Grief’s Weight

There are days that the grief is so heavy that it feels like it is hard to catch one’s breath. And other days when the grief is still there but is overshadowed by the hope and joy that God brings into my world. Grief comes and goes like a wave washing over us.

I have been no stranger to grief this year. I have lost people that I have loved deeply. I have lost mentors and friends. I have cried tears for friends that I loved having conversations with but now cannot have those conversations on this earth. My heart aches for those that have been lost unexpectedly to death. My heart yearns for them to be here on earth with us. Yet I know that in time we will be united on the other side of heaven.

And as I grieve these dear souls, I also grieve the world that we are living in. I want a better world for our youth. I want Ben’s daughter Elizabeth to be able to go to school without feeling scared for her safety. I want Jim’s grandchildren to not know war but to know a world that is more peaceful. And yet every day I turn on the news, only to turn it off immediately because my heart cannot take anymore death; anymore bad news. I want a better world for us all.

And then I realize that the reason I can’t catch my breath is that grief is all around me. I think I am just ready to move on when the news of another death hits me yet again. The truth is that grief happens in all sorts of ways through the loss or change of a relationship, through the loss of a job unexpectedly, and in so many ways. Yet in the midst of grief, God weeps with us.

Knowing that God weeps with us, I know that grief is part of the cycle of life. “For everything is a season; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to laugh and a time to cry.” For every time God promises to hold us in our grief. God places people in our lives who sing for us when we cannot sing for ourselves, who pray for us when we cannot find the words, and who promise to hold us in both lifes joys and sorrows. For God loved us so much God sent God’s one and only Son into the world for all of us. That’s a promise and a love I can cling to when the grief is too heavy!


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Resurrection Hope

Grief is so hard! It can come in the most unexpected ways; whether through a song, a broken pair of sunglasses, and in so may ways. Yet in the midst of grief, God promises to never leave us or forsake us. God eventually leads us out of the darkness of grief into some glimmers of hope.

At the time of grief, it doesn’t seem possible that hope will eventually reveal itself. Yet the truth is that hope finds a way to the surface. I think of all the ways that I have seen hope revealed.

Approximately nine years ago when the Haiti earthquake happened, I never imagined that goodness and hope would come out of that tragedy. In fact, it was so hard to watch my friend Renee grieve her beloved husband Ben. It was hard to watch the people of Haiti as they said goodbye to their beloveds and searched for shelter, food, etc in the aftermath of this earthquake. Who would have known that a few years after this tragedy hope would shine brightly?

God led Renee to Jon and together they started a new life together. I loved what the preacher at their wedding shared about how Jon in no way replaces Ben but instead a new relationship is formed. And together, Jon and Renee have brought two beautiful boys into this world; reminders of God’s goodness and resurrection hope. Life is born out of death. Ben still sings.

As I stood at Jim’s grave and looked to my left to see my friend Rachel’s headstone, I knew that two of my friends were not united with Christ and that I should not be afraid. More hope revealed!

And as I watch Ben’s wife and daughter put one step in front of the other and as Mara begins a new call in a new community, hope once again reveals itself. Hope is found even in the midst of brokenness; in the midst of death and grief.

For it is in hope found in loss and grief, that we are God’s kintsugi revealing beauty in the midst of brokenness. In the words of Gungor music “God makes beautiful things out of dust, God makes beautiful things out of us.” We cannot be Easter people without first experiencing the reality of Good Friday.

Linking up with Holley and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Porch Stories!
 


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The Sacredness of Funerals

In the last year, I have attended more funerals than I could have ever imagined. I stood in a santuary with many colleagues and friends as we said goodbye and commended our friend Ben to God’s care. I stood around our friend Rachel’s casket my arms draped around several of our friends. I laid on my couch and watched online as Stephanie was laid to rest. And I processed in with our friend’s family as they said goodbye to their beloved husband, father, son, brother etc.

I was once taught that funerals are not for those who have died. But instead funerals are for those still left here on earth. Funerals are for the living. Funerals allow a space for families and friends to grieve and say goodbe. In the words of this quote, “It’s not over when the funeral is done and everyone goes back to their lives. That’s when the journey down grief highway begins.”

The truth is that life will never be the same without the person we lost. Yet the reality is that we must put one foot in front of the other and live each day remembering and knowing that our loved one is watching over us and walking with us. Yet that can still be hard to do at times.

But funerals are a gift to all of us. Funerals allow us to grieve together as a community. Funerals hold a sacredness that continually reminds us of the promises given us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.” In other words, life not death has the ultimate word.

One day, we will be reunited with our loved one in heaven. I couldn’t help but think of Matthew West’s song “Save a Place for Me.” The lyrics read as follows: “Don’t be mad if I cry; It just hurts so bad sometimes; ‘Cause everyday it’s sinking in; And I have to say goodbye all over again; You know I bet it feels good to have the weight of this world; Off your shoulders now; I’m dreaming of the day when I’m finally there with you; Save a place for me; Save a place for me; I’ll be there soon; I’ll be there soon; Save a place for me; Save some grace for me; I’ll be there soon; I’ll be there soon; I have asked the questions why; But I guess the answer’s for another time; So instead I’ll pray with every tear; And be thankful for the time I had you here; Save a place for me; Save a place for me; I’ll be there soon; I’ll be there soon; Save a place for me; Save some grace for me; I’ll be there soon; I’ll be there soon.”


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Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra Linkup and Mary and Tell His Story.

 

A Butterfly

A butterfly goes through four stages through the course of their life. First, it starts as an egg. Then that egg transforms to larva which then becomes the pupa or the chrysalis. Then after it is done maturing, the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis. Each stage is important to the life cycle of a butterfly.

During the life cycle of a butterfly, each stage is important and changes so the butterfly can eventually emerge as an adult butterfly. In grief, we experience many different stages too. Some of us experience all of the stages of grief. Others of us move fluidly between different stages. And yet others of us will stay in one stage for a long time. These stages shape us and form us into changed beings.

Grief and loss changes us. And grief and loss don’t always happen through death. As the daughter of a woman who lives daily with a mental illness, I have had to grieve other things. For example, if I ever get married, I am not sure if mom will be able to go dress shopping with me. As a little girl, most of us have dreamed of the day we would go wedding dress shopping with our moms. So I have had to grieve that they may not look the same for me.

Grief is a change of relationships. It transforms us and changes us. Grief and death are part of the cycle of life. In other words, grief reminds us of the reality of Jesus’ own life, crucifixion, death and ultimately resurrection. We cannot experience Easter without first experiencing the last Supper on Maundy Thursday and the pain and reality of Good Friday. Grief teaches us that life not death has the ultimate word.

However, that can be hard to trust in when we want our loved ones here on earth with us. Yet God tells us that God will never leave us or forsake us. God will walk with us through all the changes of life. Grief eventually leads way to dancing. “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Eventually our grief leads us from the egg, to the larva, to the chrysalis. And then a beautiful new butterfly emerges that has been shaped by grief and loss. A new butterfly emerges that reminds us day in and day out that new life does come from death. Resurrection hope emerges from the chrysalis.

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Grief is Exhausting!

Grief is exhausting!

Today, I almost didn’t write (which would’ve been a first for me as I haven’t missed a day in all the years I’ve done this challenge). I’ve been hanging with youth at our synod youth gathering. Last nights action tracks (aka breakout sessions) were on heavy topics: mental health, suicide, addiction, etc. Because of my families story, I was asked to share and lead on the mental illness one. I was honored.

The room was quiet as they all listened so intently. They shared their own stories. They listened to mine. It was emotional. And to be honest, it was emotionally exhausting.

Grief does that, doesn’t it? Grief pulls and tugs at us. And grief isn’t always felt through death. It’s felt in the changing of relationships etc. But no matter how you put it, grief is exhausting.

So, my friends, I’m keeping it short today. See you back here tomorrow for Sunday Simplicity!


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Who?

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. This is also Day 5 of the Write 31 Days challenge. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “who.” We would love to have you join us.

Who is the one who weeps with us?

Who knows what it’s like to lose a friend?

Who loved us so much that he sent his son for us?

Who hears our prayers?

Who laments with us?

Jesus wept!

Jesus knows the pain of losing a friend.
Remember Lazarus!

God loved us so much. God sent God’s son for our sins.
An incredible act of love.

Jesus laments.
Even on the cross.
He cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Jesus knows pain and suffering.

Mary grieved.
God grieved.
Lazarus siblings grieved.
Even Jesus grieved.

Throughout Scripture, there are so many stories of grief and loss.
One promise remains forever…Christ!
In our grief and loss, we are never alone.

Remember Jesus wept!


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The Price of Love

Grief is hard. It’s one of the most heart wrenching, gut wrenching things one experiences in life. Eventually that pain lessens just a little and it’s not quite as painful. But it’s always going to be there.

In fact, that’s the thing. It’s so hard to move on without the person we lost. Yet life moves on! Therefore, in the midst of grief, it’s especially important to look at our pictures, share our memories, etc. There’s something holy about hearing their voice or laugh. There’s something holy about clinging to those sweet memories that remind us of the love we shared together. There’s something holy about moving forward while also remembering the past.

The truth is grief is the price of love. I saw this quote on Facebook the other day and it captures grief so well. The quote said, “Grief never ends, but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love.”

Indeed, grief is the price of love. We were gifted by the love of the ones we lost. And we are loved by God who promises to never leave us or forsake us. In fact, God loved us so much God sent God’s one and only son into the world for all of Gods beloved people. We are all blessed and loved by the cloud of witnesses God brings into our lives.

The price of love shapes us into new people who have been formed and shaped by the losses in our life. Like the Japanese art kintsugi, God lets the light shine through our brokenness. We are shaped and changed by our losses.

So, my friends, look at those photos of those you are missing. Share memories. Tell stories and remember them always. Because grief is the price of love and these memories/these photos help us to always remember who loved us.


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Lamenting

Lament=”to mourn aloud;” “to express sorrow, mourning, or regret for often demonstratively”; “to regret strongly.”

In the midst of our own grief, we often try to express ourselves through our emotions. Yet honestly I do not think we allow each other space to lament. It seems that we try to move way too quickly past our pain because it is so incredibly painful. Yet I think there is a gift in lamenting and allowing ourselves to be pieced back together in a new way.

The book of Lamentations is a book of lament. It is divided into five poems which are (1) a poem of lament, (2) A poem of many warnings, (3) A Poem of hope in God’s love, (4) A poem of Jerusalem, and (5) a prayer for mercy.

In reading a comment from my post yesterday (Thanks Steve), I learned that the book of Lamentations is written in the form of an acrostic poem. According to the SPARK Bible, “In Hebrew, most of Lamentations is written in the form of acrostic poems. In an acrostic, each line begins with a different letter, starting with the first and going through the all 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter 5 is the only chapter not written as an acrostic (SPARK Bible, P. 894).”

It seems to me that in our lament, we are able to turn to hope. We are able to trust in God’s promises for all of God’s beloved children. I cannot help but think of these words from Chapter 3. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.”–Lamentations 3:22-23 (NRSV)

Great is thy faithfulness indeed! God reminds us again and again that God will never leave us or forsake us. God gives us glimmers of hope in the midst of our mourning and grieving. God is the one who knows our very hearts; our very aches. God is a faithful God who walks with us through all of life’s joys and especially sorrows.

“God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning.How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.”–Lamentations 3:22-23 (The Message Translation)


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For Each Other!

This picture took place seven months ago as we said goodbye to our dear Ben. And every time I look at this picture and remember that day, it still gives me chills. It was a powerful moment that is hard to put into words (yet I try) but was captured by the lens of a phone camera.

Most of the faces are hard to see because we were praying and commending our friend to God’s care. My friend Bryant; Ben’s best friend has his hand on Ben’s urn. Our seminary professor who led the commendation is standing near Bryant. To my left is Ben’s wife Mara who is holding their daughter Elizabeth. There are so many friends and family who are standing in that circle. A cloud of witnesses all linked back to our beloved Ben.

Tears kept falling from my face as we said goodbye. I remember looking around the sanctuary and seeing others tears falling too. I knew that this grief was not being held alone. But I also was trying to be so strong. In fact, my friend Carrie turned to me at one point and said, “You’re being so strong.” I looked at her and simply said, “Im trying.” I knew that I needed to be strong for Mara, for Elizabeth, for Ben’s parents,  for Ben’s siblings, for all those that loved Ben. It was not easy, but somehow God surrounded me and gave me the strength I needed that day.

After the funeral, we headed over to a local brewery/bar that opened up just for us. In that brewery, the table was set and the wine was poured as we communed together. Voices raised as we sang some of Ben’s favorite hymns–beer and hymns; a fitting tribute for our friend. I can still hear that moving rendition of Canticle of the Turning permeating the air. Stories were shared as we remembered our friend.

In the midst of our grief, laughter and joy found their way to the surface. “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5).”

In that brewery, I was surrounded by many friends, but also some acquaintances. But I left that brewery that afternoon knowing these people were all now my friends too because together we loved and were loved by our friend. Together, we had held one another in our grief. Together, we had celebrated Ben’s life. Together, we will continue to share stories of Ben with his daughter. We will make sure she knows who her dad is and how much he loved her and her mom.

If grief has taught me anything, it is that grief is never meant to be done alone. It is meant to be shared together. When grief causes me to doubt, others believe for me until I can believe for myself again. When grief prevents me from turning to God and praying because I can’t find the words, others pray for me. And when I can’t sing because the grief is too deep, others sing for me until I can find my voice again.

And for that, I’m so grateful! Because when Elizabeth starts Kindergarten, we will need to be there for Mara as she walks into that school alone. There will be so many times when we will need to believe, pray and sing for each other when grief rears its head in the midst of life’s joys and sorrows.


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Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Mary and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Porch Stories.