Today, I'd like to share with you a story. A story of heartbreak and sadness and redemption and joy.
It's a story about loss.
I'm sure we've all experienced loss, to some degree, in our lifetime.
It's no fun. It hurts. It's not fair. And above all else its mighty mighty hard and not to mention uncomfortable.
On one hand I felt inadequate and unqualified to write a blog post about loss. Because I could easily measure my life experience against so many others and decide "they have it worse than me." And on the other hand I feel like I am kinda-sorta (really) qualified. So I was torn and hesitant to write this.
BUT - At the end of the day, I think it's important that we share our stories. The exciting things and more importantly the painful things. Vulnerability is hard (like really hard - more on that in another post) but sharing our stories and experiences is important because it let's people in. It says "you're not alone" and that we're all in this together. It says I made and therefore, you can make it too! And above all else, it says that God is faithful.
Growing up my life was quite perfect, to tell you the truth! I came from a home with two parents, that were married, and loved each other. I had a brother and a sister that were my greatest friends. I always had clothes to wear and never missed a meal. I was encouraged and loved and taken care of and life was so so great!
Then March 20th 2000 happened. A day that I will never forget.
I didn't know what "loss" really meant. I'd never been to a funeral. **Both of my grandfather's had passed when I was very young (2 or 3) so, I wasn't in touch with what losing a family member even meant.** Much less, was I prepared to experience it first hand.
Are we ever though?
I remember standing in my driveway, with a friend, trying to see who could jump the highest over my jump rope, and my dad pulled up. Immediately, I knew something wasn't right. My mom had been in the hospital for the past 3 days, because she was having an extensive surgery to remove a brain tumor. Honestly, at 11 years old, I had no idea how severe or risky this surgery even was. In my 11 year old mind "mommy was having a surgery so she could stop having so many headaches, get better and would be home in no time."
But I was wrong.
Sometimes you're 11. And you're playing jump rope games in your front yard. And in a span of 10 minutes your life is turned upside down, topsy turvy, everything you thought was one way is now completely different. You're sad and confused and shocked. You want to scream and yell all while not being able to do any of that, so you just cry. And you want answers that you'll never get. And everything is moving 100 miles an hour and in slow motion all at the same time. And the one person you want there, to comfort you, is the one person you're crying about losing.
At 11 years old (or any age really) you're not prepared to lose a parent. You're not prepared to hear that your beautiful, sweet, artistic, loving, caring, mama has died and gone to heaven. You're not prepared for her to be gone in an instant. You're not prepared to go through middle school and high school without her. You're not prepared to feel this deep sadness that's also known as grief. You're not prepared to understand what your dad must be going through. Nor are you prepared to feel so many different emotions at one time that you feel like you might throw up.
You're just not prepared.
Plain and simple.
The days, weeks and months that followed my mom's passing are a blur to me.
However, the one shining memory I have with my sweet, beautiful mother was actually the night before she went in for her surgery. After she'd tucked all 3 of us kids into bed, she went out into the kitchen to have a small get together with a few of her friends; before going to the hospital the next day. For some reason I wasn't able to sleep (let's face it, I couldn't sleep because there was a party going on that I wasn't invited to. FOMO at 11, y'all! HA). So, I climbed down from my top bunk and tip toed into the kitchen. I got her attention and told her I couldn't sleep. So, she let me "rest on the couch" (code for: I have company over, and I don't want to reprimand you in front of all of them, so you can sleep here!). So, I laid on the couch and listened to her and her friends talking. At some point I peeked up over the couch (who's back was facing the kitchen) and just stared, smiling and giggling because I was "one of them" I was "part of my mama's group. The cool group". I don't know how long I sat there looking at her and giggling to myself, but I fell asleep, with the last thing I saw, being my mom!
This is one of my favorite memories because it embodies her so well. She was beautiful, full of life, energetic, loving, hospitable and so giving. If you had a need, she was right there to meet it. If you needed a hug or a song or a smile - she was your girl.
I can still hear her laugh and her greeting when she'd answer the phone. And how she would call my name from down the hall.
All such sweet memories.
I could sit here and tell you that xyz amount of time passed and everything was peachy keen. That things got super easy because I dealt with my grief and I was set free and leapt through life with joy. But, that would be a lie. There were weeks and months and years that followed, life experiences where I thought "This isn't fair", "I can't believe my mom isn't here to see me go to prom, or to get my license, or to see me graduate, or to celebrate my 21st birthday." Special moments that she wasn't here for. And that made me sad.
James 1:2 comes to mind: "Count it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds."
You see, I think we have 2 choices when it comes to a "trial". We can either let it consume us or compel us. You could let your situation consume you, take you over, and ultimately defeat you. Or you can let the grieving process take place, address your feelings and emotions of sadness, anger, frustration and grief. And let Jesus come in and heal you. The choice is completely up to you! Here's the thing -I don't believe you can fully do the latter, without Jesus. I don't think we, as human beings, are capable of looking at a terrible, tragic, really hard situation, and see that glimmering speck of hope, joy, peace and love. Because, those are all things that come from the Holy Spirit.
To be clear, I believe - grieving is a real and NECESSARY thing. (I've included some scriptures about grieving, below). Because it means that we are being honest with ourselves. It means we're facing our broken hearts and all the different emotions that consume our minds when something tragic happens. We're acknowledging that we're hurting and sad. Emotions are real. They aren't bad. God made us and guess what? HE MADE EMOTIONS! The important thing - the key really - is to address those emotions and allow God to come in and comfort us. To say to the Lord, "I am mad/angry/sad/brokenhearted/hopeless/lacking joy, and I need your help." And then - LET HIM DO IT! Let Him come in and be the comforter. Tell him that you have questions. That you want to know why? Why did this bad thing happen? Tell him how you're feeling. You may not get an answer, but sometimes you don't need one. Sometimes you just need a faithful Father that will come in and embrace you and say "My sweet child, I know you're hurting, I know you're sad, I know you have questions. Trust me, and you will be okay. Just trust me." Allow God to come in and mend your shattered/bruised heart. Allow Him to come in and bring you a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Allow Him to come in and bring you joy and love. And then, count it all joy, when He does!
The grieving process won't be finished over night. It may take you weeks, months or even years. But, if you let God come in everyday, every second, that you're hurting, over time you will heal. You will be made whole again. You will be able to look at that situation and smile because you know God has brought you through.
It has been 16 years since my sweet mother has gone to be with the Lord. And I must say, I couldn't have made it without God. He has been such a gentle guider. A closest companion in the times when I wanted to be angry or mad or when I was frustrated because I just wanted to know "why"? He has been there when I've been lonely or confused. When I had no friends. He is a constant. The one thing that is unshakeable and immovable. And that's why it's so important to rely on and trust in Him.
Because there will be trials - such as a death, or the end of a relationship, or the loss of a job. The important thing is to have that rock, you can stand on. That shoulder you can cry on. That person you can be real and honest with. And for me, that person was God. Always. I have an amazing family that also helped me through this, and for that I am eternally grateful!
As for the future I will look forward with hopeful expectation because I know God is faithful. He brought me through one of the most painful trials I can imagine, and I can confidently say I have been victorious! I still miss my mom, but I know that she has stepped into a much greater place, a place of no pain, no suffering and a place of love where she is seated with Jesus! Our time on earth is but a vapor (James 4:14). And what a glorious time it will be when she and I are reunited in Heaven.
I pray this comforts and encourages you. Know that you are not alone, in this life. Hardships will come, they will hurt, but you will make it! YOU WILL MAKE IT!
Thank you for taking the time to read this post! If you have any questions, comments or want to talk more about this, please leave a comment below!
Scriptures about grieving:
Matthew 5:4 says: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Psalm 34:18 says "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says: " Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by God." (I love that verse so much!)