I talk a lot about grief and recovery. I probably always will. My son was 16 when I found him dead on the couch one October morning. You can’t go through that unscathed. You don’t ever get to a place where you stop talking about it.
Love always comes with the risk of loss.
Death happens just like life does. It’s inescapable. I’m not the only one who grieves. I’m constantly learning things that I want to share, hoping it may help someone else.
Here are six simple truths I’ve picked up along the way.
1. It’s deeply personal.
People get caught up in thinking that because I’ve lost a child, I should be an expert on grief—especially since I seem to have survived it. I can’t count the number of times someone has minimized their own grief in a conversation to me, as if acknowledging the extent of their own pain somehow makes it seem as if they aren’t aware of mine.
They use phrases like, “But it’s nothing like losing a child…”
You’re right. It’s not.
Your grief is your grief, just like mine is mine. It’s not “lesser than,” it’s just different.
We all go through things in our own way.
Sorrow is personal and indescribable. The bereavement you feel is unique to you. You don’t have to throw me a bone in the midst of your crippling loss. I already know how I feel. I don’t need your reminder that you know too. I’d like for you to give me the chance to be there for you.
2. Sometimes being there is all you can do.
I don’t have a collection of magic words to say because I’ve been through hell and back. The truth is, I’ve been through hell, and I’m not back. I’m never coming back. I carry hell with me every day.
Let me explain the loss of a child to you:
“When someone asks me when my son died—it was yesterday, it was a thousand years ago, it’s right this minute, it’s tomorrow.
He will never stop dying.
When a person who experiences such profound sorrow says, ‘You never get over it, you just learn to live with it,’ think about this.
They never stop dying. We have to live every second of every day with that.”
It’s an every day for the rest of my life kind of thing. I can’t always summon up the courage to tell you that grief never really ends.
All I can really do is be with you in your sorrow, hold your hand, wash your dishes, and take out your trash. I can listen when you tell me the same story over and over again, because I know there won’t be any new stories to tell. I can hold you when you realize you will never have another opportunity to take a picture or say, “I love you.”
3. There’s just no answer for some things.
God laid it all out in the Bible for us, so it shouldn’t come as any big surprise. Ecclesiastes says that there’s a time to be born and a time to die. Hebrews tells us that we are appointed once to die. Psalms 139:16 says that “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
God knows when our time to die is. We don’t.
It hurts like hell to look at the world and realize some people live to be 100 but you have to bury your 16 year old.
Or your husband. Or your best friend. Or your sister. It doesn’t seem fair or natural. That’s because it isn’t.
4. Death isn’t natural.
That’s why if feels so off when you grieve for someone. How many times have you thought, “This can’t be real?”
Sure, God knew how it would all play out from the beginning, because He made us and He gave us the free will we would use to self-destruct. He knew, but man made the choices. I don’t have to remind you of what happened in the Garden. It’s LITERALLY the oldest story in the world.
You know it by heart. If you don’t, you can find it at the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 3.
We’re still making those choices every day.
I remember the second I realized that Adam and Eve didn’t pay the ultimate penalty for bringing death upon all mankind. You can disagree if you want to.
Picture this: they threw immortality away for the frailty of humanity. They were looking to be gods and the consequences were dire. Immediately, they knew they messed up. They realized they were naked—out in the open where they were vulnerable to attack from every kind of enemy, targets for pain, fear, and death. All of these were new to them. They had no protection other than their Creator.
What did God do? Immediately He covered them in animal skins, so they weren’t naked anymore.
He covered their sin and their shame. There were consequences to their actions, but He covered them, physically and symbolically. It was a picture and a promise of the Lamb that would be slain to cover the sins that created death.
5. All hope lies in Jesus Christ.
What I know about grief—what I REALLY know about grief—is that I couldn’t face one moment of it if not for the fact that God sent Jesus to redeem our lives.
I put my hope in this because it’s all I CAN do.
If I didn’t know there was something beyond this life, I couldn’t go on.
I remember in the early days of horror when I was still very crazy. I went running down the dirt road, screaming at God, “Where were You? I did EVERYTHING I thought You wanted me to do and You still took my son!”
I’d wrestled with my faith since Mikey died. How could a loving God allow death at all? How could God even exist? I said I didn’t believe. I was looking toward the sky and screaming when it hit me.
“I’m screaming at God. I’m screaming at God because I know He’s there.”
I learned that grief is not enough to take away the love of God. God has been with me from the beginning. He has been the constant of my life ALL my life. I didn’t lose faith in Him. I was just mad at Him because I didn’t understand.
I still don’t understand.
What I know is that I don’t have to know WHY anymore. God always provides everything I need to get me through, even when I can’t see it. He’s there, even when I think I don’t believe.
6. The death of someone you love feels like the worse thing you’ll ever go through because it is.
It can leave you confused, lonely, cold, and empty. The light at the end of the tunnel is an eternity where there is no fear of loss or death. It doesn’t exist. There will be no more tears. It’s a promise from God to those who believe in Him.
I won’t have to visit a cold stone to talk to my child. God has prepared a place.