forward, it can place too much pressure on your next relationship. Some of the emotions to work through when dating again are feeling unfaithful, feeling guilty for enjoying life again, dealing with all the differences between your loved one who has gone on and this new person in your life, realizing it took years to build your relationship with your loved one (a new relationship cannot pick up where your old one left off. It will take time to build as well), and discovering all the ways a new relationship will impact your children and friends. Then there is the very scary vulnerable position to be in the dating world when you have been living a married life for so long.
The book I wrote to help others grieve, My Forever Memories of You, has an entire chapter devoted to this particular issue with all the surrounding challenges involved. It goes so much further in depth than this short blog—with places for you to work through in your own unique personal way, suggested thoughts that have helped others, and God’s word to encourage you as you work through this particular new twist in your life. Stepping into the dating world can bring up fresh new waves of grief so go easy and slowly (and prayerfully). God is with you. Jesus promised He will never leave you or forsake you- not in the loss of your beloved spouse and not as you begin to consider dating again.
Love and prayers,
Yesterday I was told of a precious young pregnant mom who was due to have a c-section in two days when they discovered no heartbeat. The baby had already died, before it could even be born. Now, the birth still has to take place- yet its tiny body will be lifeless and there will be tears of grief instead of joy.
I had just read a report of the high infant mortality rate in infants. Of course, it is so much better than even a couple generations ago. Yet there is still a high risk for babies to die in the womb or in the first year. No matter how much medicine advances, it will never completely do away with death. It is part of this world.
My heart goes out to those who have lost babies from miscarriage, SIDS, complications, abortions or no matter the cause…so I write this prayer for you:
You knew these babies even before they were formed in their mommy’s womb; before their mommy and daddy even knew they existed. Even as their DNA is woven in intricate strands determining who they are, You are the One who intimately knows them, creates them and determines their purpose and place in eternity. The older I get, the more I realize how very short this life on earth is. But these babies have an even shorter time- barely getting started. Yet they belong to You forever. Their lives are eternal. Nothing can separate them from Your love. Nothing can separate them from the love of their parents and families. Not even death.
Life here on earth is but a mist when compared to all eternity. Our lives are not created simply for this short time here…You created us to be with You forever in Your eternal presence. These precious little souls, for whatever reason skipped this hard earthly life, and went straight to Your loving eternal care. Yet their very existence forever changes who we are. Only You, Lord, fully comprehend the eternal impact these short earthly lives made on our souls.
Though we grieve the awful pain of empty arms and dreams of our lives with them, we also acknowledge their eternal life with You and another connection we have to heaven because of who they are. Lord, we praise You for sending Your Son to be born as a tiny human baby and to die on the cross to defeat death so we could follow Him to eternal life with You. Thank You that there will be a reunion with these precious little ones that can never be broken. Thank You for their short lives which help us focus on eternity with You. In Jesus’ name, we pray for those grieving little ones to find all they need in You.
“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me are written in Your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:13-16
A Few Practical Thoughts to Consider as You Grieve the Death of Your Baby
*Name your baby if you haven’t
*The young mom mentioned above is giving away her babies’ clothes, etc to bless another family in memory of her little one.
*Make a memory book of this little one (possible thoughts to include: how you felt through pregnancy, dreams and plans you had for this child, how carrying this baby has affected your life in both sad and good ways, how you hope to go forward in your life in a way that honors them…)
*If you have other children, help them make a memory book of their little sibling. See the book for children My Forever Memories of You: Personal Memory Book to Help a Child or youth Deal with the Death of a Loved One With Ideas for Adults who Long to Help There is also a full chapter in the adult book My Forever Memories of You that gives help for children grieving.
*Meditate on God’s promise of Heaven and what your little one’s life might be like now.
How can we possibly be thankful in the grips of grief? It is absolutely possible and vital to find ways to be grateful even on the very worst days of grieving. Perhaps those are the most important times to find specific things to be thankful for. Once you start, it becomes easier than you thought. There might be times you want to yell, “I DON’T WANT TO BE THANKFUL! I want to be left alone in my grief!” I know! Yet it can all too easily become a drowning pool of prolonged pity. It can even become a way of life. Bitterness wants to take over. So it has to be fought off with thankfulness.
How can you be thankful when your loved one is gone? When your heart was ripped from you? When there is a deep wound which will never be healed? When you can’t understand why they were taken. At least give this a try for one week and see if it helps: Make a list of three things you are grateful for each day. You can do this first thing in the morning, midday, or before you go to bed. I highly recommend writing them down so it is more fully imprinted on your grieving mind which can barely function right now. Try to list three different things each day. Keep them recorded in your grief journal or the interactive My Forever Memories of You book.
Does anyone remember Garth Brooks’ song, “I Would Have Missed the Dance?” Your loved one may be gone, but for however short the time was with them, your life is forever changed because of who they are. That’s a good place to start. Write specific ways you are thankful your loved one has been, is now and forever will be a part of your life…
Love and prayers
“Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:17-18
“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3