Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Death, Grief, and Moving On

Seven months have passed since my daughter Lindsay died. Hard to believe it’s been that long, though even harder to grasp the time’s fleeting compared to the years that lie ahead without her.
In those first weeks after her death, waking up each morning and just breathing hurt. On the nights I slept, Lindsay was still alive. I’d have conversations with her, but she always seemed just beyond my grasp. The more I reached for her, the more elusive she became, until finally I awoke. Then reality crashed down on me, and grief flooded in. She was gone.
My whole life, I’ve heard the verse, “Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). The meaning is, for Christians, death isn’t an end but a beginning. But it’s only a beginning for the deceased.
The sting is for those left behind. An unrelenting sting that pierces the depths of your soul. Losing a child means part of you has ended—like closing a door never to be re-opened. It’s not so much the legacy most of us reflect on as we reach middle or old age that’s lost. Lindsay’s hopes and dreams that blossomed as she grew from a little girl into a woman—along with our hopes and dreams for her—will never bear the fruit they were meant to.
I appreciate the encouragement of people who’ve continued to reach out to us and include us in their prayers. Isolation in grief is not healthy and leads to depression, but I’ve found most of the time I do best by myself. I don’t have to pretend or engage in conversation. I don’t have to answer the question, “How are you?” I understand people are genuinely concerned, and I love them for it, but it’s a question with an ever-changing answer.
So I usually respond, “I’m okay,” which really means I’m up, functioning, and doing the best I can, which sometimes is fairly good, depending on the day.
But I’m not okay and never will be…and that’s okay.
See, I don’t have to be okay for life to go on. I wake up each day grateful that I’m one step closer to eternity—one step closer to seeing Lindsay again—one step closer to my Savior and living the life I’m supposed to be living. Not the temporary one in this fallen, beat-up world.
Or as the Apostle Paul said, “…to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).”
This is another verse that became more vivid for me in the wake of Lindsay’s passing. For the first time, I can feel Paul’s angst of being torn between this life on earth—where much is still to be accomplished for God’s glory—and going on to heaven where life is no longer a struggle.
But until He calls me home, I’ll continue to get up each day and seek God’s will for my life, and continue the process of grieving with my family.
Just as we got through the “first” holidays in November and December without Lindsay, other “first” milestones will be marked in the coming months—her birthday and Mother’s Day in May, Father’s Day in June, and then the anniversary of her death in August. To say I dread them is an understatement, but at the same time, her beautiful life should be celebrated. Her birth made me a mother. Likely, I’ll go out to the cemetery on her birthday, sit on the stone bench atop the hill overlooking her grave, reminisce…and cry.
And that’s okay. Tears are God’s provision for managing grief. Tears dredge up your deepest pain and bring it to the surface like dross. You scrape away the pain in those moments and then gather your strength to go on and live another day.
Meanwhile, Lindsay’s backpack sits in her room. Waiting to be unpacked. One day. Occasionally, I go through the clothes in her closet, my fingertips seeking her favorite shirts, or drawing a scarf close to my cheek, closing my eyes and drinking in her scent that lingers…for how much longer? For now, I don’t worry about it…her physical imprint is still here.
Someday, maybe I’ll be able to say my heartbreak has lessened. Today is different than seven months ago, or even two months ago, and it will be different two years from now…but broken hearts never truly mend. Especially when one of the broken pieces is buried.
Life has moved on…and yet it will always be the day we lost her. In a weird sort of way, time stood still. The calendar will always seem to read August 27, because that is the day her laughter stopped and we were left with only memories. 

In our grief, God has shown us compassion, showered us with His mercies, and given us hope to sustain. We continue to walk the path laid before us, and we thank you for your prayers and encouraging thoughts along the way. God has truly blessed us through both.
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The
Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him.
Lamentations 3:19-25 
If you’re going through grief or experiencing difficult times, I’d love to pray for you. Please leave a comment or email me confidential requests.
Because of His faithfulness,