grief, RECOVERY

Six Simple Truths About Grief

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

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. 

https://medium.com/the-emotional-mess-2/i-found-your-body-426643165555

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…”

Mikey, photo by A Bridges

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.

Hope to see you there.

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RECOVERY

12 SURPRISING THINGS GRIEF WILL TEACH YOU THAT YOU ACTUALLY NEED TO KNOW

(With One Bonus Lesson at the End)

Joy and grief grow in the same garden.

My first introduction to death was at the tender age of 18. This was before I knew the first thing about living, so I sure didn’t know how to process the fact that people could just stop doing it. Especially important people, like my Daddy.

He was bigger than life to me, and his life seemed way more important to me than mine. I threw myself face down on the floor and began my first attempt to barter with God.  Apparently, God wasn’t interested in reversing the process and taking me in Daddy’s place because I’m still here, and writing about it after all these years.

God has a way of giving us just what we need to survive at the time, and sometimes scarcely more than that. Somehow, I managed to get up off the floor and scrape together just enough of whatever it is that it takes to survive.

I had to make a lot of hard decisions that I wasn’t ready for back then. It was like going from zero to sixty—I grew up fast. I didn’t have much choice.

The tragedies in my life have continued. I have not only buried my father; I have also buried three sons. Two of them were infants, one was almost 17 years old.

I am forever changed. Some days I find the courage to talk about it and some days I don’t. It would be easy to wallow on the hard days, but today I choose to honor life by talking about what grief has taught me, in the hopes that it will help someone else when they go through the darkness.

THE TAKEAWAY                                   

  1. PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THINGS.

This seems like a no-brainer. I can’t elaborate too much on the obvious, but if I have learned anything it’s to put the people you love and your relationships above material possessions and the pursuit of them. The Bible, in Mark 8:36, asks, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Don’t sell out your family for money or recognition. Don’t trade your time with them for anything that seems glittery and beautiful. You can’t get the moments that you lost back again. You can’t even get the moments that you spent back again, but at least you have the memories of those. Let your memories be full of laughter and joy when you can, but also go through the hard stuff with the ones you love. The darkest night spent with someone you care for is better than the brightest morning alone with your things.

2. WE ARE NOT IMMORTAL.

Surprise! Life here on this earth does not last forever. We die. Our forever is not going to be spent here in these bodies, doing this stuff. There’s really no need to save the best for last! Don’t keep your ideas to yourself. Use them! Get out your best dishes, wear your best clothes. Have dessert first if you feel like it (I don’t recommend this all the time though. It’s not that great for your waistline).

3. TAKE YOUR MOMENTS WHEN YOU CAN GET THEM.

Embrace the precious times of your life. You don’t know what the future holds! The Bible talks about this too (a very wise book), when it says in James 4:13 “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.”

Love on your family. Stare at your children. Watch them breathe. Take a moment to revel in their smiles. Say all those words you’ve been holding back. Just in case this is all you will ever have; make it the best moment it can possibly be!

4. IT’S OKAY TO LIVE AGAIN.

You are not betraying anyone by going on with your life. Continuing to breathe is not a curse, and you have no reason to feel guilty for it. God has appointed each of us a time to be born and a time to die (Yep, that’s from the Bible too).

If you are reading this, it wasn’t your time to die. It’s hard and it hurts and it’s unfair and all of that. But it’s the truth. Oh, and you aren’t God. It wasn’t your choice. You can let go of that now.

Keep breathing. Keep going. Keep trying. Make it a great life! Do you know what the absolute best thing is that you can do for the ones who have stopped living? For you to keep on living, and to lead a victorious life.

5. LAUGHTER REALLY IS GOOD FOR HEALING.

Don’t feel guilty for finding enjoyment in your life. Let the joy come back. It doesn’t mean there isn’t still heartbreak. It doesn’t mean you have forgotten. Joy and pain can inhabit the same house. Let them.

6. GOD KNOWS YOU’RE MAD AT HIM.

He can take it. This is His world. Nothing happens without His knowledge and permission.

It’s a hard pill to swallow. Everyone dies–also hard to get down, especially when that someone is your child or parent, spouse or sibling. Or grandparent.

You are insignificant to God because He allowed it to happen to you. It also is not a small thing that He gave His Son to die, knowing that He would ultimately beat death. I mean, that was the point.

He kicked death’s ass so I could see my kids again someday. Yeah, I was mad at Him for a long time. Sometimes I still am. Then, I remember the cross, and I get through. I know where my hope is.

7. WE AREN’T MEANT TO DO THIS ALONE.

Don’t isolate and expect to get through it all on your own. There’s no need in it. If you don’t have friends or family who will walk through your grief with you, find a recovery group.

There are moments when you need to shout, cry, fall apart, and vent. You might just want to share some funny old memories. Maybe you don’t know what to do with your anger and unforgiveness. That’s what these groups are for. People are better than things and substances for helping you to get through. They need you too.

8. LIFE IS A MIRACLE.

Do you know why you are still here? Neither do I. It’s a miracle. Treat each breath as the gift that it is. Embrace the fact that you are alive and go dance in the rain.

9. ALL WE LEAVE BEHIND IS WHAT WE GIVE TO OTHERS.

No accomplishment, no amount of money, no possession will matter after you are gone. When people think of you, let it be because they remember what an impact for good you made on their lives.

Stand up for what is right. Fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Love everyone the same. Don’t discriminate because of color, social status, or wealth. Give everything you can give to other people. You can’t take one thing with you where you’re going anyway (no matter which direction that is).

10. IT’S OKAY TO CRY.

You can grieve for as long as you need to grieve. I believe that there are some losses that you will always grieve for on this earth. The loss of a child is one of those. If you need to cry, don’t let anyone tell you that you should be “over it.” Your grief is your grief. Feel it and live your life anyway.

11. YOU DON’T HAVE TO SPEND YOUR LIFE TRYING TO MAKE THEIRS MEAN SOMETHING.

Their life was not in vain, and neither was their death. It has already taught you so much! You have precious memories to hold forever. Their lives already had meaning, and they always will.

Don’t spend your whole life setting up foundations in their name, donating to causes in their name, furiously trying to immortalize them. Let them rest in peace.

You don’t have to make their life mean something. The best thing that you can do to honor them is to make your own life mean something! Work on that. Take responsibility for you. Get better so you can help other people.

12. THE NEXT “YOU” WILL BE DIFFERENT.

This journey that you are walking through grief will change you. That’s okay. You might think that you were meant to be that other person who was never touched by loss.

Things would have turned out another way. Perhaps you can make a case for that, but I doubt it. Life, death, and God did not steal anything from you. Remember that everyone’s time is appointed to them! That means that you are meant to be the person touched by loss. The question is “why”?

Use the things you have learned to help other people. Sure, you are different, but you’re not lesser than. You have a world of experience now that was very hard-earned. Don’t let it go to waste. Use it for good. When the opportunity comes, take it.

Bonus: SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO SWIM THROUGH THE RIVER

There are times in your life when you need medication to get you through the hard stuff. There’s no shame in taking it when you do. Other times we try to self-medicate by using all kinds of things–alcohol, narcotics, sex, food, distractions–just about anything you can think of that we believe will take our minds off the hurt.

They all work for a little while. The problem is, when you step back from all you have done to numb the pain or forget the hurt, it’s still there. Not only do you find the loss and grief is still right where you left it, but you have often piled a load of guilt and remorse on top of it through behaviors and addictions that you wish you could change.

It’s hard to turn your life around when you find yourself in a situation like that, but it can be done. You have to make the decision to embrace the joy and faith that are still in your life and turn around and swim through the river. Sometimes that’s the only way to survive, and then you can turn around and help others across too.

These are some of the surprising things that grief will teach you that you actually need to know. Somewhere down the road, you will have the chance to share them with someone else in a way that helps their heart. Doing it will help your own.

just a doll that looks like Samuel…

RIP Samuel Allen Dowden, born dead, July 17th, 1998

Happy 21st

Here’s a link to this post in Medium if you’d like to pop over and see it! There are lots of other things to read from other writers as well that I think you would enjoy and benefit from:

https://medium.com/@allisondivinebridges/12-surprising-things-grief-will-teach-you-that-you-actually-need-to-know-2f62f64430fe?sk=c59e4995417409aa533fb3ae5dd2a05d

MOTIVATIONAL, RECOVERY

Still Your Baby

Girl crying
No Matter What, She’s Still Your Baby

There was no way that I could miss that something was really wrong with this girl. She was upset, not thinking straight, unable to make a decision. It was time for her to answer basic questions about her life, and she was having problems. That’s when she called you.

I heard your voice on the other end of the phone. I don’t know why she put you on speaker, but I think it’s because she was afraid to go through the moment alone. A child should never be afraid to call his or her Mama. There’s something wrong with a world where that is a reality, no matter what the cause of it.

Addiction Causes Heartache in Families

I don’t have any idea what she has and is still putting you through. I’m pretty sure that’s what you would say to me if given the chance. And of course, you are right. There’s no doubt about it—I don’t know. But here’s what I do know for sure: She’s still your baby.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off her hand as she pressed the buttons on her phone. She was trembling, visibly shaken at the very idea that she would have to ask her own mother for a small favor. She didn’t want money, or a ride, or even a place to stay for her and her children. She wasn’t trying to use you.

The reason she was calling was to ask your permission. Not because she had to! No one would have known the difference but her. She just wanted to write down your address. She wanted to be able to call it her home.

What Does it Take to Answer the Call?

Before she hit the last button, she said, “If she doesn’t answer, I understand,” and “If she says no, that’s okay.”

I saw her eyes fill with hope when you did answer. Then I saw that hope die when you wouldn’t even give her time to ask the question. “Teresa,” you said. Actually, you didn’t call her Teresa, you called her by her real name, but I won’t use it here for her protection. “Teresa, I don’t have time to talk to you. I have to get in the bathtub.”

You had to take a bath. And because your bath was more important than your baby, I watched your grownup baby’s heart break right in front of me. As the light went out of her eyes, I felt the tears forming in mine. I had to swallow the pain with her. I felt the hurt in my own heart.

The very thought of being rejected by the one person who should always stand beside you no matter what was enough to bring me to tears. I can’t even imagine how shattered her heart must have been.

It Doesn’t Matter if Addiction is a Disease or a Choice. Our Children Are Dying.

Even as you turned her away, she kissed her children and told them that it would be all right. But I know that it won’t be—because she’s lost, and addicted, but she’s still your baby.

Everything leading up to this point is none of my business. I know it isn’t, but I got a little of the story anyway. She’s acting “crazy” and is being sent for a psychiatric evaluation.

Her friend says that drugs are how she copes with life—that life is what’s wrong with her. From Teresa I found out that it’s more than life. It’s also death.

I may not be able to understand how a person’s life can lead them to this point, but death? Now THAT I can wrap my mind around. When I found my son dead, I went crazy too.

I reached for any and everything that would take my mind off the reality that my child was gone. I could make a list of the things I tried if I thought it would do any good. I have a feeling you don’t want to hear any of that. Your mind is closed.

Maybe you haven’t suffered a devastating loss. I’m afraid that you are about to. I need you to wake up and prepare for battle, if you even care. Because she’s dying, and no matter what, she’s still your baby.

Overdose, Suicide, Disease, Isolation–Things an Addict Might Experience

I don’t even know if you can reach her now. I saw her mentally close the curtains. She’s in a different place than we are, inside, looking out. She slammed the door shut on her feelings.

She will refuse to trust anything or anyone. Since her own Mama won’t give her the time of day when she is clearly desperate, she feels worthless. In self-defense she has separated herself from the rest of the world. She’s in there by herself now—but she’s still your baby.

According to everything I’ve read (including an article at this site: https://www.centeronaddiction.org/prevention/addiction-women) women get addicted faster than men and suffer more health consequences because of addiction. I think it’s safe to say that no one benefits from addiction.

I also know that people who become addicted to methamphetamines have about a one percent chance of getting off the drug and regaining their lives.

I don’t know where Teresa’s addiction started. I never laid eyes on her until today. I do know that her husband died recently. Maybe she already had a problem—maybe not.

I know that she was recently released from a psychiatric hospital where she spent three weeks. Apparently, they couldn’t straighten out the mess in her head. I don’t think you can unravel grief and addiction in three weeks.

It’s possible that she started using drugs as a coping mechanism to get through the grief. Like I said earlier—a person will do just about anything to keep from looking loss in the face.  I’m sure that you have all the answers to these questions. After all, she was born and is still your baby.

She Used to Be Your Baby….

I know I keep reminding you of the fact that Teresa is your baby. It’s funny—when other people’s children are drug addicts, it’s easy to say that they are lost causes. I’ve gone as far as to call them “methheads,” or “zombies.”

Assuming she’s on meth, you may not have much of a chance of helping her anyway. It would be really tough for her to crawl out of this hole. She sure can’t do it on her own!

Hey, you remember when she was little, and you dressed her up in all those cute clothes and put her in bows that were as big as her head? You got her ears pierced way too young and carried her around with you everywhere you went. You called her a princess and bought her stupid stuff just because she asked you for it.

The dollar store cart would be level full of crap you knew was going to be broke by the next day, but you didn’t care because your baby wanted it, and what your baby wanted, she was going to get.

And she could do no wrong! Or if she did, you just overlooked it, or laughed at it because she was so darned cute. You clapped for her first step and you praised her when you taught her how to ride a bike.

You cried when the bus rode away with her on her first day of kindergarten, and you verbally whipped more than one teacher who gave her less than the grade you thought she earned. You would have fallen in front of a train for her then! So, what changed?

Isn’t she still your baby?

Is Love Conditional?

When you told Teresa that you would love her forever, did you forget to say, “Unless you become addicted to something, then you’re not my baby anymore.” Did you really mean it when you said, “Baby girl, your Mama will always have your back,” and “I will always be here for you.”

All of Teresa’s life, I bet you have told her that you would stand by her, no matter what. I don’t have proof of that, but I’m thinking that it’s a reasonable assumption, judging by the look on her face when she got the nerve to call you.

She wore that hopeful expression that was an expectation that Mama would live up to her word. But you didn’t, did you? You fell flat on your face, and right in front of the person you need to be standing up for the most.

Does addiction change who your daughter is in your eyes? Does she suddenly belong to someone else? What if cancer were the demon she was battling? Would you turn your back on your baby then?

Would you say, “I’m tired of you calling me every time you need something!”? If our kids can’t call us when they need something, why are we their parents?

Isn’t that what parents do?

Aren’t we supposed to answer the call, and do all we can for our babies? No matter how old they are, or how addicted they are, if we give birth to them—they are still our babies.

A Mama Ought Not Have to Bury Her Baby

What if it’s not too late? It might be. I don’t know. I sure saw that light die in her eyes. What I do know is that if Teresa was my child, I’d be fighting like hell for her life.

I’d turn over Heaven and earth for the answers. I’d go down into the pits of hell and wrestle her away from the devil if I had to.

I’m hoping for both of your sakes that you wake up to the reality of what that moment in time may have cost you and fight with everything you’ve got to right that wrong before it’s too late. The next call you get might not be from your baby. It might be about her.

And it’s true. I don’t know what you’ve gone through. I don’t know what it has cost you. Teresa is an addict. But you can’t just let her go. You can’t just let her die. She’s still your baby.