These regular My Forever Memories blogs are written with love to offer encouragement, help, hope and love through your personal journey of grieving your loved one.
Several of you just faced the year anniversary of your loved one’s departure from this earth. My thoughts and prayers were with you though I might not have been able to fully express that. (My son-in-law is still in the hospital recovering from a 20-foot fall through a skylight in a roof. Praise God! He is broken but alive! I thought I would be adding my daughter to the young widow list) There is a surprising amount of emotions that you may go through approaching or on that particular day. Perhaps it is the fact that it has been a full year—not the grueling days or months you’ve been enduring—but a whole year. Here are various thoughts and statements on that “year anniversary” I have experienced or heard others express through the 26 years since my husband’s death and encouraging others through grief:
• Congratulations—I made it through the first year.
• A year is nothing compared to how long I will have to live without them.
• Anticipating that year mark is worse than the actual day.
• I just want to sleep through that day.
• I made that day a special celebration and it was so precious.
• I am not the same person I was a year ago.
• I will never be the same as I was a year ago (I’ve heard the previous two statements in both positive and negative connotations).
• They will stay forever young and I will grow old.
• A year! Now my grieving is over, right?
• I am just now beginning to grieve.
• I’m beginning to have hope for my future.
• I will never get past this.
• I just keep reliving their death.
• I want to carry on the best of their life for the rest of my life.
• I can never love again. Loss hurts too much.
• Life is short. Relationships are precious. It is important to me to let others know how much I love them.
• I will never see them again.
• I can live fully because I know I will be reunited with them… and the Lord is with me and will never leave me.
Wherever you are on that “calendar of grief,” I am praying for you as you truly will not ever be the same. The reason I keep doing this? No one understands your personal grief more than God; and Jesus makes all things new.
Love and prayers,
“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:1b,3
Ps. If you or someone you know is having a difficult time in their grief, the book I designed to help people work through their own grief is MY FOREVER MEMORIES OF YOU (available in adult and children’s versions)
Regrets or those haunting “What if?” questions are one of the things which can prolong the deep pain of grief. Some experts call it unresolved grief. It is a natural part of grieving to second guess how things could have been different if you or someone else made another choice. Yet when you get stuck in that mind frame, and it holds you captive, it is time to try to resolve it. You may think that there is no way to do that since they have left this earth, but there are definite things you can do to work through unresolved issues. You cannot turn time back and undo any choices you or someone else made; yet you can choose to find a way to work through it and go forward from this point.
Real Regrets, Wounds, and Questions
Through the years I have heard tragic regrets—not taking someone to the doctor, not spending time with them, the last conversation being a big fight, letting their child go on a trip which resulted in death, abuse, neglect, not appreciating them while they were alive…The “What if’s?” can be debilitating: What if I had gotten them help? What if I kept them from going? What if I hadn’t done this or that? The process of going through the deepest part of grief can depend on dealing with some of these issues. Some are really not your doing and others are.
Ask for Forgiveness
There is true freedom in forgiveness for even the worse possible scenarios…for even the worse possible person. It truly has to begin with asking forgiveness from God Almighty. There are a lot of things which come to the surface when we are grieving. Emotions are extremely sensitive. The only One who can truly forgive us is God. He wants to forgive us more than we will ever comprehend. That’s why He sent Jesus to absorb our sin so we could absorb His holiness. We can’t do anything to make that happen. Each of us can only accept His forgiveness in the deep love it is given by God Himself—specifically for you. What a relief when we admit our wrong and our need for a Savior who can give us eternal life.
After admitting to God what we regret-what we are sorry for- we also can ask forgiveness from our loved one (or sometimes not-so-loved one) who has died. Write a letter to them asking forgiveness for what whatever regret, hurt or deep wound you might have caused. Then you can decide to burn it, bury it, tie it to a balloon and let it go, or nail it to a cross.
Sometimes there are real wrongs done against you. You truly might have been innocent and undeserving of a wrong by the person who has died. It is never too late to forgive them. If we are to truly live in the richness of God’s forgiveness, this is something we must do. Forgiveness truly brings freedom! Write a letter to the person letting them know how they hurt you and that you are reviewing your relationship with them. Let them know you are forgiving them. You may have to forgive them over and over until it no longer holds power over you. Then you can do the same thing with this letter as listed above.
Dear friends, this is a very short synopsis of dealing with regrets and unresolved issues. If you truly want to work through this, you will have to do more than just read about it. The book MY FOREVER MEMORIES OF YOU I created to help people work through their own specific memories and grief has at least two chapters which go more in depth. It is for you to work through. It is your choice to accept and give forgiveness. It is a huge step in experiencing the true freedom found in Jesus Christ.
Love and prayers,
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
No one has to tell you how real death is. You have experienced it first hand as your loved one was here one moment and then gone the next. Whether you were there with them when they took their last breath or you received a traumatic phone call, you may still be trying to process the reality of their absence. Whether their death was expected or occurred suddenly without warning, they were still physically available one second and gone the next. You are the one left behind.
Processing the Death Takes Time
Everyone has to deal with the shock of death in their own way. Even though our mind knows that death happens, we still can barely believe it happened to one we were so interconnected with. Death goes against our nature. We were created by God to live forever. Death was not part of His perfect plan. It takes a lot to absorb that fact that our loved one is gone. It can shake our world, our security…our entire life. That’s why it often means needing to see the body, know all the details of what happened, and telling and retelling our story of the trauma of their death.
Before and After
Our lives can be so deeply affected by the death of a child, spouse, parent, sibling or friend that it splits our lives in two. Everything is measured or remembered as before or after their passing. You will never be the same. Your life with your loved one by your side was already growing and changing because life is full of changes that cause us to grow. But our life is transformed in a major way by the passing of a loved one. The hopes and dreams of our future change because they will no longer be with us. Perhaps we cared for them and now we must find new purpose in life. Our lives change in such countless ways we can’t even comprehend it all at the beginning. Of course, we will never be the same.
Where Did They Go?
As we deal with their presence with us one moment and then gone the next, we can’t help but think more deeply about where they went. They left their body—so where are they? There is a whole chapter in the interactive book My Forever Memories of You which goes deeper into these natural thoughts. We all know this life will end for us in a moment; this is a critical time to make sure of where we go when we take our last breath. As we deal with our personal grief, we can begin to choose how we will live our remaining moments in this earthly life.
PS. The poem was written by my first husband before he died
Love and prayers,
Heavenly Father, yesterday I happened to hear of more unrelated deaths than usual on one day—my daughter-in-law’s stepdad, my sister-in-law’s stepdad, and four children and their aunt who were killed in an apartment fire near my church. My stepdaughter was involved with the children’s lives. Although it is such a deep sorrow to hear of deaths and the effect that loss has on those dear loved ones left behind, I can’t help but think of the ones who passed through death into immeasurable joy and peace as they are in Your very presence. It is amazing how one day, one moment of passing can be viewed in such conflicting ways.
Father, I have personally been on the “left behind” side of death too many times to count. And due to the grief ministry You have led me to, I have seen the deep wounds of the broken-hearted up close and personal (even when I haven’t always known the ones who passed from this life). From our side, there is often deep wailing (whether heard or unheard) that comes deep from within the very soul. There is a panicked lost feeling-wondering how we can possibly go on living without our loved one. You already know our deepest pain. I believe that’s why Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus—not for Lazarus, His dear friend who had been dead for three days. Jesus knew Lazarus would be brought back to life. He wept for those dear ones grieving in such deep pain who were “left behind.” Lord, You know us better than anyone else possibly could. You know all that goes on in our inner most soul.
Lord, You may have conflicted feelings when death comes. Death was not Your plan. Yet You see it on the other side. Your beloved child is coming HOME to You forever to be free, healed, glorified, and more alive than ever before. I don’t know how You can do it; but I am absolutely positive that You are with those who are left behind in their deep grief that can barely be expressed…and at the same time, You are welcoming Your dear ones into Your very presence where they will live in joy with You forever and ever. There will be no more suffering, tears, darkness, evil… There has to be a huge celebration!
Father, I have seen You do it so many times before. I pray that You let those “left behind” know that their loved one is enjoying their new life with You; that You will never leave them as they come to terms with living out the remainder of their life here without their loved one; that You prepare them for their eternal life with You; that You look forward to the time You will welcome them Home into Your presence…and that You understand their tears but You know the joy that is coming up ahead. Help those “left behind” to find all they need in You—the very One who created us to live forever with You- beginning now through Jesus Christ!
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Psalm 116:15
“When the perishable has been clothed in 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?’” 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (I hear my friends who are left behind, saying that the sting is on this side.)
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making all things new!’” Revelation 21:3-5
Father, comfort those “left behind” with the true promise of eternal life with You … ef