Shortly after we lost our daughter, our three year old Kate said, “I’m so happy that Annie is with Jesus. But when He’s finished being with her she can come home.”
Today, March 9, 2017, would be Annie’s 8th birthday.
I’m never quite sure how to face these days. Should I be sad? Should I be grateful? Should I be extra weepy? Should I be normal?
Like so many other things, there’s no manual. No right or wrong timeline of how I should be feeling and experiencing. There’s no measure of “normal” and it often makes me feel a little out of control.
Yesterday the wind blew with great big gusts. Limbs falling, trash cans rolling in the streets, leaves swirling all around the yard. My emotions on surrounding these days feel unpredictable like the wind.
Those first few years were so intense with grief. Every day was so heavy, so focused on getting through each moment and surviving. The sorrow consumed me. But eight years later, it’s not like that anymore.
Grief has become a familiar friend almost. I can barely imagine my life without it, actually. Talking about our loss, processing things about our loss is a normal part of our life. There’s a constant tension between moving forward and remembering.
The capacity of my heart to feel sorrow has increased immeasurably. But at the same time, I’m finding that joy can be experienced more than I ever thought, too. Losing a child has given me perspective on things I never even knew existed. Above all, I am filled with gratitude for the richness Annie’s life has brought to mine.
A friend texted me earlier this week to check in on me, to see how I was feeling. “I’m thankful the years of intense grief are gone, but I also strangely miss them,” I told her. Maybe that doesn’t make a lot of sense? But it’s true. I miss being so sure and focused on what really matters in life. I miss being so desperate for God. I miss the intensity of the pain, because the memory of Annie was much sharper.
However, as time marches on, I gain perspective. The scars of losing Annie will always be a part of me. Sometimes the wound gets ripped open again and the suffocating sadness rushes back. But more often, time has given me the gifts of hope in my sorrow, of joy in my grief. It has given me the gift of empathy, to be able to come alongside others who are hurting, to say, “Me, too”. It has forced me to be okay with having unanswered questions, to trust that God’s plan is bigger than what I can see with my own eyes.
“He shot his arrows deep into my heart.
The thought of my suffering and hopelessness is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The unfailing love of the Lord never ends!
By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction.”
Lamentations 3:13, 19-22
After her husband’s funeral following a long battle with cancer, Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “Now I am setting out into the unknown. It will take me a long while to work through the grief. There are no shortcuts; it has to be gone through.”
Dear Friend, I don’t know where you are on the journey of grief… but she’s right. There are no shortcuts. Bravely face it. Lean hard into God and trust Him to lead you each step of the way. Dare to hope, even as you grieve your loss. It is God’s very nature to be merciful, so you can confidently know that He is full of mercy and He showers it on you. He is a God who loves those who are brokenhearted. Find rest in His love and mercy for you today.
[The truth of Scripture brings healing to your soul, so you need a list to turn to when you hope seems lost. Start with these: Matthew 28:20, Psalm 46:1-5, Romans 8:26, Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 18:2, Psalm 62:8, Psalm 34:18, Psalm 73:26, Matthew 5:4. My favorite versions are the New International Version, The New Living Translation, and The Message.]