year 2

Year two.  It feels like forever and yesterday at the same time. I haven’t written for months, 5 to be exact. I have tried several times. I would write a few lines, read them, delete them, and then repeat. After awhile, I would just walk away from the computer having given up.  I have repeated that scenario many times since Christmas.

So why? Why has it been hard for me to write? I still cry almost everyday and tear up when we talk about Grant. But everyday also has joy and reasons to be grateful. So it’s not the lingering sadness that prevents me from writing.

People still ask how I am doing, and I’m still not quite sure how to answer that question. I’m not sure how I am supposed to be doing. I have no idea what life should look like now. I think I’m doing well on this journey of grief. But I really have know idea what the standard is. But the lack of a clear answer to that question hasn’t prevented me from writing. So what does?

Life has continued on without Grant. There have been weddings in our lives, graduations, moves, and even the impending birth of our first grand baby. But I know there is healing in those things. And even though there is a bittersweet taste to each of life’s events now (I imagine there always will be until we are reunited with Grant) I am grateful for them and so happy for others. I actually appreciate the sweet moments more now, in this new normal. I take less for grated. So no, life continuing on without Grant has not made me bitter nor prevented me from writing.

So why? Why has it been so hard to write? Looking back over the last few months I think I would have to say It is because I was mad at God. Not a rage, or yelling, screaming kind of mad. But that kind of mad that creates distance, a lack of affection, and a lack of desire to spend time with someone. I still believed, I have never doubted God or the truth of His word, not even for a moment.  But I was mad as you would be at a friend that you felt had mistreated you, betrayed you.

I didn’t know I was mad. Anger wasn’t brewing, bubbling under the surface. I only realized I was mad as a looked back and saw my contentment with the distance, the lack of affection I had for God. I only realized I was mad when I saw I had lost my desire to spend time with God, to read His word, or spend time in prayer. Looking back, I can honestly say I have never questioned my faith in God. But I have questioned God’s plan for my life, for Grant’s life, and for the lives of the rest of my precious family left with the deficit Grant’s death leaves us with. As C.S. Lewis says (a man well acquainted with grief), “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

The best for us has turned out to be more painful than I could have ever imagined. But I am no longer angry at God. In fact, my affection grows as I think about His nearness, His patience, His pursuing me, even in those times I was struggling to distance myself.

And I am making progress in this journey of grief.  The waves roll in less frequently now.  They still roll in, but less often.  As far as getting over it, however, I will never get over it.  By God’s grace, I will get through this, but I will never get over it.  I am forever changed because I buried a child. And this road of grief is a long, long journey that is not completely over until I get to Heaven.  I know that now.

And no matter how much I want to tell you it’s getting easier, there are days I feel like I am starting back at step one.  I want so badly to be a strong woman of faith, glorify my Savior through this journey never faltering along the way.  But truth be told, I am afraid I am going to have to settle for two steps forward, one step back. I wish there was a surgery to remove the chronic pain that lives in my heart and soul, hiding behind every smile. Even with the passage of time, sometimes it still hurts so much it takes my breath away.  Sometimes it hurts even more than it did months ago, without the numbing effect of shock, disbelief, and denial.

But more than anything, I long to show a hurting world that there is hope, but only through Him, Jesus. I won’t pretend to ever understand, but I do not, cannot, spend the rest of my life questioning and confused, angry or distant.  I must trust and rest, even when there is no comprehension of what the author and keeper of all things has chosen. On the days I feel as if God is silent in the pain and I cannot feel His nearness, my truest sense of faith must come into play, and know He is near, present, pursuing, and working all things for good. That is truth, will always be truth, regardless of whether or not I can feel it in the pain! “Christianity doesn’t deny the reality of suffering and evil.  Our hope is not based on the idea that we are going to be free of pain and suffering.  Rather it is based on the conviction that we will triumph over suffering.” Brennan Manning

I’ve looked into eternity now.  And some days, I long to be there.  But the Lord has me here, He’s not done with my journey on this side.  So I will strive to celebrate His Glory, daily, when it shows up in the pains and in the joy He gives me in this life I have left. And I know that is what Grant would want of us all!  We are trying Grant…we are trying to grieve with hope as we step onto the threshold of year number 3.

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christmas #2

Last Christmas was our family’s first without Grant. I could barely breathe through the holiday season last year. I never went to the mall, or did any Christmas shopping. The stockings weren’t hung, as none of us could bare to hang 3 instead of 4. No cookies were baked, nor Christmas music played. We never ventured out to look at holiday lights. And if it weren’t for my kids, there wouldn’t have even been a Christmas tree.

Last year was strictly about survival mode for all of us.  So I wasn’t sure what to expect this year.  I had had another year learning to adapt at living with a hole in my heart. Would it be easier this year, harder, the same? What would Christmas #2 look like on this grief journey?

Kay Warren says this about grief, and she is well acquainted with it. They buried their adult son only 1 month before we lost Grant. “I’m slowly learning that grief is both universal and yet as individual as each person who mourns. Psychologists note that most grief journeys include shock, denial, anger, resignation, and acceptance. But it’s not linear, as though it was a clearly marked path for everyone. The feelings come and go. Some days you think you’re doing well until something triggers a wave of emotions that make you wonder if you’ll ever feel like yourself again. There are better days, even good days. And then, after a couple good days, a tidal wave of sadness can knock you to the ground.”

And that is so true.  I often say ‘grief has a life of it’s own.’ You can wake up determined to choose joy, only to find yourself in a puddle of tears by lunch.  So again, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Christmas #2.  But I will say this.  There were hard days…so hard it took every ounce of strength and faith I possess to get out of bed. But there were also good days as well. I went Christmas shopping this year, only once, but I was able to go. I helped put up the tree, wrapped a few presents, and even put out the Nativity scene. However, the stockings remained tucked away…maybe next year.

And I spent a lot of time sitting by the tree and thinking back.  Remembering times spent with Grant. Remembering friends and family who keep walking with us on our grief journey. Loved ones who enter fully into our pain, not afraid to walk along side us in our torrent of tears. Loved ones who don’t push or try to rush this process, but love us right where we are in each moment, day by day. Loved ones that laugh with us in our moments of merriment, and those that inspire us to keep seeking beauty from these ashes…but not with words, with their lives, with their love for us, for Grant. And remembering loved ones who haven’t forgotten, will never forget, and remind us often of what they remember.

And as I sit by the tree remembering all of these things, I am reminded of the reason there is a tree. It is because of Christ that it is even possible to be in deep grief and able to experience the joy of the Lord in this season. In fact, it is because of Christmas, the Son of God choosing to come to Earth, that enables me to keep choosing to engage in life, to continue loving others deeply, and to continue seeking joy, even as I live with a broken heart.

So Christmas #2 brought with it, memories, and a fresh awareness of several truths. We are deeply loved, extremely grateful, and because of what Christ has done, able to have moments of joy.  Love to you all, Merry Christmas.

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silver linings

I am leaving for vacation tomorrow.  Glenn and I are going to NYC and then on to Ireland for a week to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.  I should be elated, and in many ways I am.  I am so grateful for this wonderful opportunity. And I will adore having that time with my hubby and experienicng this with him.  A time to celebrate our love and express our gratefulness to one another and to God for these 30 years together.

But it’s not the carefree, excited feeling I used to get when planning a vacation. It comes with other contrary emotions, that were never a part of the equation before when anticipating a great adventure. When suffering, there are always other emotions running in the background.

It’s hard not to look at things now as futile activity, temporary amusement, when the heart is breaking. Even as the pieces begin to inch back together you know they will never fit as they used to.  As a broken vase can be glued back together but will never be the same, it is forever changed. The heart, this life, all future events, forever changed.

And as I plan for fun events, evidences of life going on, the little things still bring sobs up to my throat, and sadness threatens to crush any sense of normalcy in my life. But there is something within us, God given, that plots for survival, so I plan vacations, and celebrate important mile stones. I suppose those things are no less important now, and in some ways probably more important.  But they must be done now in the shadow of the cross and with an eye on Heaven’s horizon, or they lose their meaning and make no sense.

And for that, I can thank suffering. Maybe perhaps that is the silver lining to this thing called suffering.  It brings all of life into perspective, it forces us to see things the way God sees them. We tend to think of life as being for us, about us. But suffering teaches you that life is broken, and it is certainly not about us and our plans. But it also teaches that there is still beauty here, if we stand in the shadow of the cross.

So I will stand in the shadow and grieve with hope…

 

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is christ enough

I hear myself sing, Christ is enough.  I hear those around, sing and watch them lift hands to the Lord, Christ is my reward. Christ is enough for me. I ponder, wonder anew as I almost whisper the last stanza, “Everything I need is in you.”

That was so easy to sing when I had everything I wanted. I would often wonder if I really meant it.  How do you know unless tested? Could I sing it if things were not as I wanted them to be? Could I lift hands if things were worse than I could have imagined? Is Christ enough in the dead of night when sadness robs sleep? Is Christ enough when there are 3 instead of 4? Will Christ be enough tomorrow when I am forced to live through another grueling day without him?

Yes, He will be. I have learned that Christ is enough because, He is everything I need.  He is not everything I want, dreamed of, longed for, but need, yes. So I can say with assurance today, Christ is enough. And because of Christ, there is no pain on Earth, that Heaven doesn’t heal!

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why did i have kids

The tragedy of losing Grant has made me reevaluate why I had children. Why did I have children?  Was the primary reason to bring me happiness?  Was it to have relationship with them, watch them grow, and the joys that come with that? If so, is there anything wrong with that? No, I don’t think so. But it cannot be the only reason.

While it is undeniable that children bring us inexpressible joy, it is also undeniable that the love we have for them leaves us helpless, vulnerable, and at God’s mercy. If I went into parenting because of what it would do for me, when tragedy struck, I would be gravely disappointed, disillusioned, and angry at God!

It is paramount, as I walk through this process of losing Grant, that I understand that the primary reason God blessed me with my children was to bring glory to Him and further His kingdom, not mine. They were never meant to be for my glory or to help me build a happy kingdom of my own making, here on earth.  They were never actually mine, they have always been on loan to us.

In order to make it through the other side of this grief journey, while keeping my relationship with God in tack, I believe I must distinguish between the two; God’s glory and purposes and my happiness and selfish ambitions.  It is the only thing that will get me through the daily grind and the weariness that comes with the longing, the missing.  If I anticipate my children will always bring happiness, when that doesn’t happen, it will derail me, and weaken my faith and trust in the Lord.  If I expect that there will always be peace and tranquility in the relationships I have with my kids, void of devastating heartache, if heartache happens, I will be bitter at God.

Conversely, if my focus in my role as a mother, is glorifying my Heavenly Father and furthering His kingdom purposes, I can remain steadfast even through the darkest most painful valley I could imagine.  If I can remember that Grant was given to us for a season, for Kingdom purposes, and not my own purposes, it can help me to trust God even though I will never understand, this side of Heaven. As I strive to look to God and put Him at the center of my life through this, rather than looking for happiness, comfort, and ease, a different outcome, a different life, a different ending, I can trust He is working through each and every situation, even this. Grieving with hope…

 

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now what

When we lost Grant, I longed for the day that I would feel normal again, like myself. The pain was so consuming, I didn’t even know who I was. It felt like I was using someone else’s body.  I didn’t think the same, feel the same, respond the same, the way I used to. Nothing felt the same, normal, and I ached for things to go back to the way they were!

I used to wonder, “Maybe after the first year, maybe then I will feel like the old Alisa, more like myself.” But I am learning, that Alisa, the one I longed for,  died with Grant.  I will never be her again.  There is now a different person in her place, I am forever changed.

Because of the love Glenn and I had for each other, we conceived a child together. I birthed him from my body. He was a part of me. A part of me is no longer here. How can I be the same? For us as a couple, as a family, there were 6 of us; now there are 5. Our child was tragically killed. The trauma of that event, and now being forced to live the rest of our lives without him here,  how could we ever be the same? Trauma changes you. I can’t ever go back to who I was.  Others get over it, they move on. We won’t. We can’t. It’s impossible.

When I realized that I would never be the same, that losing Grant would mark me in a way that I would always walk with a limp, I was terrified.  It’s a scary thing reinventing yourself at age 53.  Especially when you don’t know who you are becoming, who you will be, what the new you will be like???

The new Alisa is forced to make a place for the ache behind the smile. Always there, ever present, where it now resides. The new me, with that ever present ache, ache that never leaves. I must learn to live with and around it.  It marks me, as a scar would, and has become a part of the new me.  It is a part of my story. The new me is learning to live with it and around it.  Even though I don’t want to, and I still fight it with all of my might at times, trying to resist.

But there is good news. The new me relishes every moment, every twinkle of the eye, every soft smile.  The little things are so obvious now, and I don’t miss them as I used to.  Even the tiniest, seemingly insignificant things, become important.  The new me, loves more deeply, because I appreciate every look, every touch, every phone call, every conversation in a way the old Alisa never could.

The new Alisa is more vulnerable.  Somehow hurting so deeply, opens one up and makes us vulnerable.  That use to scare me right after losing Grant, because I never wanted to hurt like this again. But I think it’s the vulnerability that makes it possible to love more deeply, more profoundly.  The new me, and the vulnerability I now live with, helps me to see with more clarity, enabling me to focus on things that truly matter, and turn a blind eye to the things that detract and deceive.

And the new me has a stronger faith.  I no longer look at God as some cosmic Genie orchestrating things to please me, make me happy, as if He owes me something. No, the New Alisa knows the essence of her faith is living with hope in the face of mystery, unanswered questions, tragedy, and unimaginable pain. The new me can live a life of faith completely full of hope, staring the mysteries of God, right in the face. I now know in a deep way, no one can have one without the other. Faith won’t survive without hope, and hope won’t survive without the realization that there are mysteries that will never be answered. The new Alisa can embrace both with fresh understanding that we do not need all of the answers, we just need more of Christ, to have vibrant faith!

I didn’t ask for this.  And if I could go back to the way things were, to the “old Alisa” I would do it in an instant. But I am learning to live in this new skin, and I think that is the answer to my “now what?” question. Now, and for the rest of my days, I am to learn what life looks like as the new me, the new normal…grieving with hope.

 

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but you promised

There are over 6000 of them! That’s a lot of promises.

Matthew 7:7-11 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

I asked, I begged, you said no.  I sought, it seemed I couldn’t find. I knocked, it seemed as though you did not open. I asked for bread, and it feels like you gave me a stone. I asked for a fish, and it seems like I ended up with a serpent. A ravenous, poisonous serpent. So are these words a lie? No, they are not a lie!

The reason they seem hollow and full of empty promises, in the wake of losing my son, is because I look at them thru my temporal lenses. The words, these promises, were never meant to be read or believed from a temporal stand point. They will only prove true, when I read them, believe them, with eternal lenses. I must look at them with eternal perspective. God never promise His followers a carefree, pain-free life here on Earth.  He doesn’t promise a happy life void of sorrow. Truth be told, He is much more concerned with our holiness than our happiness, and that is most often accomplished thru trial and pain.

When life doesn’t make sense and everything in the world seems broken, I must hold onto the promises of God. What do I do when hope lets Me down, when hopes are dashed, when life doesn’t turn out the way I thought it would? In those times I must hold onto the promises of God regardless of how I feel.

Sure, I could curse God, accuse Him of being a fake and a phony.  Or I could blame myself and give God a way out. But what I know of God, revealed in His promises, prevents me from believing either of those. So what I am left with is mystery. All that I know of God and all that I don’t know of God must live together in my heart and soul. I must be comfortable with the mystery. I must come to terms with the fact that sometimes it feels like I was given a snake when I asked for a fish, but that doesn’t make it truth.  My feelings cannot be trusted, especially right now!

God promises He loves me, loves Grant.  I look to Jesus hanging on the cross and know it’s true. My hope is firm because of this promise.

I must rebuild hope…I can’t live without it.  I will wither and die. and I can still hope because of the promises of God.  I hope because I know these promises to be true, even if the haven’t yet been fulfilled. I hope, because I know this isn’t the end of the story.

Hope doesn’t come from thinking about happy moments on earth, but about Holy moments in Heaven when all of God’s promises find their end!

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